Power guide to e-commerce marketing automation

Power guide to e-commerce marketing automation

Guest post from Hopkins, a Custobar partner agency

Marketing automation cost-efficiently increases online sales, engages customers, and reduces churn. In this guide, we list 51 practical tips to maximise the benefits of e-commerce marketing automation.

Please note: These strategies are equally effective for omnichannel sales, whether you're selling online or in physical stores.


Grow your marketing database

1. Grow your database through a newsletter. A newsletter is an easy way to identify website visitors and expand your marketing database. Clearly state the type of content and the frequency at which the subscriber will receive the newsletter. Entice subscriptions by offering benefits such as free delivery, discount codes or entry into a prize draw.

2. Tests are engaging. Create different tests and competitions to identify website visitors. People enjoy trying out different tests: for example, if you sell cosmetics, you can offer a quick analysis of skin type. Tools like Leadoo provide versatile options for implementing tests on your website.

3. Remember the chatbot. Utilise a chatbot to identify website visitors, for example, by encouraging newsletter subscriptions. A chatbot doesn't have to be limited to customer service!

Guide towards the first purchase

4. Welcome the newsletter subscriber. An automated thank you message is an effective way to connect as soon as someone has shown interest by subscribing to your newsletter. Thank them and let them know what kind of content they can expect in the future and how often. If there was a benefit associated with subscribing to the newsletter, offer it in this message. Guide them to the online store by featuring your most popular products in the message. The welcome sequence can consist of multiple messages.

5. Entice them back to the online store. If a person doesn't purchase from the online store within a certain period, you can initiate an automation to entice them back to shop at the online store.

Ensure a successful purchase: set up the most profitable e-commerce automations

6. Send a reminder when a purchase is left incomplete. Abandoned cart automation is the most effective sales-generating automation for online stores. The majority of customers abandon their carts for various reasons. An activating automation can bring some of these customers back to complete their purchases. In abandoned cart messages, it is advisable to showcase the cart contents enticingly and lower the threshold for making a purchase.

7. Bring in window shoppers. When a recognised visitor browses product pages, it's time to take action. Browse abandonment automation is one of the most sales-boosting automations for online stores. If customers don't purchase while browsing, send them an activating message using automation featuring the products they just viewed.

After the purchase

8. Thank the customer after the purchase. Always express gratitude to the customer when they have purchased on your online store. You can also encourage the customer at this stage towards their next order, for example, by incentivising them to collect loyalty points or offering a benefit for their next purchase.

9. Collect product reviews. Request specific feedback on products you can use on your online store to convince other buyers. Peer feedback is an effective marketing tool. Time the automation so that the customer has had the opportunity to use the purchased product. For example, clothing stores often ask for feedback on the item's fit, which can help other buyers order the correct size and reduce returns.

10. Ask for feedback on the purchase process. Build a customer satisfaction survey that is automatically sent, for example, after the first purchase. This way, you will receive valuable customer feedback about the online store's customer experience.

Upsell and cross-sell to your customers

11. Highlight other products related to the item. Upselling increases the total amount of each purchase and improves profit margins while generally providing a better customer experience. If, for example, your customer has bought a new coffee maker, they might also need a coffee maker cleaner.

12. Show what others have purchased. Cross-sell by showing what other customers have bought with the same item.

13. Remind the customer when the product is running out. If your product has a certain lifespan, you can use automation to prompt the customer to buy more.

Deploy an automated system to support your loyalty programme

14. Explain to the customer how your loyalty programme works. In loyalty programmes, benefits are usually based on a particular model. For example, customers can earn points and achieve higher levels. When a customer becomes a loyalty member, engaging them by explaining how the programme works makes sense.

15. Increase purchase frequency by encouraging customers to reach the next level. The customer may need to learn which level they are on or how many points they have in the loyalty programme. Inform them, especially when they are close to the next level. This action will encourage the customer to make a new purchase.

16. Reward your top loyalty customers. Ensure you notify the customer when they reach a new level or new benefits in the loyalty programme. This way, you can make your loyal members even more engaged.

17. Send exclusive messages to loyalty members. Offer certain benefits or products to loyalty members first - and make sure they know they are receiving better treatment than others. Everyone wants to be part of the inner circle!

Ensure the deliverability of transactional messages

18. Send transactional messages to all customers. Transactional messages refer to those that must always be delivered, even if the customer has not given marketing consent. Examples of transactional messages include order confirmation and shipping notifications after a purchase.

19. Find out where you should send transactional messages. Transactional messages can be sent from an e-commerce platform or a marketing automation tool. On an e-commerce platform, their implementation may be more straightforward, but message customisation is often limited. If, for instance, you want to define your brand's identity precisely in the messages or display large and enticing images of ordered products, sending transactional messages through a marketing automation tool may be a better option.

Use and leverage dynamic content

20. Utilise product data from your online store. Also, incorporate product data into your marketing automation system. Product names, product images, and other necessary information can be directly transferred (depending on the tool) for automation to utilise from the e-commerce platform. This way, you can easily add specific products to your messages without spending time formatting product images and information.

21. Implement automated product recommendations. Make use of automated product recommendations in various messages. You can automatically highlight the most popular products, latest releases, or products specifically recommended to individuals based on their purchase history.

22. Serve dynamic content to different target audiences. Many marketing automation tools allow for dynamic personalisation of email message content for different target segments. You can offer different message angles to buyers interested in various product categories within the same automation.

23. Leverage customer data in message content. Utilising customer data in message content, such as addressing customers by their first name, makes the message more personalised. However, be cautious if your customer data lacks this information. Before utilising customer data in content, ensure that the information is up to date and that message versions are functional, even if some information is missing.

Get your email content in shape

24. Invest in a catchy subject line. An intriguing subject line and preheader (the preview text below the subject line) will entice readers to open your message—test and track which headlines resonate with your customers. Nowadays, the open rate is not a reliable metric since, for example, Apple users' opens cannot be registered anymore. However, significant differences in the open rate can indicate that a particular headline resonates better. You can also track other metrics: if everything else in the messages is identical, measure which headline generates more clicks or sales.

25. Images spark interest. Feel free to use images, especially if your products are eye-catching and visual. Daydreaming is often an essential part of purchasing, and striking images help recipients consider whether they want that particular product.

26. Focus on your call-to-action. Ensure every message and section has a clear call-to-action (CTA) button. Put effort into its text - you can even sprinkle in some humour.

27. Consider mobile users. Messages are read more often on phones than on computers. Consider this when designing your message template and test your template with Litmus or another tool for different message versions. Almost all marketing automation tools have a message preview feature, but their usability and versatility may vary. Also, check how the final length of your message appears on a mobile device.

28. Dark mode is on the rise. An increasing number of recipients use dark mode, meaning they want to read their messages on a dark background. Make sure your message looks good in dark mode, too. Check, for example, the transparent background colour of logos: a logo with a white background does not look good on a dark background.

29. Create an email checklist for yourself. There are many things to consider in an individual email message, and it's easy to overlook a single point. Create an email checklist for yourself that you can go through before sending out a campaign or starting a new automation.

Use channels in a versatile way

30. Marketing automation is not just about email. Email is a cost-effective way to reach current customers, but marketing automation offers much more. Automation programs can send text messages, WhatsApp messages, messages to other mobile applications, or even physical mail. You can also target automation audiences with the same message on digital advertising channels if the audiences are large enough.

31. Integrate mobile app messaging into your automation system. If your online store has a mobile app, we recommend using push notifications and in-app messages as part of your automation.

32. Utilise your marketing registry in advertising. With changes in cookie policies, remarketing audiences are getting smaller. This makes your marketing register even more valuable! Synchronise your marketing register with advertising channels like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, and target advertising to specific customers. You can also create lookalike audiences from your customer base. Before synchronising your register, we recommend consulting with a legal representative, as transferring data to advertising systems usually requires updating privacy statements.

Utilise purchase data for segmentation

33. Segment different types of buyer groups. When you can access purchase data, you can segment your customers based on their buying history. For example, a customer who has previously bought dog food is unlikely to be interested in cat food.

34. Identify loyal VIP customers. You can identify customers at different stages of their relationship with your online store using the RFM matrix (R = recency, F = frequency, M = monetary). Identify at least those customers who bring you the most sales. You may discover a small but loyal VIP segment worth nurturing with unique benefits. They are more likely to recommend your products to others and provide you with good product reviews.

35. Note the declining customers. The RFM matrix also helps identify declining customers, whom it is good to activate through automation. For example, Custobar has included the RFM matrix and segmentation capabilities based on it as part of its basic features. If you have Custobar, make the most of this feature. If your tool does not support the RFM matrix-related feature, you can also use the matrix outside the automation tool, such as in a CRM system, and import the classifications as part of customer data.

36. Build automations based on the RFM matrix. Once you have identified critical groups using the RFM matrix, you can build automations based on these target groups. For example, offer unique benefits to identified VIP customers. The automation automatically sends the benefit to the customer if they join the VIP customer segment.

Test and optimise

37. Regularly test. Incorporating A/B testing into ongoing marketing automation development is worthwhile. Without establishing a framework around testing, it often goes undone. Start by implementing one test per week or month to gain momentum. Continuous, small-scale optimisation can ultimately yield significant results.

38. Test one thing at a time. Especially in the beginning, it is advisable to keep testing sufficiently simple. Test one element at a time, such as headlines, the impact of send times, images, content, or CTA buttons.

39. Optimise existing automations after testing. To derive benefits from testing, identified successful elements should be implemented immediately. For instance, if you notice a specific send time working better, try incorporating this insight into other automations.

Measure marketing automation efforts

40. Ensure the necessary UTM tags are in place. Several automation tools automatically define UTM tags for Google Analytics tracking. Sometimes, you may need to define the tags yourself. A straightforward naming convention facilitates the monitoring of results.

41. Measure the effectiveness of automations. Automations are triggered in different situations and often have different goals. The goal may be, for example, increased sales or reduced churn. Set a specific goal for each automation and monitor its performance over a longer period. Take a small portion of recipients as a control group to verify if the automation works as intended.

42. Stop tracking the open rate now at the latest. Tracking message opens is no longer worthwhile, as there are so-called ghost opens included. After Apple's Mail Privacy change, some messages read on Apple devices may appear as opened in your automation tool, even if the person hasn't actually opened the message. If you want to track tactical email metrics, we recommend focusing on click-throughs instead, but tracking business metrics, such as sales, is even better.

Take care of marketing permissions

43. Send marketing messages only to those who have given consent. Make sure that revoking consent removes the person from your mailing lists. Note that sending transactional messages to all customers is allowed without marketing permission.

44. Include an option to unsubscribe from marketing in your messages. Ensure that each message includes a link for the recipient to unsubscribe easily. Do not attempt to hide this text, as it is better for the person to revoke consent than to mark your messages as spam. Good practices also include informing recipients of the customer or marketing database on which the message is based.

45. Audit processes related to marketing permissions. Conduct a survey to determine where you collect marketing permissions, whether the same information is gathered from all subscribers, and how much your marketing database grows monthly.

46. Track cancellations of marketing permissions. If message cancellations increase suddenly or are consistently high, you may be sending too many messages to people who are not interested. Regularly monitor cancellations of marketing permissions.

Ensure data quality

47. Ensure the quality of your data. It is essential that you can rely on the data in your automation system so that messages are sent to the correct recipients at the right time. From the perspective of content personalisation, data reliability is also crucial. If desired, you can build technical verification automations that notify you if specific data is not updating correctly.

48. Remove duplicates. Ensure that your automation system does not generate unnecessary duplicates of your customers and that the data imported through integrations does not contain duplicates. Sometimes, duplicate removal must be done in another system, such as an ERP. Some marketing automation tools automatically identify duplicates, but in some cases, you will need to investigate this information yourself.

Secure the deliverability of messages

49. Monitor message deliverability. Regularly track soft and hard bounce rates to see how many recipient addresses are not functioning. If the deliverability rate is low, you may send messages to outdated target groups.

50. Clean up non-functioning addresses. Regularly cleaning up your lists is crucial as it affects the deliverability of your messages. Remove non-functioning addresses from your message recipients regularly. Some tools do this automatically.

51. Clean up passive recipients regularly. A functional address does not necessarily mean the recipient still wants to receive your messages. Avoid sending grey mail to unwilling recipients. For recipients who have been inactive for a long time, you can run an activation campaign asking them to click on a message if they still wish to receive your messages. Many hesitate to clean up their carefully curated marketing database. Still, if a recipient has not purchased from you in a long time and has yet to respond to your messages, it is not worth keeping them and incurring additional tool licence costs.