The No-Nonsense, 6 Step Guide to Ecommerce Email Marketing

Written by Franco Varriano.

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Ecommerce email marketing has grown rapidly over the last few years because it’s an efficient and effective way to reach thousands of people instantly. 

But with the increasing popularity of email, there has come increasing wariness on the reader side. Unscrupulous email marketing campaigns have reduced people’s trust in online businesses and the emails they send.

Nonetheless, you still want to use email as one of your primary marketing channels. People continue to subscribe to email lists. Sumo, an email capture software, says that on average 2% of website visitors opt into an email list. Many ecommerce businesses maintain a healthy email open rate and find that email is one of their highest marketing ROIs.

So how can ecommerce effectively get in on this email marketing action? We’ve already explained how to create the right email marketing strategy. In this post, we’re going to use real email campaigns from J.Crew to show you six qualities that make ecommerce email marketing successful.

Whether you’re creating your first email or 100th campaign, these examples will help you improve your email game.

Step 0: Ecommerce Email Marketing Strategy

You can add many emails to your email marketing funnel. We could go on and on about all of the varieties of ecommerce marketing emails and their permutations. Since this is a “no-nonsense” guide, we are going to outline the 5 essential emails you need to include in your ecommerce email marketing strategy to start churning out sales.

  1. Abandoned cart emails: An email that is sent to shoppers that abandon their cart just prior to purchasing.
  2. Up-sells and cross-sells: Emails that are sent to try to persuade buyers into purchasing an upgrade of their product, or a complimentary product.
  3. Discount and sale promotions: You don’t have to run these every week, but every ecommerce brand runs sales, usually during low months.
  4. Transactional emails: shipping and order confirmations, thank you notes and follow-up emails are sure ways to increase brand loyalty and keep customers happy.
  5. Customer winback emails: Emails that send out to customers that have lapsed being active subscribers to your list. automates these emails so that you don’t need to worry about setting up  complicated sequences. All you need to do is set them up, modify the copy and design, and launch them:

Beyond setting up these emails, here are the essential steps to setting an effective ecommerce email marketing campaign, illustrated using the giant clothing ecommerce brand J.Crew.

Step 1: Send a Welcome Email

Before you send emails with deals and promotions, you want to welcome new subscribers and thank them for joining your email list. 

J.Crew does this perfectly.

Their welcome email contains:

  • A message of appreciation to readers for joining the email list
  • A description of what to expect in these marketing emails
  • A call-to-action

Although J.Crew’s welcome email is simple, it makes the reader feel good. This good feeling with carry over to help build brand-loyal customers who’ll be happy to hear about your new products in the future. If you are thankful and clear with your intentions, your welcome email form a strong base for your future marketing efforts.

For more great welcome email examples, check out our post.

Step 2: Segment Your Audience

People dislike email marketing campaigns when they do not address  the person’s wants and needs. An example is bad to up-sell and cross-sell marketing emails. If done incorrectly, these emails contain products and services that readers have no interest in buying. This is very annoying.

One of the best ways to avoid this issue is by segmenting your list. This way, you can send targeted and personalized emails.

In fact, Neil Patel says that email segmentation can increase open rates by 203%.

If it works, then J.Crew must be doing it. And you can see evidence of savvy segmentation and personalization in the way that J.Crew times their discounts. In this email, they offer a 40% during work hours only. J.Crew understands that their clientele of professional women tend to shop when they’re at work. Their readers will appreciate this email because it aligns with their habits and adds urgency during the times they are likely online shopping.

Step 3: Write a Compelling Headline

The subject line above is “Get yourself the things they forgot.”

A compelling headline is an essential ecommerce email marketing piece, and appears in two of the most critical parts of an email: the subject line and the top of the email.

Good email subject lines are absolutely key: they can make or break your campaign. They are the biggest limiting step to the success of your emails. J.Crew understands this concept. The email subject line/headline above uses a combination of best practices:

  • First, it incites curiosity – What items did people forget to get me? 
  • Second, it employs scarcity – Final sale items won’t last. 
  • Third, it’s an irresistible offer.

The brevity of J.Crew’s headline makes it all the more compelling. J.Crew isn’t using a long-winded sales pitch. Instead, it’s low-pressure and friendly.

Don’t lose your customers before they ever have a chance to see your offer. Use compelling email subject lines to reel them in and take a look at what you can do for them.

Step 4: Brand Clearly

There are so many online businesses today that it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. That’s why it’s critical to continually portray your brand image every chance you interact with customers.

There are a few different strategies you can employ to brand your emails properly so readers will recognize your company:

  1. Display your logo clearly at the top of your email. When a reader opens your promotional email, the first thing they see should be your logo so they know it’s from you.
  2. Other than black and white, use brand colors. In addition to displaying your logo, this will emphasize that your company sent the email.
  3. Mimic the design of your website. Whether you write long paragraphs or use simple copy, whether you use bright photos or no photos, your emails should match the style of your website.

In the example above, you can see that J.Crew starts the email with their logo at the top, their email matches the look of their website. They use simple, black and white copy with high-quality and colorful images.

As you get better at branding your emails, readers will become more comfortable opening and reading them. This will help you build valuable trust with your audience. Follow J.Crew’s lead and brand your email campaigns consistently every time.

Step 5: Create an Elegant Email Design

Good email design is necessary if you want customers to read your emails and follow your call-to-action. A well-designed email can send readers smoothly, right along to your ecommerce store’s checkout.

If it’s too much work for the reader to figure out what you’re telling them, they won’t read your email. No one has that kind of time.

This is why good design is important. It makes it easy for the reader to consume your email, find out what’s in it for them, and take your desired action.

J.Crew does a great job with their design in the example above. They don’t have a lot going on and there is plenty of white space. They also use a simple color scheme – black, white, and orange – which matches the Halloween theme and doesn’t distract the reader. Finally, they only give the reader one action at each part of the email:

  • First, it’s to read the headline.
  • Second, it’s to see the reason for the email.
  • Third, it’s to click-through to find a store.

Good design is good business. If you want to accomplish your marketing goals and get readers to take action, use a design that makes it easy for your customers to know what they should do.

Step 6: Use A Clear Call-to-Action

Your call-to-action (CTA) needs to be clear and obvious so readers know exactly what to do next. Once you have readers opening your emails, improving your CTA is the best way to increase your conversion rate.

The best way to get your CTA to convert readers into customers is to make it clear. Look at the simplicity in the example above. “Shop now.” That’s all it says. Every reader that opens this email knows to click the button if they want to shop for the discounted items.


Email marketing for ecommerce companies can seem difficult. Many people are reluctant to receive and consume promotional material. But if you can follow in J.Crew’s footsteps and stick to email marketing best practices, you’ll find a lot of success with your marketing efforts.

Once again, the steps:

Step 0: Set-up a simple ecommerce email marketing strategy

  • Step 1: Send a Welcome Email
  • Step 2: Segment Your Audience
  • Step 3: Write a Compelling Email Subject Line
  • Step 4: Brand Clearly
  • Step 5: Create an Elegant Email Design
  • Step 6: Use a Clear Call-to-Action

Use the examples above to help you review and improve your email marketing campaigns so you can take your business to the next level.

And if you’re one of the thousands of merchants who are already using Rare’s Smart Email Marketing software and want to see how our Customer Success Team can work with your brand to grow your revenue – feel free to book a call at your convenience here.

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