We've discussed the automations that form the main support of an email-based customer acquisition and conversion system. Automations depend on the constant, consistent, and pre-qualified acquisition of new names for the main list of the online business.
If everything goes OK with your acquisition program outside of email (your print, social, search engine, and digital campaigns), and you get a lot of names going through your automations, you may be satisfied with your results and that would be the end of your work with your email setup.
However, if you find yourself wishing that you could do more with email, then you open the door to email campaigns.
Automations are designed to be 'fire, optimize, and forget' types of things. There is no rule that states you cannot constantly tinker with your email automations. However, the main idea behind email automations is to generate 'free revenue' that comes into the store without you having to worry about it. Of course, reviewing the performance of automations every quarter (or every month) makes sense. You can catch problems as you find them and fix them. But overall, automations are meant to run year-long in the same state so you worry about other things.
Campaigns, on the other hand, are your 'email act of will.' You send them when you want to, to as many or as few profiles in your list as you wish, and with whatever message you decide.
When you have an email automation properly setup, there are several cases where campaigns make sense:
These are very specific areas where campaigns can complement email automations and provide real value to an email marketing strategy. This approach also provides a structure for email cadence, which depends, in great part, on the number of SKUs and on the ability of the brand to have a story to tell about its products.
A store with a large number and variety of SKUs can maintain a cadence of weekly emails by highlighting individual areas of the catalog that are either in need of a boost or which have received new additions. If you are constantly adding new products to your catalog, then your weekly email is your communication to your customers of those additions. Depending on what you sell, your chances of getting sales from those communications is high.
If you have a small number of SKUs (less than 20 products) and your catalog does not increase on a regular basis, then a weekly newsletter would not make sense if it is focused only on the specifics of the product: if you highlight how your main product solves problem Y to the profile list that is already convinced, then you are wasting your effort.
If a segment of your list is simply not engaged with that problem or the solution you provide, then you need to be very creative about how to present the problem and its solution so the emails have value in their ingenuity and presentation as much as for the actual value of the product.
In other words, if the only message your brand can generate is related to the actual qualities of the product and nothing more, then weekly campaigns will be repetitive and will likely lead to unsubscribes. Unless you can come up with a story-based approach that builds on the product to be more than the product alone, then you are better off relying on automations than weekly newsletters and can use campaigns for the purposes outlined above when they suit your email calendar.
What's a story-based weekly campaign like? Ask yourself: is your product like a screwdriver, or a swiss army knife? If it is a Swiss army knife, you would have little difficulty showing all the situations where your product would come in handy. Each one of those situations would be the subject of an email, for example. You could even ask your customers to show you how they are using the product, and put their contributions in your weekly newsletter.
But what if the product is more like a screwdriver? Then the number of situations where a screwdriver could be used (these may be humorous or just plain silly) may allow you to tell more stories about the product and highlight its features. They may not be real situations, but the idea is to engage people in the act of purchasing your screwdriver (which has only one function).
It's easy to abuse email campaigns. The need to enhance revenue every quarter is a huge driver for sending repeated, unwanted emails. If you have a small number of SKUs, you may be tempted to hammer the same point over and over every week or every month and hope that customers will finally 'see the light' about your product.
Maintaining the email campaign stream within the guardrails outlined above provides a useful story to tell about each email you send, and depending on what you sell, they should carry value for your customers. And they will complement your email automation setup.
However, not everyone in your entire list will respond to these emails in the same way. This is where segmentation plays a part. Campaign strategy should involve incorporating purchasing behavior and email response behavior into your segmentation. This will improve your deliverability numbers (your open and click rate) and if your message resonates, it will also deliver more sales.
And of course, the emails should be sent with an awareness of each other, so they do not pile up in the customer's inbox. Smart Sending your campaigns helps keep the customer's inbox uncluttered and your messages top of mind when they arrive.
What is the role of automation in email marketing, and how (or if) should you use campaigns to reach out to our email audience? On this article, we discuss the uses of email marketing automation for an e-commerce business and how it can be complemented by weekly or monthly campaigns.
What is email automation and why should you use it?
The promise of automation in email marketing is 'free money.' By setting up a series of automations that catch your influx of customers as they come into your online store, you can, in theory, provide enough points of contact via email automation to manage the customer journey from 0 purchases to 2 or more purchases. Automations, as the name implies, are triggered when a subscriber meets a specific condition and is added to a pre-designed series of emails.
Pre-Purchase Automated Flows
The automations you can use to manage the customer journey usually are described below. These flows work together to turn customer interest into customer purchases. These are Pre-Purchase flows.
The flows described below tend to the relationship with the customer after a purchase. They are Post-Purchase flows.
The 7 flows outlined above would, in theory, take care of customers who are brought into the store via external advertising, SEO, word of mouth, social media, etc. To make the automation successful, the brand has to constantly provide a flow of new names into the system. Since the automations only work when someone becomes a subscriber, either via a purchase or via newsletter, the more emails are added to the system, consistently, the better chance of getting regular conversions from the collection of flows.
Naturally, there are standard automations like shipping and order confirmation emails, but those are assumed to exist separate from these 7.
Adding Campaigns To The Mix (for the win)
Once you have setup, and tested, your automations for an online store, you should be good to go. The next question is: what do you do with all the names that are accumulating in your database once they have gone through your automations? The automated flows can only activate if the customer does a specific action. Once they are used up, you will end up with profiles in your database that could be doing nothing if left on their own.
Targeted email campaigns are designed to solve this problem. They bring individuals from your database into action so they can be managed by the flows again, in the case of a purchase, or the Winback, in case they have fallen out with the brand.
What are good ideas for targeted campaigns? That depends on the number of SKUs in your store. If you sell 4 items, then constantly reminding your list to buy one or all of the four could be annoying. If you can realistically expect them to purchase more than once, then a monthly newsletter with anything new about the items, or selected social media driven stories about the use of the items, might make people purchase again.
If you have a large store with hundreds of SKUs, the newsletter's task is to offer a selection of SKUs to the people who are most likely to purchase them. Segmentation is the tools for selecting who is likely to purchase the items again. The success of these campaigns is heavily dependent on the correct assessment of how your customer views the product. If you sell items that are really meant to be purchased only once, then constantly asking people to buy them again will not work.
Repeat purchases are the result of need or desire on the part of customers, and using email campaigns to generate them and bring people back to the flows is one of the best uses of email campaigns that complements the 'free money' generated by the automated flows.
Daniel Loebl is an experienced Marketer focused on expanding the recognition of customer value inside a business and keeps a 'beginner's' mind approach to business problems.