Let’s face it—as a small business owner, you simply can’t do all the things in your business while also working on your business to grow it.
Luckily, you no longer need to, thanks to the many great marketing automation tools available for today’s online businesses.
Marketing automation is a vitally important tool to help online businesses reach revenue and growth goals.
Marketing automation allows small business owners to take control of their marketing strategy without having to manually manage every aspect of their campaigns. By combining ecommerce with marketing automation, you have get all the benefits of a sophisticated shopping experience with the ability to create marketing campaigns that are customer tailored to your audience.
This means you can drive more traffic to your site, increase the number of and amount spent on orders, and bring back more returning customers with just some initial setup and occasional tweaking and monitoring.
In this guide to ecommerce marketing automation, we’ll cover:
If your marketing strategy mainly focuses on bringing in new customers, you’re missing out on huge opportunities for revenue that are already well within arms’ reach.
There are three basic ways you can grow revenue and expand your business: by increasing the number of customers, increasing the average value of each order (AOV), and increasing the frequency at which each customer purchases from you.
Most businesses focus on the first tactic, working to increase their site traffic in hopes of boosting sales. While this is one essential part of growing revenue, the latter two tactics are more cost-effective ways to grow your business than continually finding, targeting, and converting new customers.
When was the last time you thought about how much you’re charging for your products? Raising your prices is one way to instantly increase your AOV. If this seems like an extremely simple solution, that’s because it is.
Oftentimes, small businesses set their prices lower than what their customers would actually pay for their products. Maybe you set your prices low when you launched to get your business up and running and haven’t rethought your pricing since. Maybe you entered a very competitive industry and wanted to stand out from competitors with lower prices.
Regardless, you can use A/B testing, or split testing, to see whether changing your prices will truly affect how much business you receive by raising the price on a few products and comparing orders over time. Using automation with your ecommerce platform, you can identify key demographics, segment your audience, and test the price changes with each group. Once you have some data on pricing, you can make adjustments accordingly. If it doesn’t work, you can always lower your prices again. No matter what you’re selling, this tactic is worth a shot.
Cross-sells and upsells are another way to earn more on each order. Cross-selling is encouraging customers to add related items to their cart, while upselling is encouraging customers to switch to a higher-value (and higher-cost) item instead of their original choice.
You can cross and upsell by including content on the product page, cart page, and even the order confirmation page. If you only sell one product, you can still upsell—you just have to get more creative. Offering a bundle package for buying more than one item or a consultation service along with a minimum order can help you obtain a higher AOV.
Consider the 80-20 rule: Most businesses make 80 percent of their revenue from only 20 percent of their customers. Not only are returning customers making up the biggest portion of revenue, it’s also much cheaper to encourage them to come back than to capture new prospects and lead them through your sales funnel. Start focusing your marketing on targeting returning visitors to grow this part of your revenue stream.
Offering a subscription service is one way to ensure customers are hearing from you and purchasing from you on a regular basis. If you aren’t offering a product that customers need to re-up on frequently, you can get creative by offering a subscription service for warranties or on-call customer service. With marketing automation, subscriptions become a snap. The system will be able to trigger follow up to help remind your subscribers when it’s time to renew, whether that’s annually or monthly. You won’t have to spend any time tracking individual accounts or running batch processes, because it’s all automated.
Another way to market to returning customers is to ensure your receipt emails are doing more than simply confirming orders. You’re already sending receipt emails; if you’re not leveraging these emails as another marketing tool, you’re missing out on an opportunity to build your relationship with returning customers. Start including cross-sells or offers to get them to return to your site for additional purchases.
No one has to tell you that growing your list is vitally important to a thriving ecommerce business.
The backbone of a strong list growth strategy is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. CRM is a powerful tool for managing the data around your interactions with your customers and leads. Every time you interact, you learn a little more, and your CRM tracks it all for you. That CRM data combined with automated follow up will keep your list growing and thriving.
The art of growing your contact list centers on attracting new people to your website. When people are interested in the content and products you offer, there’s a good chance they’ll want to keep hearing from you.
But if you want new people to give you their contact information, you’ve got to offer them a reason to do so. In our experience, helpful and relevant content is the best way to accomplish this.
Grow your list at point of sale
As an ecommerce business, your product pages are a strong draw for new contacts. Whether they come in via search, follow a paid ad, or hear about you on social media, your products draw plenty of newcomers. So, be ready: Add them to your list the moment they buy from you.
You can gain a ton of insight from the people who buy from you. With each transaction, you learn geographic details, purchase history, and of course, their name and email address. If they came to your website from a paid social ad, you’ll get social details, too. This insight enables you to provide quality marketing that will create return customers down the road.
Your newsletter to grow your list
Every page on your website provides an opportunity to drive people to subscribe to your newsletter for insider information, discounts, tips and tricks, and more.
Want to be sure you’re providing the best newsletter content? Offer your subscribers the ability to set preferences about what they’d like to receive from you. Do they want the discounts, but not the tips and tricks? Are they interested in a specific product category? Every piece of data helps you learn about your audience, giving you more opportunities to send them targeted promotions.
Create lead magnets
The best way to grow your list is to develop content specifically for the purpose of attracting new subscribers. People ascribe value to their contact information, and they won’t give it out to just anyone. But they’ll often exchange it for something valuable to them, like a great piece of content or an offer for a discounted service, like a free (or nearly free) consultation.
This kind of tactic is known as a “lead magnet.” You offer content valuable enough to your audience that they’d give up their information in order to have it. Below, we dig into this a little deeper.
Step 1. Create a resource that appeals to your audience
From e-books and reports to infographics, there’s a wide range of what works as a lead magnet. The only requirement is that it offers enough value to be worth an exchange for contact information.
Lead magnets are for people who aren’t ready to buy right now but could be someday. This means they’re the first moment your audience will judge your brand on the value they receive. If you want to turn them into customers, then this must be a high quality experience.
Step 2. Set up a landing page
This is a single web page designed exclusively for your lead magnet. Before your visitors can click through to the resource they want, you’ll require they provide their contact information.
Remember to keep the barrier to entry low. If you ask for too much all at once, you could discourage click through. Most often two points of data is just right, such as name and email. With CRM and automation, you can implement progressive profiling, which means that if you already have some of their data (like email address), you can use this opportunity to collect additional data (like phone number).
Step 3. Spread the word about your lead magnet
Promote your your new resource on your blog, your website, with paid advertising, and throughout your social network. Provide as much opportunity for people to hear about it as possible with a landing page that explains everything.
Your new contacts gave you their contact information expecting that you’d connect with them. If your list is relatively small, you might be able to manage some of the follow up manually—tracking who needs a phone call, who should get an email, who wants a text message. But as your list grows, it will be impossible to keep up without the help of automation.
Every new subscriber should receive a quality welcome email. This gives them confidence that there’s tons of great stuff to come and helps them anticipate your upcoming content. You can create an automatic email response to ensure that every new subscriber gets a welcome right away and doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. If they responded to a lead magnet, send them follow up related to the subject of the lead magnet. If you got their email via an ecommerce purchase, offer complementary products or upsells.
Remember that your new contacts are on a journey: The follow-up emails you send should respect where they’ve come from and where they’re going. Most people on the web aren't ready to buy on their first visit to your ecommerce site, but they will be. And you want to be top of mind when they’re ready to buy; otherwise, they’ll go somewhere else. Automated follow up solves this problem of lost leads by keeping you connected with the people who show interest in your brand. And it doesn’t end there. Automated marketing campaigns keep them coming back.
The big challenge is that each person—each lead and each customer—is on their own journey and they’re all in different stages. If you treat every contact the same, it will be nearly impossible to grow your list. And that’s where personalization comes in.
An Experian Marketing Services study found that personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates. As a small business in ecommerce, that’s something you can’t ignore.
Email personalization, also known as “1:1 segmentation,” refers to customizing your emails for the individual contacts on your list. Often, people assume this simply means that your emails address each contact by their first name. But that’s only the beginning.
To have the kind of robust personalization that would generate higher engagement and ultimately the kind of boost in transaction rates that Experian found, you have to do more.
A personalized email should feel as if the sender composed it just for them.
Take a look at this email from Grammarly, for example. This one doesn’t mention the contact’s name at all, but delivers personalized content as part of its call for an upgrade to a premium account.
You have to understand what they like and what they’d be interested in, and then deliver emails that truly matter to them. You can personalize anything from the images they see, to the text they read, to the offers they get and the time of day they hit the inbox.
Obviously, it’s a ton of work to give every email the level of personalization needed for each of your contacts, especially if your list is growing. Without automation, it’s nearly impossible.
CRM is far more than a rolodex. True, it keeps track of people and their contact information, which you’ll use to personalize emails. But it also tracks their behavior, like when they downloaded a free resource you offered, signed up for your newsletter, browsed your product pages, when they made a purchase, or almost bought from you but then abandoned their cart.
Once you track each person’s interaction with your business, you can use that knowledge to create automated emails that use personalization to get them to buy—or buy again—from you.
People are all unique in a variety of ways, but they’re also similar in unique ways, too. Knowing this, you can identify groups within your list—or segments—of people with shared interests, behaviors, backgrounds, etc. That way, you can target a segment but still feel personal, because they recognize that you understand an aspect of them as an individual.
This is why segmentation is the most powerful way to add personalization to your automated email marketing. Your CRM data is a vault of valuable information about each individual on your list, and with that knowledge, you can carve up your list in a nearly endless variety of ways.
Here are some broad categories you can segment:
Once you have identified segments within your list that you can target, it’s time to create automated email campaigns that target them. With the help of automation, you can create awesome email campaigns that your audience will love to engage with. Below are three main ways that segmentation and email marketing automation can work together to help you create personalized emails:
As your contacts take action, they can segment themselves. Use automation to recognize when any of your contacts qualify for a segment, entering them into the email campaign when they qualify. As you track user behavior, you can set up triggers that generate automated, personalized emails.
Check out this automated follow up from Wistia. In this case, an email automatically goes out to individuals who have signed up for their video service, but haven’t begun using it. The light-hearted copy adds to the personalized feel of the email.
Personalizing email blasts
Sometimes you want to send a general email broadcast to your entire list. Even though everyone will get one, you can still use segmentation to personalize the message, making the correspondence feel relatable, and more to the point.
In this example, Billabong is running a fall fleece promotion. Even though everyone on the list receives the promotion, the announcement email segments by gender to make it more relevant to the recipient. Here, the photos, featured products, and copy are all targeting men, rather than showing both men’s and women’s fleece options all in one email.
Create emails that help you segment your audience
Email is never “one-and-done.” Your interactions with your list continue over time, and all the while you learn from those interactions. You can use email to create new segments you can target with automatic follow up to help you move your audience toward a sale.
In this example from Home Advisor, a site that links homeowners up with home improvement pros, their newsletter is a segmentation machine. Any click-through on the newsletter is a fair indication that the reader is interested in a particular home improvement project. They can easily be segmented into a follow-up email campaign encouraging them to use the app to help them select a home improvement pro for the job.
You’ve got your expanded list, automation tools and growth strategy in place. Now it’s time to execute by putting your first automated marketing campaign into action.
There are multiple time-tested automated marketing campaigns that have seen success for online businesses across industries. Try one of these seven automated marketing campaigns to grow your revenue.
Abandoned carts are one of the most frustrating roadblocks for retailers to overcome. However, abandoned carts are actually one of the best opportunities you have to close a deal.
These visitors are one step away from becoming customers; they often just need a simple nudge to convert. Send an abandoned cart email to visitors within one day of their visit to remind them to finish their purchase. Include a photo and description of the item so they will remember, and ideally fall in love, with the product all over again.
You can either accomplish this all in one email, or make a campaign of it by following up three to five days after the first email and including an incentive to return to check out. A 10 percent discount may be the small push they need to complete their purchase.
Here is an example of a BigCommerce out-of-the-box abandoned cart email from That’s It Fruit.
Some customers only buy items on sale—and that’s OK. While they may not be your customers that have the highest AOV, you do already know what drives them to make a purchase, and that in itself is extremely valuable information.
Send them emails featuring items on the sale rack, especially ones that relate to products they’ve purchased in the past. Make sure to include the discounted rate to alert them that they are getting a good deal.
You know your high AOV customers are some of your most valuable. Make them feel special by presenting them with their own promotional offer campaigns. Using data from their past purchases, send them discounts on product bundles or send them ideas for products related to items they’ve purchased in the past.
For example, if you’re a clothing brand, send them a campaign featuring shoes, jewelry, and accessories that could match an outfit they’ve recently purchased. You can also give them a discounted rate if they purchase the entire bundle of accessories.
Haven’t seen one of your customers in a while? Let them know you miss them with a win-back email.
This type of email is a good way to build your relationship with a customer, showcase the personality of your brand and let them know you value their business. You can also include a discount code to further influence them to return to your site.
Birthdays, holidays, and customer anniversaries are all great times to show your customer you care. This is your chance to personalize customer experiences, which can set you apart from competitors. Make sure to include a birthday or other life event slot on your newsletter or contact forms so you can automate these campaigns. Include a discount code they can use on their special day.
After a customer makes a purchase, you can follow up with related products to what they purchased or products within a similar category. For example, if they bought a swimsuit, you could garner a cross-sell by emailing them some of the swimsuit coverups, beach towels or vacation wear collections you offer. Cross-selling emails on average have a .55 percent conversion rate and 6.84 percent click-to-conversion rate, according to BlueCore.
Did you know receipt emails on average have one of the highest open rates, with more than 70 percent of customers clicking on them? As stated earlier, this is a huge opportunity to reach an already attentive customer base by cross-selling items related to what they’ve already purchased.
If you’re selling any type of item that will run out, replenish emails are incredibly valuable for keeping customers coming back for more. Whether you’re selling face wash or specialty trash bags, figure out when your customers are likely to be running low and set up automated email campaigns with a link to re-up.
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