EcomCrew Podcast

E159: 3 Key Email Marketing Sequences for Your Ecommerce Business

Is email marketing dead?

I certainly don’t think so. Email marketing is responsible for generating about half of our company’s revenue.

Fortunately, my guest on today’s podcast shares the same sentiment.

In this episode, I’m talking to Xiaohui or better known as “X”. He’s an industry expert who, along with his team of email marketing specialists, is helping ecommerce businesses reap the benefits of an expertly crafted email sequence.

And email sequences are at the heart of this episode. X identified the top 3 types that ecommerce entrepreneurs should be aware of. We’ve listed them below.

1. Abandon Cart Sequence

  • Email 1 – a reminder about the abandoned shopping cart; sent somewhere between 15 minutes to a couple of hours after a cart is supposedly abandoned
  • Email 2 – encourages the person who abandoned the cart to return to it and complete the purchase with a discount incentive; sent 24 hours after the first email
  • Email 3 – introduces the sense of urgency (cart/discount expiring soon!); sent 24 hours after the second email

2. Prospect Nurture Sequence

This sequence is defined as a welcome sequence specifically for prospects. When done properly, it has proven to be very effective for generating additional email addresses. It propels the prospect forward in the email sequence and eventually results in revenue.  

The prospect nurture sequence often uses intelligent pop-ups that offer value to the recipient instead of just plain ‘hard selling’. Tried and true incentives tend to work best in this type of email sequence. A sequence is typically made up of 3-5 emails.

  • Email 1 – deliver the incentive
  • Email 2 – a reminder
  • Email 3 – last chance to get the incentive

3. Post Purchase Sequence

This email sequence targeted towards people who have become customers.

  • Email 1 – Differentiated welcome emails (depending on whether it’s a first time or repeat customer)
  • Email 2 – Transactional emails (e.g., order confirmation and shipping confirmation emails)
  • Email 3 – Creating opportunities to cross-sell and upsell

X also touched a bit on the win-back sequence and offered tips on how to use it to get customers back and still manage to make a conversion in the process.

Other Resources Mentioned:

Essence of Email


Thanks for listening to this episode! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!

Full Audio Transcript

Mike: This is Mike, and welcome to episode number 159 of the EcomCrew Podcast. Today I have my friend X on the show with me. Yes, his name — he goes by X. And if you're probably thinking you must have to be a badass to go by the name X, you'd be right in this case. X is a certified badass when it comes to email marketing. He's someone that I've known of in the e-commerce community for a very long time, especially because of the Ecommerce Fuel forums. Whenever someone talks about email, his name inevitably comes up. Of course I'm jealous because I want my name to come up but X is definitely a bigger expert in email than I am.

And it was so cool to get him on the show. So cool to finally get to meet them in person at Sellers Summit and we really hit it off, super awesome guy. He's coming back to the states soon to live back in Texas soon. So, hopefully with him being closer in time zones, we’ll get to catch up more often. But I hope you guys really enjoyed this interview with X. Buckle up. There's a lot to tackle here. And we're going to get right into it on the other side of this break.

Mike: Hey X, welcome to the EcomCrew Podcast, man.

X: Dude, thanks for having me, I’m excited.

Mike: No problem. Yeah, man, I think that I'm probably more excited. It's a pleasure having you on here. You're someone that I've known of for a very long time. Just your name constantly comes up in the Ecommerce Fuel forums as like the go to guy with email. And so I kind of always knew that you were out there, but then we finally got to meet at Sellers Summit. And you're a cool dude man. It was fun hanging out with you.

X: Same as well. I heard from you from a lot of our prospective clients. They're like, you know what, can you just do what Mike Jackness proposes?

Mike: All right, that’s funny.

X: Because you wrote some cool stuff, very detailed breakdowns of some automation sequences and stuff. So I'm like, okay, I got to connect with him.

Mike: Very cool. Well, I didn't realize that that was the case. I guess that's a good thing when clients come to you and they're using my name. So that's good for me. We're doing something right I guess.

X: Absolutely.

Mike: So yeah, I mean, I really want to dig into what I guess we'll theme the podcast topic today of email marketing for e-commerce. The thing I always get asked first, I actually just got asked this question the other day, is email marketing dead? So I'm going to let you answer that. I answered on the other podcast, but what do you think?

X: Yeah, so I always like to refer to numbers whenever possible. And I'll tell you that across like our own panel data across some industry averages, we're seeing right around 23 to 25% of total store revenue coming from email. So, if a quarter of revenue is considered dead, I would be a little quick cautioning on that. But of course, it varies. Some stores actually do a lot better than that. So, short answer from my perspective, and seeing a lot of different programs, I say, no, it's not dead.

Mike: Yeah, I completely agree. We're actually at 50%, which is I know on the high end, but we have a product and a brand that email seems to respond well with. But yeah, I'm in the same group of email definitely not dead at all.

X: Yeah and quickly to your point yeah, definitely depending on the audience and the product, the numbers vary by quite a bit. I'd say like, probably like apparel brands, or any products that have high repeat order rates, those tend to skew higher on email so 30%, 40%, rarely 50%. So, I think you guys are definitely more bent there but definitely higher than those averages.

Mike: Yeah, I think the reason we are able to get higher, just as a few things, I mean, the things you just mentioned, we have a high repeat purchase rate, we have a consumable product. So, I mean, we sell coloring books, so people are using up the book, they're using up their pencil, they using up their pens. And also people want a variety. So as we come up with new products, they kind of they want those. And we also spend a lot of time with our email marketing, not just talking about us, but also providing value to our customers.

So they are basically trained to open our emails, and they look forward to and or want to open our emails versus the other way around, which a lot of people do nothing but email sales and new products. And people just like, leave me alone and filter them out or hit spam or whatever. So we try to be on the other side of that.

X: Yeah, absolutely. I think from our perspective, the most effective email programs we see kind of combines on a campaign and a really healthy campaign mix, right? So not just sale, sale, sale promotion, promotion, promotion, but just passing that with value giving content, user generated content and all that, just so it mixes it up. And then we see like better long term retention rates for the subscriber base.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, all right, so you threw out a number. I love stats. You said 23 to 25% of revenue on these stores is coming from email. So, I want to dig in and talk about maybe like the big three, or the big five, whatever those things are, types of emails that generate the bulk of that revenue. Before like hopping into that, I just want to say one thing here that I think that is a big miss for people in general, which is that the entrepreneurial thing is to go get more customers and go get more sales. That's like kind of where we get our high from.

And people often neglect the people they already have in the door. And it's like way easier to get a sale from someone who already has given you their credit card number, their address, their personal info, you've sent them a product and hopefully made them happy. That's a way easier sale than going out and getting new customers. And also the way that I also look at this, it also helps with the front and advertising budgets. Because if you can get 25% more revenue out of existing customers, you can presumably spend 25% more on your ad campaigns, which can make you get more people in the top of your funnel.

So I just want to kind of preface all that to people just to be thinking about how important it is to be nurturing existing customers. So, now that that's out of the way X, let's dig into what would you say, like is it somewhere between three and five, or the top number of campaigns or things people need to be doing with email?

X: Yeah, so email I think is pretty, pretty deep. But I can highlight a couple of like very effective campaigns automations we've kind of been seeing lately. I'd say like number one, two, and three on that list is really — number one first and foremost, you want to have your abandoned cart, abandoned check out, abandoned browse campaigns, or rather automations and fighting shape. Because effectively, like that whole sequence is when someone lands on your sites, whether they're abandoning while they're being a product, or they're a step further when they actually added a product to cart or they're actually at the checkout page, but having completed orders, all of those, you can build automations around.

And actually, most of time, you'll see increasing efficiency, which is pretty intuitive as you get closer to the point of purchase. So, if you're not actually — if you don't have anything implemented along those lines, then you're missing out on a huge opportunity there. Because these people have a lot of purchase intent and being able to remind them to follow up sometimes offers more incentive to purchase. That is really powerful in terms of getting more conversions. So, that’ll probably be like, number one there.

Mike: So, do you mind if we break that down just a little bit because there's obviously a sequence that goes out. So I mean, what have you seen as best practices? Because I get actually asked this question a lot. And we're sending out five emails as a part of our abandoned cart sequence. That's kind of what we settled on. But I'm curious because the thing that's really cool about you, I mean you are doing this for a lot of clients. You're seeing it a much bigger scale than we ever can, and seeing it over multiple industries and niches. So what have you found is best practice as far as frequency, number of abandoned cart sequences, and then when you introduce that discount?

X: Our typical go to, and obviously for different clients you want to start, you'd be testing the delays, when to introduce the incentive, the language, the subject lines, all of that. But our go to is a three touch point sequence with the first email being more a customer service oriented. So, I'd write a touch point saying, hey, did you forget about your cart, is there any issues, here are our contact info and coming from that angle without introducing a discount. Now, if you do want to introduce a discount, I recommend introducing it in the second email in the sequence.

So, if they haven't purchased from the first one, then thinking about giving a small discount percent off or free shipping, something like that. And then the third email being more of a urgency driven last chance both focus on kind of the cart is expiring and, or like focusing on the discounts expiring as well. So, that's how we like to typically structure it. And then from there test into it.

So, normally the first email depending on how comfortable you are with that, we want to get that out fairly quickly. So, I'd say anywhere between even like as little as 15 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how your email provider actually functions with the cart. Sometimes they lock the cart entry points, but the true abandonment when they close out from the browser, that's not log. So, you might want to allow a little bit more time there in those cases just to make sure they're truly abandoning it.

But other than that, the next two, we put at 24 hour increments from the initial point of abandonment, the reasoning being that if someone is shopping within a certain time of day, likely, that's the most likely time they'll shop in the future days, right. So some people are night owls, some people are morning birds, some people user their lunch break to do shopping. So really mimicking the behavior and the likely points of conversions based on that. So that's our typical three touch points and some of the delays associated with [inaudible 00:11:54].

Mike: Got you, awesome stuff. And on that second touch point with the discounts, what are you seeing industry like? What percentage discount seems to be the thing that produces the best results?

X: Yeah, great question. Usually, like what we see and this is something I get much more deep into, but the biggest gap is actually having a discount versus not having a discount, right? So that psychological gap between okay, is there a reminder email versus, oh, here's an actual little thing, right. And the reason why I say that instead of going to specific, like a 10% is better or 50, $10 is better than 10% or something like that is because that requires a ton of testing, because we actually do a lot of testing around how to frame incentives when we're like capturing emails, and then when delivering emails on the other side of things.

So, sometimes they're just like very small nuances. And what you'll find is some things are counterintuitive, where there's actually a discount that is objectively worse, but because it is framed in a certain way, it actually performs better. So that's why I hesitate a little bit to say like a 10% is the end all be all. But definitely, the biggest gap is between having one versus not having one, and then testing the different variations from there.

Mike: Yeah, and I think this is another, it’s very niche specific. If you have a store that is mostly just a reseller for other people's products, let's say was like that for us, IceWraps was like that when we first got started, cutting boards is another one where we were just reselling a product you can go find at other places. A lot of times people were landing on your site, just because of simply price comparison. And sometimes that discount is really the difference between them buying and not buying versus something with ColorIt.

I mean I took that same frame of mind going into ColorIt where like I have to offer a discount like really, really quickly otherwise, we might not get the sale. And what I realized was we were leaving a lot of money on the table. And when we AB tested this, we didn't see a drop off in sales at all, when we stopped introducing discounts early in the process. And it gave us a lot more profit margin. So, I definitely think it's like anything else, just always be testing.

X: Yeah, absolutely. I think we've seen different scenarios as well where this is less so on the abandoned cart sequence. But on longer welcome sequences where we took a long time to introduce a discount versus introducing it right away, and for some clients, the discount right away, that's the only email people buy from, right. So they're very price sensitive with the customer base, whereas others it's like, it didn't really matter if we push it down the line. So definitely something to be aware of that there is some best practices. But then for specific instances, you definitely want to make sure to test it out to make sure it's optimized for your ASINs.

Mike: Yeah cool. All right so, moving on the next part of that which would be the browse abandonment. Do you take a different approach with that or is it the same like kind of abandoned sequence?

X: Yeah usually we're a much lighter touch on that. From a user experience perspective I guess that's probably one of the ones that we don't actually haven't got a lot of pushback from customers directly, but from our clients and from other marketers in the space like a browse abandonment one is one that somehow always trips to creepy nerve. So yeah, we seem to be pretty like from the stats wise like it can be, and actually this one has a wider margin of variance because sometimes it like just kind of does mediocre and then other times it's like the second best performing automation from a revenue per recipient standpoint.

But ball and all to answer your question like with the browse abandonment, we typically do at most two touch points, a lot of times just one and usually we space it out a little bit. So we space out about like a day or so on first touch point versus like really quickly afterwards. And the key here is really just being cognizant as you have like multiple flows around these abandonments running to make sure that you're excluding people as they go down the flow. So for example, if someone abandons checkout, you want them to only get the abandoned checkout sequence and not the browse abandonment sequence that is earlier in the funnel. So make sure your filters are set up correctly, so people don't get hit up with multiple.

Mike: Yeah definitely. Okay, so moving on to the next big high level one, we talked about abandoned cart and browse abandonment. What's the next one down the line?

X: Yeah, I would say for the next one, it will probably be a prospect nurture sequence, welcome sequence some people call it but specifically for prospects, and coupling that with an effective mechanisms for capturing email addresses, particularly on site. So, I know some retailers are a bit gun shy about pop ups and kind of more intrusive calls to action to subscribe. We found that as long as we do it in an intelligent manner and don't just start the pop up as soon as they hit the site, and actually program in some targeting roles, some page view time on page and all that, that is very, very effective in generating additional email addresses and actually running them through a sequence and generating a lot of conversions.

So most of the time, you're probably offering some sort of incentive for the email address. Now, I've seen instances where that incentive isn't necessarily strictly monetary. So for brands that are more in the lifestyle space, or have a lot of content that's very juicy, offering content for the email address can be effective. Generally speaking, I think a hard incentive is the best way to generate the most commercial value from immediate commercial value, rather from the subscriber list. So I'd say definitely a welcome sequence for prospects and getting that setup is something we found to be tremendously helpful in terms of generating revenue.

Mike: Okay. And I mean, just kind of taking a couple of minutes to talk about some of the things that you've seen as far as best practices you mentioned, like intelligent pop ups and stuff like. We’re using like an exit intent one, which is kind of someone intelligent I guess, but what things have you seen work the best? I've seen a lot of – I’m not sure [inaudible 00:18:38] a lot did go to a lot of e-commerce sites.

So I've seen things like sign up for this newsletter, get 10% off. So will just straight up get discounts, give me email address, I give you a discount, beat on chest, kind of that type of thing, or I have also seen things like sign up and get weekly updates or get such and such a content? What have you seen again, in general, because obviously every brand is different, but in general, what have you seen work best there?

X: Yeah, so I'll give you a blanket answer, and then a slightly more nuanced answer. So the blanket answer is trying to discount typically tends to work. How you frame that discount, and what sort of incentive then applies and you want to tweak that depending on some of the tests, because sometimes it's like I referenced earlier, sometimes it's just like, 10% off, right? Sometimes it's $10 off, sometimes it is free shipping, that's a big one. And also what we've seen probably perform the best but of course, it then plays on to having a product as a loss leader a bit is free product, just pay shipping, or sometimes free gift with purchase as well as an incentive works really well.

That said, in terms of like, if you do want to give more of a resource, or more of like an EBook, a course, whatever that might be, then usually we want to have that type of pop up be more geared towards when people are viewing content pages, or like let's say your blog page and things like that, because that's when they're more in that mentality, versus people who, let's say land on the homepage, or land on a category page there perhaps in more of the purchase mentality. And so we want to capitalize upon that and try to push them as quickly as possible to that purchase. Again, definitely depends on brand and all that. But the tried and true like incentive works really well.

Mike: Got you. Okay. And then just one more question on this kind of prospecting welcome series, what have you seen as far as the number of emails that you want in that flow?

X: Yeah, so typically, we're looking at probably three to five, right? If you're leading with a solid incentive, we want to do kind of a three hit sequence. So, deliver the incentive, reminder last chance, and then kind of come from different angles after that, right. So keep in mind, like anyone who gets the subsequent flows are people who still haven't purchased at all from the private ones.

So, the idea is — and the data breaks out a lot of times like this, which is why we kind of structure it this way in front load, the more sales oriented emails typically is because from what we’ve seen across a lot of clients, the engagement rates, meaning opens and clicks tends to drop off shortly after a few days. And even across like, day one, day two, day three, it starts to really drop off and then it levels off and keeps that kind of a long term average.

So with that said, our philosophy there, a lot of times with clients is capturing email address, they clearly gave their email dress for an incentive that’s purchase oriented. So, let's get that front and center and make that the main call to action and front load it because that's when they're most likely to engage. And then after that, for everyone who hasn't used it, who might need longer, then we start kind of going through the rest of the sequence.

So, sometimes we have like, one or two more, sometimes it's built out longer. I think, for items that require a longer purchase cycle, or like more decision making, typically, that's when we bring in more of the nurture sequence versus ones that are like a quick hit or ones that are cheaper and it's easy to make that decision.

Mike: Got you. Okay. Awesome. Yeah it definitely makes a lot of sense, very similar type of thing though to what we're doing except I can tell you one thing that we go more than three to five emails, but we're just kind of I don't know, we're kind of crazy when it comes to email, because it does seem to work so well with our with our niche. And I think that's probably just a niche specific thing.

X: Yeah, absolutely. I think the other key I alluded to the engagement rates, right? So like, if you're still seeing like really strong engagement with the content of your emails as you go further and build out more touch points in that sequence, then by all means, keep at it, right? So, you're doing something right if you see that, and your audience is clearly still receptive to those emails.

So, there's no like hard limit on hey, you can only do five, or you can only do three emails. You can always build out longer, but we definitely see — at some point, there's that point of diminishing returns where like instead of putting them in the welcome sequence, they start getting more of your campaign emails, and that's more effective for pushing people through, or some of those other automations.

Mike: Yeah excellent. All right, so we've gone through abandoned carts, browse abandonment, prospecting, what's the next high level thing throughout here?

X: Yes. So I would say, actually a slight variant on the welcome email, and then I'll jump into the next quick one. So what we call exit intent but truly on the welcome sequence sometimes you build an exit intent into the targeting. But where you're having a slightly different incentive, or messaging for people who are on more purchase oriented pages, such as product pages, category pages, sometimes we will include cart on there as well, who then go to exit. Then one of the incentives we find to work really, really well for that is a tiered discount ladder, and putting like hard dollars around each.

So I'll explain that. So for example, if you have like $10 off $100 purchase minimum, and then like maybe $30 off 250, and 70 off 500, that we've seen to work really well. And usually, we determine that by kind of looking at your average order values, and putting the lowest here right around your average order value, maybe a tiny bit below that. So, making it fairly accessible for the majority of the orders and then making each of the subsequent two tiers more of a stretch. So maybe tier two being like 1.5 times AOV and tier three being like 2X AOV.

So they get a larger percentage of the discount if they place a big order. And then you're scaling it up to kind of push them past their normal like average order value comfort zone, if you will. So, I know that was super specific. But that's one thing that we've tested a bit and have seen to perform really well.

Mike: Yeah, it's definitely brilliant.

X: Cool. So with that said, I'll dive into a larger sequence that has a lot of different subsets within there. So in general, post purchase. And by post purchase I mean, like as soon as they become a customer, then what type of automated messaging do we send them, right? And so this can get very deep, but like at the base of it, you always want to have a welcome email for them. And on top of that, actually, we like to do differentiated welcome emails depending on their first time customer, or repeat customer. That's a baseline of differentiation.

In one case, we actually had 10 different welcome emails based on their first time, second time, third time, etc, which is kind of overkill, I think in that case, but it was — and obviously by the time you get to like they purchase 10 X, then it's just very, very small volume there. But at any rate, I think it makes sense to differentiate between first time and repeat, because when they purchase a second time, then it’s much more likely they're going to continue purchasing. And comparatively, that cohort has a bigger value to you on a per contract basis.

So you want to speak to them differently. You want to kind of message them differently there. And actually, just to jump into their a little bit, and this is pretty nuanced, because if you have like a separate loyalty program, or referral program running, you definitely want to be mindful of that. But let's say you don't have like anything too structured, sometimes what we have is we have like a VIP sequence and also like a pre VIP sequence being that we define a threshold of what it means to be a VIP for your brand.

Sometimes it's saying like, hey, if you make three purchases, life time purchases, you're considered VIP. And being a VIP entitles you to XYZ perks. So whether it's like early product notices, whether it is bigger discounts when we run promos, or things like that, that really is effective flow for your top tier customers. And on top of that, we also tend to run like pre VIP flows for when people are really close to that criteria. So taking the example of three time lifetime purchases, once someone makes their second purchase, running them through a pre VIP flow, to try to prompt them to trigger that criteria to become a VIP and giving them a glimpse of what's to come and all the perks along that.

So basically the first level is to look at how you welcome and onboard new or repeating customers and having all these different flows and touch points at your fingertips to do so. A lot of times that first email may or may not actually generate huge revenue. I will tell you that what's interesting is when we break down repurchase latency or days between repurchases, a lot of times we see a skew towards the first week in particularly like the first day or two, which is some interesting trend I've seen across a lot of clients. And so that really speaks to the fact that people are immediately reordering sometimes.

Mike: Sometimes they are ordering before they even get their first shipment.

X: Yes, yes.

Mike: Interesting.

X: Yes. So having some touch points around that is very key to be able to take advantage of it. Obviously, like the majority of people aren't doing that, but it's a disproportionate number across the general data we've seen that do, do that. So having the ability to click through and getting in front of them right after the first purchase is important. So in that same vein, that whole post purchase flow outside of the welcome, you have your transactional emails. So you have your order confirmation, your shipping confirmation. Sometimes companies do different notifications throughout the shipping process.

You want to make sure you're optimizing those transactional emails. At the core of it, you need to make sure — so because transactional emails are by law a little bit different than marketing emails, they're exempt from some of the more strict requirements of marketing emails. You can actually for most of the jurisdiction send transactional emails, regardless of whether or not a contact has opted in. They have to buy it by like more strict set of parameters in terms of the content you put in them. But even there, you have some flexibility.

So most of the transactional emails, it's required to focus primarily on the transaction itself. So like billing address, the order details, all that. But that said, you can seed in a couple of click through points, or links usually, to still be able to drive people into your site. So, like maybe one row of recommended products, something like that. And it's pretty effective, especially given the open rates of transactional emails are super, super high, because everyone expects them and they open the order confirmation. And that shipping confirmation, they open more than once, so you get multiple exposures to be able to generate click through from that standpoint. So, all that kind of is immediately post purchase exposure.

Mike: Yeah, and we definitely see those work really well. We haven't seen people ordering within one day like you're saying, but definitely in the same week, which is really interesting. I think the thing shows up, and they just, they buy more of right away, which is definitely pretty cool.

X: Yeah, and on that note, one of the emails we recommend in this sequence is like a product review request, and sometimes you use just whatever app you have installed on your site to do that, sometimes use your ESP to do that. But regardless, sending people product review requests, and what we noticed is not only does it generate a lot more product reviews, which is pretty intuitive, but actually generate some revenue, extra purchases which is really a nice side benefit, since it's not really the primary goal, but it helps.

Mike: One thing we threw in there as well on this sequence is basically a order delivery confirmation. So or checking, I should say, so what we do is we use a thing called after ship, and it has a hook into the Shopify and Klaviyo. So we know when someone's order theoretically was delivered. And we wait one day past that, because a lot times you don't want to send on the same day because the package can be delivered while they're still at work, or something like that. So wait until the next day.

And then we send an email that's very text based that looks like it's coming directly from the CEO. And it just like, hey, we just wanted the person to check in, our handy software says that your package was delivered, we want to make sure that you're happy with it, that you don't have any problems or questions or concerns. And you'd be surprised at the number of like just flat out replies we get to that email because it looks so personal. And it's just a great way to like build trust and relationship with the customer. And I think it really helps as well.

X: Absolutely. And yeah, that's something we've seen myriad as well when you send out like really like personalized looking text based emails, you got to keep in mind that like consumers are not generally are not marketers. So, they think literally that you Mike are writing them a personalized email, which is really cool, because that's why you get a lot of replies, and we've seen as well.

So yeah, like actually, judicious use of text based emails, it can be really effective. Generally speaking, we don’t recommend text based emails as the core of like your whole marketing program, because typically, the image driven ones perform better. But as you sprinkle some in at strategic points, as something different as like a different context, then those can be really effective.

Mike: Yeah, so two side questions, and we're already starting to run out of time. So, I want to try to get them as quickly. But one thing you just mentioned there, one thing that we've had a problem with, with adding more and more images, it just seems to go in promotions more frequently, and not the primary inbox. So how have you been combating that?

X: Yeah, so that can go down a deep rabbit hole. So I'm going to skim the surface a little bit.

Mike: The Reader's Digest answer.

X: Yeah, yeah, so it’s [inaudible 00:34:58] but we don't like we don't specifically combat the falling of promotion into promotion folders versus the primary inbox, we are very sensitive to like falling into actual spam inbox, spam folder, because that it goes to die. But from our standpoint is even if you're trying to game Google right now and maybe successfully, in the future, Google is going to be smart enough to realize that it is a promotional message, right? Like your messages are marketing messages.

So what we're focused more on is making sure that people want to receive those marketing messages and are opening it. So, I'll just quickly and on that note, like every once a while when the industry kind of goes in an uproar whenever something happens, like whenever GDPR most recently was introduced, or when Google introduced the tab inboxes, like everyone freaks out and thinks it’s the end of the world and nobody is ever going to open email again. And usually when the dust settles, it's like, okay, maybe it had some minor effects, right?

From all the all the stats I read, it did have a slightly negative effect on open rates, but almost a neutral effect on conversion rates across like a ton of different retailers’ data. So, from our perspective, we're less in trying to gain Google and trying to get off the promotions inbox and more so to focus on creating great content that our subscribers want to subscribe to, and ultimately open and continue to be engagement.

Mike: Yeah, that's a really interesting way of looking at that. I'm going to get off this call later and talk to our marketing team about that, because I've been ultra paranoid about getting things in the primary inbox. And I think I'll still do things to do that. But also not worry as much about some of the emails we send out, because you're right, I mean, over time, we're going to have to figure out a way to play in the promotions box sandbox or whatever, as well.

X: Yeah, I’ll drop one last note there, because I allude to the fact that getting into the spam box is not good at all. So, from that perspective and kind of play into our philosophy, I know for a fact and this bears out in deliverability turnarounds, we've done all my conversations with a lot of the heads of deliverability at different USPs. And Gmail is very, very focused on engagement as one of the primary criteria for determining if they're going to place your mail into just generally the inbox without differentiating primary and promotion versus into the spam box.

So, the higher, the more focused you are on engagement rates via opens and clicks and positive indicators that your subscribers open your emails, the better long term deliverability you're going to have, and they're just getting more and more sophisticated and putting more and more weight on that internally. So, email of course has 60% plus market share in boxes. So that's where we tend to focus.

Mike: Exactly, yeah. Okay. And then one more rabbit hole question before we get back on track here, I apologize. But you mentioned a couple of things that are interesting to me. The other one was the VIP and VIP stuff that you were talking about. What are you seeing there as far as — because we don't actually have a VIP program? We do have a VIP email that goes out when a customer buys I think it's six or seven times, I forget the threshold, we send them a onetime use coupon code for like a really deep discount to thank them for their business.

But we don't really have a program there to kind of push — and people don't even know that that's there. There's nothing to push them towards this VIP or pre VIP status. So what are you seeing companies doing as a VIP program and how they're advertising and what kind of emails are you're sending around that to help drive sales in that regard?

X: Yeah, absolutely. So I think what I had broken down to would be like a basic level of a VIP program. And around that I've seen anything from like lifetime even like a unique coupon code of lifetime discount which is on the stronger end of things, and there could be some nuances around that special with map and everything to like, hey, there's going to be played on a VIP list I guess like all product intros one day earlier. So, they have the first stab at getting everything before it runs out of stock for their size or whatever to accumulating points and everything like that.

So, to break that down even more though, a lot of times I see companies, and this is something that we've implemented for several of our clients as well like utilizing other apps to build out a full like loyalty program and or referral program. So, based on user actions, based on purchases building out like them being able to get certain points and redeem certain points for discounts, for merchandise etc, so truly building out a loyalty and referral program from that sense of things. And there are plenty of apps on the market, Hut Rewards, LoyaltyLion,, Refresh and all that. I'm sure you guys can find some that help with that.

But in a general sense, I think the most success comes from, if you want to invest in and have data to prove that it works, then going into the more full route makes a lot of sense. I think just top mind from a recent implementation, I think we generated like a 9% of total ecommerce revenue from a fairly robust loyalty points program. So, just to give you some benchmarks there.

Mike: Got you. Okay. And I have a few other questions I can ask about this, but I want to be respectful of the time and I know you have some other like post purchase stuff that you want to talk about as well. So, save that other conversation for another day. So, let's kind get back on track with the post purchase stuff we talked about order confirmations and shipping confirmation, review request, has your item arrived? What other types of things can you do post purchase to help get the revenue up?

X: Yeah, absolutely. So, it's actually real quick deviation from the revenue side. I think one type of email that works well in the vein of like keeping customers happy and being cool people is if you sell an item that is perhaps a little bit more technical, or even not, but you have a lot of resources around how to use it, how to get the most out of the product, you can send those resources post purchase, targeting the specific product they bought, or a category they bought. And that's really useful for the consumers, and obviously builds goodwill and helps retain them as well.

So, maybe not a direct revenue impact but a longer term one. Outside of that I’d say, cross sells, up sells, emails in that vein are very helpful in promoting like additional revenue, because depending — I mean, if you have like one skew, obviously, there's not a ton you can do that. Like maybe if you can sell like a larger version or more quantity. Or if you're on a subscription, sell longer subscription with up sales. But if you have like other products to sell, that are complementary products or let's say, even like if you're in apparel, even different colors of the exact same item, all that can fall into that post purchase sequence and can be hyper targeted, depending on what platform you're using and can be really, really successful.

Also, if on the other side, you're instead of selling, like cross selling, you are in like the consumable space. And I'm thinking more along the lines of vitamins and like food items, energy bars, things like that. You can peg a replenishment/reorder email at the right times as well as probably a reminder for people who don't purchase right away. And if you get the timing right, those are very effective pound for pound emails, because as you can imagine, they're very relevant. When someone runs low, they want to refill if they like the product obviously.

Mike: Yeah, that stuff definitely I know works really well. It's stuff that we do and I couldn't agree more. All right, I know we're running short on time here. So, I want to ask, there's one post purchase sequence that I'd love for you to talk about that I think the people just don't do for some reason, which is a win back sequence. So, can we end with that because I think it's a really important one to throw in the mix here?

X: Yeah, so win back sequence, depending on definitions, but usually how it’s defined is like dormant customers who haven't purchased in X number of days, let's say 120 days, 90 days, sometimes. You want a sequence of emails targeting specifically them and trying to get them to purchase. So A is targeting past customers. So, they're already a likely group for purchase, but they haven't for some reason, within that period of time. So, a win back sequence can be like, really, really effective in certain circumstances.

I think I see some variance with it as well. But in certain cases, like with one of our Australian clients, they actually like, they just completely knock it out of the park with their win back sequence, which we actually do one at like, one month, three months, seven months, and then 12 months I think, and it just kills it. But that said, you should also ideally be sending campaigns to your subscribers fairly regularly.

So, they should get some exposure to your marketing in that period. But nevertheless, a win back sequence, especially if you get the targeting right, if you offer like very personalized messaging, and even like discounts, if you're offering that, making it personalized, unique, and dynamic if possible, then that can be really helpful for you.

Mike: Yeah, awesome stuff, man. So I'm imagining that 80% of our audience right now is probably like, holy, I'm completely overwhelmed. I don't have time for this crap. And if they are in that bucket, and they want help, I mean I know that this is what you do. So, let's talk about that for just a minute, because this is a lot of work. It's a lot to get set up and if you haven't done it before, it can be quite overwhelming. But I think that the service you provide basically is to just take that on for people and consult with them, is that correct?

X: Yeah, absolutely. So basically, we either kind of engage in like a project sense where we really help people get set up and running and turn the keys back over to the client, or in more selective instances we work with clients like longer term and just really like have a heavy hand in the email marketing channel growth from like here is what needs to be done as well as like, hey, we're actually going to do it. So, basically like everything around the channel, we have the expertise to be able to help. So, if you want to get in touch, it's really easy, just go to and you'll see we have like our contact, those buttons all over the page. you can’t miss it.

Mike: Nice and you can probably sign up for some sort of email there too.

X: Absolutely and you'll see our exit pop up and some other things there.

Mike: So the website again guys is X is someone again, that I've known for a while just from the Ecommerce Fuel community, never hear anything but positive stuff from him there. And when I finally got to meet them in person at Sellers Summit, I was like, you know what, I got to get this guy on the podcast because not only can he talk so intelligently about email, but I know he has a service that can help so many people out there that just don't want to deal with this crap, get it off their plate, and then X’s hands.

So, X, I want to thank you so much for coming on and doing this today and I look forward to seeing you in person at another event. And come back on and do this again in a few months because I had a whole list of things I wanted to ask you that we didn't even get close to touching on yet.

X: Absolutely. Always happy to chat email, I’m probably too happy to do so. And I'm really glad we were able to connect and to be on the podcast. I hope your subscribers got some value from it.

Mike: I think they did. Awesome and thanks so much.

And that's a wrap folks. I hope you enjoyed the 159th edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. Just as a reminder, you can go to to get to the show notes for this episode, ask me any questions you have about this episode. Or X will be happy to come back and answer any of that too. And if you don't have time for this stuff, I highly recommend checking out X’s website Essence of Email. He talked about that at the end of his interview.

This guy really knows what he's doing. He's one of the few people in the consulting world that constantly gets high marks. Again, I see all the comments in Ecommerce Fuel forums. No one ever has anything but glowing stuff to say about this guy, which is a lot more like I said that you can say about just about any other consultant in the forums. I couldn't recommend X enough. Please go check out his stuff. And until the next episode everyone happy selling, and we'll talk to you soon.

Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.

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