Types of email marketing campaigns

There are three main types of eCommerce emails:  transactional, promotional and lifecycle emails.

  • Transactional emails. These are functional emails that send order information to individual customers as part of the purchasing process. Emails include order confirmation and reviews emails.
  • Promotional emails. Promotional emails advertise a specific deal or promotion. This can be across the whole product range of just a subset. For example, Black Friday or Cyber Monday email offers.
  • Lifecycle emails. Lifecycle emails are also known as automations or ‘triggered’ emails because they are sent based on the user’s action or where the user is in the customer life cycle. For example, an abandoned cart email is sent after a customer leaves products in their cart for a specific time without paying.

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails may be functional, but they have an extremely high open rate. The average unique open rate for transactional emails is over 47% which is more than double the 22% open rate for non-transactional emails (Source: IBM). Transactional emails also have a much higher click-through rate of 9% versus 3% for non-transactional emails.

Due to their high engagement rate, these emails are an excellent opportunity to promote your business. They should be well crafted and contain carefully targeted marketing messages. Options include:

  • Product upsell. Suggest accessories or add the option for subscription purchase.
  • Promotional codes. Offer a time-limited incentive for a second purchase. This is known as a bounce-back offer.
  • Get Social. Invite your customers to a Facebook group or ask them to follow your social media accounts.

Other ideas for improving your order processing emails include:

  • Order tracking. Include a direct link to the order progress, including any tracking details. This will reassure the customer and cut down on customer service queries.
  • Refer a friend. Encourage word-of-mouth marketing by implementing a referral program with rewards.
  • Relevant product suggestions. Suggest products that complement a customer’s purchase.

Note: In the EU, under GDPR, promotional messages are not permitted in transactional emails.

Zalando order confirmation email featuring order info, upsell and social links.

Merchant and Product Reviews

Customer feedback was pioneered by marketplaces such as eBay but is now available to stand-alone websites using services such as Reviews, Trustpilot and Feefo. Collecting feedback is an excellent way to reassure customers that you are a reputable business.

Feedback should only be requested once a customer has had time to receive and use the product they ordered. The services above are 3rd party apps that collect details of the user’s experience. This is a convenient solution for feedback collection. However, placing the review or survey on your site offer more opportunity for upselling to the customer.

If you are collecting feedback, it is vital to monitor it and deal with any unhappy customers.

Promotional emails

Promotional emails are sent to all or part of your email subscriber list or. Sending to part of your subscriber list is referred to as segmenting. Examples of promotional emails include a new product launch, email newsletters, time-limited offers or seasonal promotions. For maximum impact when sending a promotional email, you should carefully target the content to the subscriber segment to which you are sending. Types of promotional email include:

New Product Launches

Customers love newness! When launching a new product or range of products, you could send the details to a segment of customers who have purchased related products in the past.

Time-Sensitive Offers

Everyone loves a deal, so a successful strategy is sending time-limited offers to customers who have shown interest in these products in the past.

Exclusive Subscriber Discounts

If you send out a regular newsletter, give readers a reason to stay subscribed by offering exclusive discounts and offers. Email-only offers are a terrific way to keep subscribers interested and build loyalty.

Seasonal Promotions

A tried and tested form of email marketing is running exclusive offers based on upcoming events and holidays. Examples include a Black Friday sale, a January sale or fathers’ days.


A regular newsletter can educate your customers and reinforce your brand. Customer case studies and informative articles are a way of staying in contact with customers without relying on discounts or promotions.

Example Black Friday Deal Email from Amazon. Customer will know that Black Friday is on its way, and this email is an invitation to visit the store and get buying.

Lifecycle emails

Lifecycle emails target a small segment of your subscribers with relevant messages based on their behaviour. Their targeted nature means they can include a carefully tailored message to improve engagement.

Effective lifecycle emails include abandoned cart, welcome series, second order, and win-back emails. These emails can be configured in your email marketing software to be automatically sent based on triggering events. The sending sequence of these emails is referred to as a ‘flow’.

Abandoned Cart Emails

An abandoned cart is where a product is added to a cart, but the customer never completed the purchase. 60-80% of shopping carts are abandoned, which is a lot of lost sales.

Abandoned cart emails are automatic messages sent to these website visitors to remind them to complete the purchase. These emails typically recover between 5-11% of missed sales, which is a straightforward way to boost revenue. To improve conversion, many retailers include offers, though this can encourage shoppers to abandon their carts to get a discount.

A simple yet effective abandoned cart email.

Welcome Email Series

Welcome emails are a series of emails sent to customers after they subscribe to an email list. The purpose of these email is to welcome customers to the brand and build a long-term relationship (starting with a second purchase).

Welcome series emails have a high average open rate of 45%, so they are highly effective (Source: Omnisend). First purchase automation produces 3-6 times more sales than regular promotional emails. A three email welcome series might look something like this:

  1. 1st Email – Encourage purchase. Say hello and thank them for subscribing to the newsletter with a 10% discount voucher.
  2. 2nd Email – Build a relationship. Invite the subscribers to connect on social media where they can learn more about the brand.
  3. 3rd Email – Re-engage and drive traffic back to the store. Send reminder to customers who have not yet purchased that there is a discount waiting for them.

In this example, email soap maker Lush highlights their products with fantastic imagery and product showcase. Recommending products from the start drives traffic back to the site to get people shopping again.

Welcome emails should be sent shortly after sign-up (especially if you are offering a sign-up bonus) and include a clear call to action. The emails should provide value upfront (e.g., discount, promotions) as you only have a brief time to make a good impression.

Second-Order Campaign

Most customers will only buy one product and then go elsewhere unless you take active steps to get them back to your site. A second-order campaign aims to get single-order customers to return to the site by highlighting complementary products they might want to buy.

These emails increase customer lifetime value and reduce the number of customers going to a competitor for their add-on purchases. Ecommerce leader Amazon gets 35% of its business from email follow up emails (Source: McKinsey).

Win-Back Series

Win-back email campaigns encourage lapsed customers back to the site. For example, if you know that 90% of customers who make a second purchase do so within 45 days when 45 days have passed, you know it is unlikely you will ever see that customer again. After a customer has been inactive for 45 days, you could send out a targeted offer to the customer to entice them back.



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