November 9, 2021

How to make ecommerce emails that actually convert

Cut through the noise with these email tips and tricks.

Steph Bailey

5 min read

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Your inbox is probably full of emails right now, given that over 319bn are sent and received globally every day. 

Yet email remains one of the most effective ways to engage with customers — it’s 40 times more effective at reaching your target customer than Twitter or Facebook. 

“The customer experience is expanding into so many channels and there are so many spaces that marketers need to play in,” says Monica Deretich, CX marketing consultant and lead retail advisor at email service provider Sailthru. “But if I put on the hat of a startup marketer, email is definitely a core channel to invest in.” 

Relevancy is the fastest path to revenue and email marketers have so many levers to pull to make emails more personal

But how do you cut through the noise and use emails to actually convert? Sailthru tells us all.

Make your emails personal

Customers are faced with an abundance of brands promoting competing products and services, so personalising emails is a first step to making your startup stand out. A recent Sailthru report found that almost two thirds of customers say it’s important to them that the brands they shop with personalise their retail experiences.

“Relevancy is the fastest path to revenue and email marketers have so many levers to pull to make emails more personal,” Deretich says.

To personalise, she says brands can collect zero-party data — data that the customer explicitly shares with a brand, such as their name — and first-party data, or data collected from actions such as browsing an item, adding to cart or making a purchase. 

The customer experience is expanding into so many channels and there are so many spaces that marketers need to play in

For example, if a customer is visiting your site for the first time and browsing for a pair of shoes, Deretich says you may be asked to provide your first name and birthday. If you have a first name, you can use it in a welcome email; if you have a birthday, you can create a birthday series, she adds. 

“This is a point where there is a signal of intent and therefore the user may be more willing to provide some information,” she says. “However, there’s a fine balance of what to ask from the customer, because you don’t want to create a barrier for entry… so thinking through what data points you make optional versus required is really important.”

Welcome your customers well

For Deretich, welcome emails are an important marketing tool and should be tailored according to whether someone has or hasn’t made a purchase.

“Someone that is subscribing to your email for the first time and hasn’t made a purchase would probably receive a welcome message that says ‘10% off your first purchase’,” she says. “Whereas someone opting into email upon making their first purchase would probably receive an email saying ‘welcome, thank you for your purchase, here’s what to expect from our brand’.” 

One Sailthru client MZ Wallace uses the platform to enable a unique discount code that can be used in the welcome email and any subsequent emails until the user makes a purchase, Deretich adds.

“It’s a great way for marketers not to have to generate new codes,” she says. “It’s also great for customer experiences because they don’t have to go in and search for a welcome email. It’s sort of sprinkled in until they’ve decided to make their first purchase.”

Re-engage with ‘We miss you!’

Of course it’s natural for brands to lose customers, but Sailthru’s report found email is a great channel to re-engage with customers before they disengage and shop somewhere else.  


It costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one,” Deretich says. “If you’ve ever received a ‘we miss you’ campaign, it’s typically an automated email trigger that’s aimed at re-engaging a lapsed customer.”

And it’s definitely worth the work — according to Campaign Monitor, for every dollar spent on email, email marketing generates a $44 return

“It costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one

One strategy to have in a startup marketer’s bag of tricks is an abandoned cart strategy, says Deretich. This is where customers putting items into their online shopping cart triggers an email, which can be tested — using platforms such as Sailthru — for maximum effectiveness.

“As a startup, those high-intent behavioural email triggers are a great place to really have a high return on investment from emails,” she says. “I’m a big fan of testing the timing of deployment of your abandoned cart messages. For example, testing maybe 30 minutes as opposed to one hour after abandonment to increase your conversion rate.”

Use algorithms to give you an edge

From personalisation to abandoned cart strategies, Deretich says algorithms are the best way to understand the customer and make marketing even more effective.

“Sailthru is able to augment a user profile by creating category interest scores, which means the marketer has the ability to understand what the customer has a high engagement with, such as items with ruffles on them or buttons,” says Dereitch. “This all lives in the metadata of your product catalog and enables the marketer to create a really unique view of the user.”

Deretich adds that platforms such as Sailthru constantly collect data, so even if a new customer is visiting your site, algorithms can generate product recommendations based on what is popular with other users.  

“There are varying algorithms which are great to have as a default if you don’t have that long history behind the user,” she says. “Sailthru enables startups to rapidly test and learn and that’s important for new businesses that are in fast paced growth.”  

Get all these tactics and more in Sailthru’s Holiday Marketing Playbook. 

Steph Bailey

Steph Bailey is head of content at Sifted. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn