Guide to Building Email Marketing Funnels for eCommerce in 2023

If you work in eCommerce, then high ROI from email marketing is undoubtedly your Holy Grail — a tangible, though seemingly mythical marketing realm that manages to elude most businesses.

No, the high ROI from email isn’t mythical at all. It’s very real.

Successful eCommerce brands are seeing 30%-40% of their monthly revenue coming from email. And what does every single one of those brands have in common?

Automated marketing funnels — predominantly email funnels with cross-channel capabilities.

If high ROI from your eCommerce email marketing feels as though it’s eluding you, then it’s time to explore how to equip your brand with the right automation.

But before getting there,

What is an email marketing funnel?

An email funnel is a marketing strategy that involves a series of automated email messages sent to a specific audience with the goal of guiding them through the buyer journey and eventually converting them into paying customers.

Benefits of building an email marketing funnels

  1. Increased Customer Lifetime Value: By nurturing relationships with customers through personalized email messages, eCommerce businesses can increase customer loyalty and encourage repeat purchases. This can help boost customer lifetime value and increase overall revenue.
  2. Improved Customer Retention: By staying in touch with customers through regular email communication, eCommerce businesses can improve customer retention rates and reduce churn. This can be especially important for businesses that rely heavily on repeat purchases to drive revenue.
  3. Better Targeting and Segmentation: Email funnels allow eCommerce businesses to segment their email list based on a variety of factors, such as purchase history, browsing behavior, and demographics. This can help businesses send targeted messages that are more likely to resonate with customers and drive sales.
  4. Increased Sales and Revenue: By guiding customers through the buyer journey with personalized email messages, eCommerce businesses can increase the likelihood of a sale and ultimately drive more revenue.
  5. Cost-Effective Marketing: Email marketing is often less expensive than other forms of marketing, making it a cost-effective way for eCommerce businesses to reach customers and drive sales.

Stages of building an email marketing funnels

Awareness stage

The first stage is to introduce your brand to potential customers and create awareness about your products or services. This is typically done through lead magnets, social media, and other marketing channels to attract new subscribers to your email list.

Consideration stage

As subscribers become more interested in your brand, you can start promoting your products or services and highlighting their unique benefits. This can include showcasing customer success stories, offering demos or free trials, and providing product comparisons.

Conversion stage 

The conversion stage is where you encourage subscribers to take action and make a purchase. This can be done through promotions, discounts, free shipping, or other incentives to motivate subscribers to buy.

Loyalty stage 

The final stage is to continue engaging with customers after they make a purchase to build loyalty and turn them into repeat customers. This can include offering exclusive discounts or promotions, providing excellent customer support, and asking for feedback to improve their experience.

How to build an email marketing funnel step-by-step

As mentioned, creating an email marketing funnel can be a powerful way to drive sales and build relationships with your audience.

However, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

That's why we will walk you through the process of creating an effective email marketing funnel, from identifying your target audience to crafting compelling messages and optimizing your campaigns for maximum impact.

1. Identify your target audience

The first step is to identify who you want to target with your email funnel. This can be based on demographics, interests, behaviors, or any other relevant criteria.

2. Define your goals

Next, you need to define what you want to achieve with your email funnel. Do you want to drive sales, build brand awareness, or nurture relationships with your audience?

3. Map out your funnel

Once you know your target audience and goals, it's time to map out your email funnel. This includes deciding how many stages you want to include, what content you will send at each stage, and what actions you want subscribers to take.

4. Create your opt-in form

To start your email funnel, you need to capture subscribers' contact information through an opt-in form on your website, social media channels, or other channels.

5. Craft your welcome email

The first email in your funnel is the welcome email, which should introduce your brand and set expectations for what subscribers can expect from your emails.

6. Create engaging content

At each stage of the funnel, you need to provide engaging and relevant content that encourages subscribers to continue opening and engaging with your emails. This can include educational content, product demos, or customer success stories.

7. Use personalization and segmentation

To make your email funnel more effective, you can use personalization and segmentation to tailor your messages to subscribers' interests, behaviors, and demographics.

8. Include a clear call-to-action

At each stage of the funnel, include a clear and compelling call-to-action that encourages subscribers to take the next step, whether that's making a purchase or signing up for a free trial.

9. Test and optimize

To maximize the effectiveness of your email funnel, you should regularly test and optimize your campaigns based on subscriber engagement, conversion rates, and other metrics.

We guarantee you that by following these steps, you can create an effective email funnel that drives sales and builds relationships with your audience.

10 email marketing funnels examples

Welcome funnels

If you don’t have an automated welcome email funnel for your brand, then take this as a sign — you NEED one.

Not only do welcome emails have an 83% higher open rate than the average newsletter, but they also generate 320% more revenue per email than promotional emails.

To add to that, they can positively impact other important things like deliverability and your email sender rating — that thing that keeps you out of the Spam folder.

New leads and potential customers who show real interest will sign up for your email list. But if you let that interaction fall silent on your end, then it doesn’t leave a good impression or any impression at all. These are vital, so much so that it’s the first on the list just for that reason.

The standard is three in a Welcome Funnel, but you should adjust it to fit your needs. The first email should be sent immediately after someone either subscribe to your list or purchases from you.

marketing funnels

Here are a few more important things to consider including in your welcome emails:

  • Your story
  • Your mission
  • Social Proof
  • Asking for a referral (ex. “Have a friend who might find this interesting? Feel free to share this with them.”)

Abandoned cart reminders

At just under 70%, abandoned cart rates are at the highest they’ve been in the past five years.

Cart reminders save an average of 12%-15% of the revenue that would have been lost without them.

Effective abandoned cart reminders can have as many as four to five messages in the sequence, and can look something like this:

The first email in your sequence should be clear and to the point. Use their name and images of the products they’ve left in their cart to personalize the email. Try to use a large, bold button that will take them back to their cart. Don’t add much more than that.

Abandoned cart reminders

The second email is equally important because it gives a sense of urgency from a fear of missing out on something they’re interested in. And if all else fails, you can use the third email to offer a discount.

Another important note is to set the automation goal as “purchase” so that if a conversion happens anywhere in the funnel, the automation will end. That way, you’re not sending emails even though they’ve purchased the items in their cart.

Cart reminders don’t have to be email-based only. If SMS marketing is available with your ESP, you should also weave SMS into your automation.

Studies show that SMS messages have a 99% open rate — yep, you read that right — making them perfect for cart reminders as they can increase the chances for conversion.

And, finally, don’t be afraid of being playful with your emails’ subject lines and main headings. Something like…

  • “We noticed you noticing us” via West Elm’s cart reminder emails
  • “Uh, oh. Did you forget something?” via TOMS shoes’ cart reminders
  • “Is Your Wi-Fi Okay?” via Adidas shoes
  • “Your shopping bag has abandonment issues” via Dote apparel brand

A simple post-purchase follow-up

Repeat customers are where the money’s at. Just consider a few stats to back that up:

  • It costs 5% more to acquire a new customer compared to keeping a current one.
  • It’s 16x more expensive to bring a new customer up to the same level as the current one.
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60%-70%, whereas selling to a new prospect is 5%-20%.
  • 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your existing customers.

This automated funnel aims to help personalize communications based on purchase history to humanize your marketing, build up customer loyalty, and encourage repeat purchases.

simple post-purchase follow-up

As the name suggests, all of these funnel types are triggered only after someone makes a purchase.

A simple automated post-purchase email funnel that you can easily get started with is as follows:

That first “Thank You” email is vital. Always say thank you. It’s polite and humanizes your brand.

However, customize this email to your brand. Perhaps you can include setup instructions in this email to add to the customer experience if that applies to the product purchased.

The second and third emails are important to encourage additional sales. You could offer free shipping, a free gift with a purchase, or just a simple discount.

Whatever works for your bottom line.

Transactional post-purchase funnel

This type of transactional post-purchase funnel is an email automation triggered by a purchase which then heavily communicates the order-to-delivery process while encouraging repeat purchases.

It does include types of transactional emails like those mentioned above, but not every single one. It gives your brand the advantage of giving a one-to-one feel to each customer, only it’s fully automated.

transactional post-purchase funnel

For instance, this funnel would include order confirmation emails that tend to have open rates as high as 70%.

And 64% of customers view this type of email as the most valuable they receive from brands.

The tricky part with this funnel type is figuring out how to get your marketing toolset to execute this funnel correctly.

Personalized product recommendations

These types of emails are another great way to gain sales from previous customers. Studies across multiple industries found that product recommendations accounted for more than 30% of eCommerce revenue, making these a MUST-HAVE for eCommerce brands that plan to survive a highly competitive marketing world.

There are two main ways you can send these recommendations:

  1. You can build out a single automation that uses a couple of product recommendation emails in the automation funnel
  2. You can include these product recommendation emails in another funnel type, such as a post.

Personalized product recommendations

Both should be reasonably easy to execute if your ESP or marketing automation tool has an easy way to create these recommendation emails.

For the first example, you could create a funnel that triggers once someone subscribes to your list. A few days later, if they haven’t purchased anything, you can send a product recommendation email.

ESP or marketing automation

Include reviews about your products and user-generated content to boost your perceived value to your contacts.

You can add this email type to a welcome or post-purchase funnel to test how it affects the ROI of your automations, too.

Re-engagement funnels

According to Experian, re-engagement emails have an average ROI of $28.50 for every $1 spent.

On the flip side, the average cost to gain a new subscriber costs roughly $55.24 per contact.

So the math is simple: Better retention = better profits.

That’s why a Re-Engagement Funnel is vital because it addresses the inactive subscriber issue head-on — and on autopilot.

Re-engagement funnels

The purpose of this funnel is two-fold:

  1. To win back inactive subscribers or customers to become active and loyal again
  2. To keep your list clean or anyone who isn’t interested anymore

The first one positively impacts your ROI, and the second positively impacts your email health score and deliverability, so it’s a win-win on all accounts.

You should have an automation set up to trigger after a subscriber hasn’t opened and/or clicked through your campaigns for the last 3-6 months.

If you have their phone number, using SMS is a great way to get attention quickly.

Your subject line here needs to grab attention. Tell them you miss them, use an emoji or two (not more though), and keep the length short.

Inside the email, keep things to the point and offer them a special discount for coming back to you. If they don’t open, click or purchase, send another email in a week. If the same thing happens, send another email 20 days after that one.

If they don’t respond to your efforts, then that’s when it’s good to scrub your list of them. Keep the people engaged with you and refrain from annoying those who aren’t. This funnel will help you do that while increasing sales.

Product feedback request

Product Feedback or Review Requests are important, but fear of a bad review or poor feedback makes many store owners shy away from asking.

But, trust me, you really shouldn’t avoid this. Feedback is super powerful for your business if you analyze it correctly.

You can learn what customers like, and what they don’t like, and gather information on your products or customer service to improve in areas where your competition is failing.

Product feedback request

And gathering product reviews is also essential since 95% of online shoppers look at reviews anyway. There are numerous other benefits such as increased trust from transparency, better social proof, impact on SEO, better visibility in Google Shopping, and much more.

You should have feedback request automation triggered for events like these:

  • 3 days after their order was delivered
  • If they buy but then cancel before it’s shipped
  • If they return an item
  • If they leave a poor review

Depending on your toolset, exactly how you execute these automation funnels will change, but they’ll help you gather valuable data on how to improve your customer experience and business decisions in the long run.

Customer retargeting

Good marketing mixes in the various channels that work for your brand and blends them to help you grow your business. Customer Retargeting Funnels are precisely that. They give you a chance to mix your email marketing with SMS and retargeting ads to turn casual shoppers into customers.

This type of funnel’s capabilities become even more powerful if you utilize a marketing automation tool that tracks user behavior. Since they can personalize the retargeting for a better one-to-one approach.

Retargeting alone is powerful — people who see a retargeting ad are 70% more likely to convert. But mixing it with your highest ROI marketing channel (email) and personalization efforts amplify the effectiveness of your marketing as a whole.

Customer retargeting

A tracking pixel on your site would retarget customers with ads on social, while your email and SMS work to get in touch with them personally and on autopilot. However, they’re all working together to make the sale.

Test your email’s subject lines and any discount offerings. Keep the copy to the point. Does free shipping convert better than a discount? Does the conversion rate change if a holiday is coming up? Test SMS and look at conversion metrics in your funnel to see if they help increase sales.

New product launch

Launching a new product in your eCommerce store can be a big deal for companies that craft or create products themselves. If you’ve been gathering feedback on your products —hopefully, through the use of feedback funnels — then you’ve likely learned that your new product will resonate with some or all of your customers.

Building anticipation around a new product and helping it sell is what the New Product Launch funnel is all about.

Before you launch, use your website, social media, and email to tell your audience that you’re working on something new and invite them to opt-in to a segmented VIP launch list. This can help build anticipation around your launch and make your customers feel like they have the inside scoop.

New product launch

Schedule your launch email to go out to your list and give them a chance to preorder your new product, even offering an additional incentive for them to do so.

For all the people who didn’t opt-in to buy your new product, trigger an automated feedback request email to learn why they didn’t. For all the people who did, trigger a feedback request to learn what they liked about the new product and what they think about it.

Happy anniversary

Automated Anniversary Funnels not only show that you haven’t forgotten about your dear loyal customers, but they also help you gain new repeat sales and added customer loyalty to boot.

In fact, these types of emails produce 7x more revenue than email promo blasts do, so there’s certainly a good reason to use them!

As the name suggests, this automation is designed to go out on the month, week, or day that marks an important event. It could be on their birthday, the anniversary of the day they signed up to your list, or the day marking their first purchase from you. Granted, each of those would need its own segmentation/automation.

Happy anniversary

The easiest way to get started is to focus on the anniversary of their first purchase. Depending on your ESP or marketing automation tool, the way you can execute this will be different.

But the basic idea here is that you should set up a way to track each person’s first purchase through your ESP and then six months or one year later, automatically send a Happy Anniversary email or SMS to each person.

If you can’t find an exact way to do this with your ESP, there could be a workaround, such as segmenting your list based on purchases made between specific dates or adding a tag that triggers that automation.

Automate your email marketing funnels with Sendlane

Gone are the days when creating automation used to consume a lot of time. With Sendlane's pre-built funnels, you can now save time and effort. Our team has meticulously curated the best parts of tested sequences from a vast pool of data to provide you with prebuilt funnels that are effective. These funnels have optimized triggers, conditional splits, and wait times to ensure that they hit the target with your customers. You just need to choose your preferred funnel, add your content, and let Sendlane take care of the rest.

Are you looking to enhance your marketing strategy with high-converting funnels? If yes, then it's time to explore Sendlane's 14-day free trial and experience all these new features for yourself!

Check out The 3 Top Revenue-Generating Automations to Build in Sendlane if you are still doubting.

Email marketing marketing funnels FAQs

How many emails should be in an email marketing funnel?

The number of emails in an email funnel can vary depending on your goals and the complexity of your customer journey. However, most email funnels include between 3-7 emails.

How do I measure the success of my email marketing funnel?

You can measure the success of your email funnel by tracking metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and revenue generated. This will help you identify areas for improvement and optimize your email campaigns for maximum impact.

How often should I send emails in my email marketing funnel?

The frequency of emails in an email funnel can vary depending on your goals and the customer journey stage. In general, you should aim to send emails regularly enough to keep subscribers engaged, but not so frequently that they feel overwhelmed or annoyed.

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