This content was originally presented at the Magento Imagine 2018 conference. It was created alongside our friends at Mailchimp. If you have questions about our email marketing services, learn more here.

The State of Email Marketing for eCommerce SMB's

Whether you’re a brand new SMB or have been in the game for years, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate your marketing strategy—especially when it comes to email marketing.

With email marketing, it’s easy to get something up and running quickly, see some results, but not know how to scale up performance. Some common SMB email marketing challenges include:

  • Having a small email list
  • Stale subscribers who don’t engage
  • Email designs that don’t render properly for different browsers or devices
  • All subscribers being sent all emails not based on preferences

Luckily, with the right plan and tools in place, you can overcome these roadblocks and scale your email strategy to grow with your business.

Don’t miss out—we’ve compiled all of the tips in one handy downloadable checklist! Read the following steps and then don’t forget to access your copy of the checklist at the bottom of this post

How to Improve Your SMB eCommerce Email Marketing Strategy

Repeat with us: personalize your emails!

The days of batch-and-blast email marketing strategies are over. The future of email marketing lies in personalization—sending the right content to the right person, at the right time.

Personalized content comes in many forms. It includes any scenario where you’re tailoring email content based on what you know about a subscriber. A few of the most essential types of personalization are:

  • Triggering emails automatically based on customer actions (ex. abandoned carts)
  • Optimizing email designs based on what devices or browsers subscribers use
  • Using segmentation to send the right content to the right people
  • Conducting tests to see what your subscribers react to best

And it works. It’s been proven that personalized email strategies—driven by data—outperform mass emails in terms of engagement and conversion rates across the board. In fact, personalized automated emails get up 4x higher open rates and can drive up to 18x more revenue compared to mass emails.

Follow These Steps to Get Started

In the past, a personalized strategy would take a lot of custom-built integrations or enterprise tools. For many SMB’s this type of investment just isn’t possible.

Luckily there are many tools available now, like Mailchimp, that offer a huge selection of marketing automation features all in one platform.

So it’s easy for even the most boot-strapped businesses to get in on marketing automation.

Follow the next steps and you’ll have what you need to turn your existing SMB eCommerce email strategy into an automated, relevant customer journey.

1. List Growth

Finding ways to continuously build a list is something many SMB’s struggle with. Building a great list is all about a balance between quality and quantity—you need to make sure subscribers are interested in your product or service, but you can’t be so hyper-targeted that your list doesn’t hold value.

Offer incentives:

There should be immediate value for the subscriber joining your list. The incentive can be a gated content offer, a discount, a chance to win, or anything that makes sense for your business.

eNewsletter sign up pop-up
Make opting-in easy & consistent:

Opting in should be easy to accomplish, and accessible across your website. The opt-in form should be hosted on the majority of pages on the site, and the messaging should be consistent.

Use targeted digital ads:

Take the incentive you’re offering through your on-site opt-ins and bring it to a wider audience using Facebook and Instagram ads. A relevant target audience and a good incentive can make a small budget go a long way in terms of email list growth.

Nature Fresh Farms sponsored Facebook post
Connect opt-ins to targeted automation:

Follow up immediately with a welcome automation. The moment a subscriber opts-in is the moment they are of the highest value to you. Give them the incentive they requested along with high-quality information about your business.

2. Email Design

Many SMB’s approach email design as an offshoot of their website design, but this is problematic.

It’s important to remember that users interact with email differently than with a site, in terms of what device and browser they’re using, and how quickly they read through their email.

Put structures in place that optimize your email designs for conversions, accessibility, and a streamlined creation process.

Build templates:

Create templates that are structured enough to be used as is, but flexible enough to be reworked for various campaigns.

The types of templates you need are dependent on the type of email and promotions you’re sending out. Examples include content promotion, shopping guides, flash sales, category spotlights, newsletters, or letter-based. Once you’ve determined the template you’ll use for a campaign, all you have to do is update banners, swap in new copy, update links, and run through a quality assurance checklist.

Williams Food to Go


Use both graphics + live text:

Up to 40% of all users view email with their image settings turned off. This means that almost half of email viewers can’t see your email content if you only use images. You should still leverage graphic elements like images, videos, and gifs, but make sure your main message and primary CTA can be seen by any user through live text.

Test across browsers & devices:

Every email sent has 15,000 potential renderings—so test across different email applications and devices (mobile vs. desktop, Gmail vs. Outlook).

Williams email newsletters
Consider accessibility:

Make sure that your emails are accessible to different users. This includes making buttons large enough to tap on mobile devices and making the text a readable size.

3. Automation

Automation allows you to provide value to a customer long after a purchase. You can trust automations to run parts of your marketing program for you, with very little time invested ongoing.

Williams welcome email, abandoned cart email, post purchase email
Nurture subscribers with relevant content:

Think about what their actions indicate where they are in the sales funnel, and what type of content they need to move forward. If someone hasn’t purchased yet, you could use different content than for someone who’s making a repeat purchase.

Track on-site actions:

To know what type of content to send to someone, you need to be able to track how they’re behaving on your site. What are they purchasing? What are they abandoning, How did they find your site?

Follow-up to encourage positive action:

The user journey isn’t over once someone has made a purchase—you can get so much more value from a repeat customer. Provide your customers with resources, recommendations, and promotions that will encourage them to keep purchasing from and engaging with you.

4. Target Your Campaigns

Certain messages apply to everyone, so it’s fair to email your entire list in those cases. Some messages apply best to only certain types of subscribers. Plan your email sending schedule around sending the right content to the right subscriber—not everything to everyone.

Build a schedule:

Build a quarterly, monthly, or bi-monthly schedule based on your sending frequency. This schedule should include the topic and messaging of the campaign, any promotions involved, products and primary links, resources needed, and the targeted segment.

Advertisement content calendar
Use segmentation:

For targeted campaigns, it’s important to use segments so that people don’t get email fatigue and unsubscribe. Segments could include customers that have bought certain products or customers who have made purchases over a certain amount.

Leverage omni-channel messaging:

Make sure your email messaging is consistent across all channels: website users, ads traffic, social media, etc. It’s even possible to repurpose email creative and subscriber insights to create corresponding ad campaigns for an email promotion.

5. Always Be Testing

The key to improving is keeping an eye on your data. Don’t assume that something is working because it looks good—check your email platform reports and Google Analytics to see how your subscribers are reacting to your emails.

A key part of this is making sure you’re running ongoing A/B tests.

Make a test plan:

Don’t test randomly. Focus on what your overarching goals are—whether it’s increasing opens, increasing purchases, or increasing traffic to a certain page.

From there, define what email elements will affect that. Record your hypotheses, your test variables, your sample size, and most importantly—your results—in a test plan.

Test various elements:

If you’re looking to increase opens, don’t just test send times and call it a day. See how different send times interact with different subject lines or “from names”. There are a million different tests that could be run, so formulate your hypotheses across a variety of email elements.

Combination results
Inform future content based on results:

Don’t just leave your data—use it to plan future emails. If you have data that suggests people open emails more at 2 pm than at 6 pm, use that when planning your email schedule.

With these steps in mind, you have what you need to nurture your prospects, drive conversions, and encourage repeat customers.

Time to Get Started

Moral of the story: marketing automation should be a core part of your email marketing strategy for your SMB. The most important part is to get started. Keep it simple to start, and then use data to expand your program.

There are tools built for SMB’s that can help you easily bring data from your eCommerce store into your email program—like Mailchimp. Using their eCommerce integrations, along with a variety of other easy-to-use features, it’s easy to learn more about your subscribers and send them content based on their specific needs.

Start Improving Your Email Marketing Results Today