Not Another Marketing Podcast – A Marketing and Small Business podcast. Interviews from leading Digital Marketing experts on many topics including Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media, Email Marketing and more.

Setting up a proper email marketing strategy for your ecommerce store can literally mean more sales, simple as that. Email does deliver but we need to get a few things right.

In this episode I’m talking to Kyle Stout the founder of Elevate & Scale, a leading digital marketing agency who specialise in ecommerce email marketing. We talk lots about segmentation, automation and there’s quite a few tips on copywriting.

Listen to the full interview here.

Transcription (edited for clarity & produced by Ai so maybe some errors)

Jon Tromans: How do we kind of avoid becoming a pain in the ash when we\’re email marketing our e-commerce store?

Kyle Stout: I would say it really comes down to messaging and frequency. So the two things that are going to annoy people the most are one emailing them too frequently and then being to salesy with the messaging in the emails. Now, it doesn\’t necessarily mean that you can\’t email your list multiple times per week and that you shouldn\’t try to sell your products with your emails. It just means that you want to be thoughtful about how you do it.

Jon Tromans: You just mentioned multiple times a week. I know a lot of people who would be scared to death of that, they would be thinking once a month or once every two weeks.

Is it okay to email folks more than once a week?

Kyle Stout: Yeah, definitely. So it really depends on who you\’re emailing. You can get away with emailing your most engaged people more frequently because there are certain segments of your audience that actually want to hear from you more often, but you should make a point to give certain people a break.

So for example, whenever someone makes a purchase, I oftentimes like to exclude them from emails for a week or two and then say there\’s people who have started to engage less. I like to back off the frequency for those people because they\’re giving us a signal that hey, they\’re not opening or clicking as much as they used to.

So they don\’t want to receive as many emails. So we want to give them more of a break every now and then and we want to have the chance to be able to win them back later. So we don\’t want to annoy them so much that they go away forever

Jon Tromans: I suppose it depends on what you\’re selling as well, doesn\’t it? And it depends who you are because I get probably four or five emails a day from Amazon trying to sell me something, but it\’s quite well targeted so it\’s not quite bordering on becoming a pain in the backside. Do they do it well,

Kyle Stout: Yeah, so I think that people actually shouldn\’t look at the massive brands like Amazon and Old Navy. That\’s one that comes up a lot because they hammer their list. I think that most small business owners shouldn\’t be comparing too much to them because there\’s a different model for one.

Amazon is just ridiculously huge. They\’ve optimized every little thing to squeeze out the absolute most amount of profit that they can. It\’s the biggest superstore in the world. You know, as people, we like to buy stuff, right? So like you said, they know your purchase history better than any company in the world. They\’re just gonna be able to send you the right offers better than anyone else can and I don\’t think that their emails are really that great.

It\’s just that their Amazon. So there\’s a huge trust factor there, they have so much purchase history on you too.

I mean think about it, it\’s like if you\’re one brand and you sell a certain category of products versus Amazon which sells everything, it\’s just easier for them to hit you at a higher frequency and more likely than not, at least it\’s something that you\’d be interested in.

Jon Tromans: Yeah, so if you\’re like a candle shop or something and you\’ve got 50 candles in your shop and yes, there are a lot of candles, but it\’s probably the best idea to stay away from looking at how Amazon do their email marketing strategy, right?

Kyle Stout: Yeah, because there\’s only so many candles a person can want or need, right? So yes, they\’re going to be the people who are super passionate about it. But on the flip side to that, the people who are super passionate about it now, I would say definitely email those people more, those would be an example of the people that would want to receive more of your emails.

But also another way to view that is that they don\’t actually need the email, they\’re so passionate about it, they\’re gonna be showing up on your site regardless. So with only having that one product category, one type of product, again, it\’s like you only have so many ways to start the conversation and so many angles you can take to try to sell a candle.

Jon Tromans: Yeah, segments are going to play a huge part in e-commerce email marketing, aren\’t they? I mean it\’s the way we chop up our list and the way we direct emails at certain sections of our audience that is really, really important.

Kyle Stout: Oh, absolutely. To me, segmentation is by far the most valuable and also most overlooked part of e-commerce email marketing specifically because it\’s easier for the most part compared to a business that is selling to other businesses, it\’s easier to actually have lots of different more diverse groups of people in your list in the first place because there\’s so many ways you can break them down so you can, you know, break them down by product interest or by engagement or by customer purchase history, what types of products they bought and also just how many purchases they\’ve made and you can craft the content for those different groups.

Jon Tromans: Are there any easy segment wins? You know, if we\’re slacking a little bit on monthly sales and we want to boost it up a little bit, is there like an easy win?

Kyle Stout: Oh yeah, definitely. So if you\’re an e commerce business and maybe you haven\’t really done too much with your, your email marketing yet and you\’re looking to get going, two categories of segments that you definitely want to create would be one would be based around engagement.

So the classic would be like a 30 day engagement group and that just means that someone has opened an email or clicked an email or they visited your site in the last 30 days and you can create these for all different time ranges and everywhere from 14 days all the way out to six months, now we\’re not emailing those six month group hardly at all except for like Black Friday Cyber Monday, that sort of thing.

And you can change the rules for how you define engagement but you want to have that core engagement group as one of your main segments because again if they are recently engaged, if they\’re continuing to open and click or or go to your site within a recent time frame they\’re likely the ones who want to hear from you the most and then another category that you definitely want to have what I call them customer lifecycle segments.

So for all of our clients I like to create segments which have different groups of people so you have one group of leaders who have never purchased one time buyers, repeat buyers and then VIPs. So the people who are the VIPs and the repeat buyers, those are gonna be some of your easy win segments because if they\’ve made multiple purchases from you, they\’re sold on your brand, they\’re sold on your products, you\’ve already tackled those hurdles now it\’s just showing up making the email interesting and showing them something that they want and it\’s a much easier win than a lead for example who\’s never purchased from you, who likely still needs to be won over a little bit more.

Jon Tromans: Is it still worth creating segments based on products? Like if somebody\’s bought this they might like this.

Kyle Stout: Oh definitely, definitely. Yeah because so for a lot of e-commerce businesses they\’ll have their hero products that you know maybe like that\’s the thing that gets the most attention on social media and that tends to be the product that gets people in the door. But then what happens is, let\’s just say for example it\’s a supplement and you have something that\’s getting a lot of attention, like a pre-workout because that\’s something that\’s just really trending in that particular industry. Everyone loves pre-workouts but then you have all these other supplements that are, they\’re not so sexy and all that but they\’re really, really good for you and when someone gets more into the hobby they start to take more interest in those supplements but that\’s not really gonna be the thing that wins over new customers in the first place.

That\’s gonna be the thing that once they start to dive into this world more, they see more value in it and they, so maybe you have to kind of nurture to get them there, but that\’s how you\’re gonna able to start to move some of those other products that don\’t do as well at the top of the funnel.

Jon Tromans: Do you think segments are fluid as well? Can we like create segments and get rid of segments and create segments based on things? Do you see them as a fluid thing?

Kyle Stout: Oh definitely. You definitely want to monitor the performance of your segments over time.

So we use Klaviyo primarily for our clients, which is the email platform that really caters to towards commerce businesses and you can run engagement reports on your segments, meaning that if you run this report it will show you a 30 day snapshot of their open rate click rate, I believe unsubscribe rates and in their average order value over the previous 30 days.

So every month we go in, we have certain core segments that we\’re monitoring every month and we\’re targeting with our campaigns and we will run those reports every month and and look at how those things are fluctuating.

But now they\’ve recently added this feature where when you send out a campaign depending on what software you\’re using, it might be called a broadcast or you know, the email that you\’re sending out, it\’s not automated, you can, you can see a breakdown by segment. So you can see the open rate, click rate and the conversion rate and unsubscribe rate, all of that and the revenue generated, all of that listed by segment.

So now you start to learn if you sent out a campaign about a particular product, you can see which segments respond more to that and so that helps you improve your marketing going forward.

But like you were saying their fluid. So if you\’re getting back to talking about those engagement segments, ideally you\’d like to send to as big of a group as possible that you can get away with without seeing a breakdown in your engagement metrics because that\’s gonna hurt your deliverability.

So you might find that some times of the year or at some point in your business you can send to a wider group and then you might find that the engagement falls off and you have to tighten that segment up.

So that\’s why you want to watch them. You want to keep an eye on from month to month and be willing to make adjustments

Jon Tromans: And not segment too much because I mean you can go a rabbit hole can\’t you? I mean you really can and end up with like three people to send to.

Kyle Stout: Well, so that\’s that\’s the thing is to get like that\’s why I say when you\’re first starting out the engagement just having your like 30 day engaged group.

Those kind of segments are a great place to start because you have to have a big list to start to get really advanced with segmentation because like you said if there\’s only 5, 10, 20 people on the list, unless this is this is extremely targeted list in a very, very high ticket offer, you\’re likely just not going to generate enough revenue to justify the time and money that went into creating the email.

Jon Tromans: You mentioned open rates a few times. And is it is it still worth looking at open rates because Apple of messing around with pixels and all sorts of things?

Kyle Stout: They have and I will say we really don\’t put too much value in open rates as much as we used to. Open rates are inflated because of IOS, they display as higher than they truly are. And so we just like everyone\’s open rates are crazy high right now, as you know, with our clients and we just don\’t pat ourselves on the back about it.

We really are looking at, I mean, of course we still watch them, but we\’re looking at click rates and, and revenue generated per email.

Jon Tromans: Yeah. You mentioned messaging earlier which kind of like moves us on to copy a little bit and not sounding like a 1970s car salesman, how do we go about the copy because a lot of folks might just want to know what new products you\’ve got or what\’s on sale. They might not want all the fluff around it.

Kyle Stout: So yeah, this I think this is an interesting conversation. I think that there\’s there\’s more nuance to this than people think because people tend to say they go, you know, in one camp or the other versus when it comes to copyrighting, people are very kind of stuck in their ways about like it\’s always been this way.

So this is how we do it. I will admit I\’m biased because my background is in copyrighting before I started my email marketing agency but I do believe good copy is the foundation of all good marketing and especially email marketing. But like you said, one of the cool things about e-commerce, especially for us as marketers and the brand owners, I should say, is that the average person likes to shop.

So, you know, we all like to buy stuff online. And so you\’re working with that. So a lot of the people who are on your list, they want to be sold and they don\’t they don\’t want to feel like you\’re being sales or they don\’t want to feel like you\’re getting one over on them. They definitely don\’t want that. They don\’t want to feel like they\’re not getting the value.

But it\’s like it\’s a very common thing to see online where people will just say shut up and take my money right? That\’s just like a meme an idea that people have.

So in e-commerce you can get away with and I don\’t necessarily think this is the best thing but you can get away with the headline, the product photo the C.T. A. button which is the typical e-commerce email. However I will say you will get better results if you just put a little effort into the copy and and it doesn\’t have to be definitely don\’t think you should go full direct response sales letter for e-commerce you know but I call it just having a conversation starter and it could be in terms of how much copy we\’re talking like 1 to 4 sentences.

It doesn\’t need to be a lot of copy. But what I mean by a conversation starter is that you could be something like just educating people on a specific benefit of the product or leading with a joke about a cultural event that\’s that your customers would care about.

Or maybe telling a story about a customer or someone on your team. Just simple stuff like that where if I\’m the recipient and I\’m not in the mark to buy today. I at least feel like opening the email wasn\’t a total waste of my time.

Jon Tromans: Yeah. How much space in the email should we dedicate to that kind of kind of copy? Because you can end up sort of like telling a whole story about the product and by the end of it everybody\’s so bored.

Kyle Stout: Yeah, it depends on the type of emails. So I would say so for example, let\’s say you have a welcome series. That\’s where someone is totally new to your, your brand and they\’ve signed up, they\’ve opted in to maybe get like a freak, you know, a coupon or some kind of free gift or whatever in that in that initial welcome series, you want to, you want to let them know what your brand is all about. You want to let them know what your unique value propositions are, all of that.

So we do tend to use more copy, but we do it, we present it in a visual way. So you definitely want to stick to the good copyrighting rules of having shorter sentences being concise, having shorter paragraphs, all of that but then when it comes to the more transactional stuff like an abandoned cart email or browse abandonment too much copy is going to be a distraction that they\’ve already shown that they\’re interested and they they\’ve already started buying this thing. Just simply giving them the reminder, showing them that thing again making you know, like literally 1 to 2 lines of copy that just kind of makes it fun that you\’re that you showed up again, showing, you know, showing them this product, and then maybe throw in a review, maybe throw in like a 30 day guarantee, whatever your guarantee is, you know, something that kind of gives them a sense that, okay, I can trust this company, I can I can feel good about doing business with this company, but you definitely don\’t want to have a long a lot of copy in that type of email, because again, it\’s just a distraction.

Jon Tromans: Yeah, let me give you a quick example. A company that I buy quite a bit of stuff from, knitwear, everybody needs good knitwear, especially coming up to the winter. It\’s a knitwear company, jumpers, and scarves and hats and gloves and socks and things like that and it\’s all Fair Trade Wool. It\’s quite expensive. They paid the folks who make it, you know, a living wage. That\’s the message. That\’s why I buy the stuff. But every email they send me is always telling me that stuff, but I already know it because I buy loads of stuff from them.

So, would you hang off that type of messaging and really just say we\’ve got some great new jumpers in stock?

Kyle Stout: Okay, that\’s that\’s a great example. And that goes back to what we were talking about earlier with segmentation and how important the segmentation is and I think that people look at segmentation and they\’re not looking at it from the perspective of content.

They\’re looking at it more of what we were talking about earlier, looking at the analytics and you know, learning more about their segments and just having a smaller group so that email so that they can potentially email more frequently by targeting those different groups and that that those are all very important.

But to me what\’s so overlooked and what\’s we can get so much value out of using segmentation is making subtle changes to the messaging to that segment.

So for example, if someone has never purchased before, you need to have that stuff in there because or else how do they know what your brand is all about? But then someone like you who are you probably a V.I.P If you\’ve made multiple purchases with them, it\’s like as the brand, I know that you know you already know this.

So it\’s like you said we can have a conversation like we\’re close friends or we\’re in the same club. It\’s like I know you know what we\’re all about. I know that you love our products and you know that I know you love your products so why don\’t we have a conversation like that where it\’s just fun. It\’s like, hey we know you want some more of this and you love it so check out this latest item we have,

Jon Tromans: Yeah, I\’m with you. So you basically, you change the messaging depending on who the person is? They probably haven\’t got too many segments set up, I would imagine.

Kyle Stout: No and that\’s just like, it\’s such a simple, simple fix and it\’s, it\’s a good observation on your part as the recipient of just a small change that can make a big difference.

Jon Tromans: How do you feel about first purchase drip campaigns where we go into a never ending series of emails that never end?

Kyle Stout: We don\’t do as much of that as a lot of people do for a couple of reasons. One, well it, yeah, I get having some emails, but the ones that, like you said, drag on for too long a lot of times as you look at the analytics further down the chain of all those emails, you just see the engagement fall off. So you kind of have to be thoughtful about it.

It\’s something where you\’ve got to get real feedback from real customers to where you understand that those are emails that people actually want and whether it\’s nurturing content or sales content or whatever that is still relevant to them.

The other thing is it\’s like if you\’re putting thought and intention into the content for your ongoing email marketing, those people are gonna be getting those emails from you and what you\’re trying to accomplish, which is nurturing that relationship with them and then getting repeat purchases, you\’re going to accomplish that with your ongoing email marketing, so you don\’t have to have this never ending nurturing sequence or whatever the the idea is behind it for those first time customers because you\’re already going to accomplish that.

And again, if you\’re using the segmentation, it\’s just like it\’s going to be more personalized to them than just this never ending series of emails that are probably recycled from old emails.

Jon Tromans: How much should we be automating. Are there any nifty little automation we can set up and just let them run and watch the money roll in?

Kyle Stout: I think a lot actually, for our clients, I would say it\’s pretty standard for 20% to 60% of the revenue generated from email to come from their automated flows. So you get a lot of return on investment, whether it\’s time, money, however you\’re doing it by creating those automated flows and I think for the big areas where you want to focus your attention with automation when it comes to e-commerce, email marketing is first your sales process because you already have people who are actively entering and engaging with your sales process in some way.

So again, these are the people who sign up for that welcome series because they\’re they\’re new and they\’re looking to shop for the first time or these are people who are viewing products but not adding them to cart or adding them to cart but not starting to check out or starting to check out but not completing right?

That\’s an example of people going step by step through your sales process and we just know by looking at the numbers that there\’s a certain percentage of people that fall off at every step. So you can have automated follow up with them to move them along in the sales process and that\’s where you\’re gonna get the most immediate ROI is because again those people you don\’t like they\’re already actively shopping with you so there\’s just less to convince them of to move forward.

And then not only that, but they\’re showing you what they\’re interested in so when they get those abandoned cart type of emails where you\’ve got that dynamic box showing them the product that they already looked at are added to cart. I mean that\’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting for you because they are already interested or they wouldn\’t be looking at it or adding it to their cart, right?

And then the other area you definitely should give some attention would be follow up that comes later on. So either people who have stopped engaging or customers who have stopped buying or stopped engaging like I said, you want to get to a point where you give them a little bit of a break, but then you can have some automated emails set up to get back in touch with them and then try to win them back and those a lot of times actually do very well.

Jon Tromans: Right. So because we could kind of like set up an automation which says if somebody hasn\’t engaged with us for say six months in any way, then we fire them off an email and try and get them to engage.

Kyle Stout: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Or they haven\’t purchased and try to get them to come back and purchase again.

Jon Tromans: Yeah. Should we look at automation on products, I mean how much detail, how much time and effort should be put into it. For example, if we got our candles, should we try and work out how long customers candles burn and then a week before they\’re about to burn out, send them an email to say book another candles. Should we look at that?

Kyle Stout: So that type of, there is an automation replenishment reminder type of automated flow you can do for consumable products like that, whether it\’s anything people consume, food supplements, candles, anything where they use the product and they can\’t use it anymore and they need to get more replenishment reminder flows are great for that and yeah, so that\’s something where you have to be thoughtful about the time, the touch point, because with the candle, I would just imagine that there are some people who they\’re gonna be burning it constantly, they go through it quickly and other people who you know, maybe like they just kind of burn it here and there on the weekends and so it lasts longer, so, but what\’s cool with Klaviyo specifically is they have, they actually have an Ai driven function that can predict when people are likely to purchase again and you can set up that replenishment reminder flow to hit them based on that now, they don\’t really reveal how they know that, I think it\’s because Klaviyo is such a huge platform and so many e commerce businesses are using it that they have, it\’s kind of like Facebook where they just got or amazon or they just got so much data on consumers out there in general, I think that plays a big role because honestly it works really well.

Jon Tromans: Do you think we can sometimes overthink it a little bit?

Kyle Stout: Definitely, Yeah, yeah, I definitely do. Actually, you know what I wanted to get back, what you were saying about being product specific. Something I do want to mention is that with these flows most of the time, especially for a smaller business you don\’t need to get that crazy detailed where you\’re being product specific, but as your business grows and you get bigger and you do have some of those hero products that are driving a very significant portion of your revenue, then that\’s where you can take your results much further by creating flows that are totally customized for that particular product.

So meaning that when they get in and check out email, that the content and that email besides the dynamic box is only talking about that particular product because it\’s, it\’s such a big revenue driver. It is worth the extra effort.