Email marketing and e-commerce is a match made in heaven. Successful e-com brands use email to maximize revenue and deepen relationships so they:

1) Maximize Customer Retention – They keep their existing customers returning to buy more, year after year

2) Grow Reach and Customer Base– They consistently bring in new customers .

3) Maximize Value Per Contact – Strategic Email sequences drive

Those are two pretty damn worthwhile goals for any organization, and if you run an e-commerce business, they should be 2 things you wake up and go to bed thinking about. Leading E-Com platform provider Shopify notes that “Email marketing is the key to ecommerce success”, presumably behind actually selling products people want, and

With that in mind, here are some of the most egregious email marketing mistakes we’ve seen e-commerce companies make. Hopefully yours isn’t one of them, but if it is, life’s good, you can correct the problem now and watch your revenue climb.

NOTE: Much of what you’re about to discover about e-commerce email marketing also holds true for chat bot marketing, but that’s a subject for a different day. For now, just use your imagination….

Big E-Commerce Email Marketing Mistake 1 – No Email Marketing

There are so many opportunities for email marketing to help with ecommerce it’s downright nuts that some e-comm businesses don’t, or rarely use it. Face it, though, whether through ignorance or apathy, it happens. Only sending a “Happy Holidays” email every December qualifies as no email marketing.

Most e-com platforms have at least some email functionality built in, or they can integrate with leading email marketing platforms, though. That means adding the basics to businesses that haven’t used it doesn’t have to be rocket science, although to get the most out of it you’ll want to do more than scratch the surface.

Email has many benefits as a marketing tool, most of which go hand in glove with an ecommerce business. Relationship building that creates long term customers is the golden goose here. Increasing customer value means the ROI all those heard earned customer acquisition dollars goes up, up, up.

That leads directly to another big e-comm email marketing mistake we’ve seen more than we care to.

Big E-Commerce Email Marketing Mistake 2 – Little Value for the Reader

email marketing mistakes : no value

Whether you’re using email as a prospecting tool or to maximize sales to existing customers (both of which it excels at) value delivery for the reader is the only way to keep readers opening your emails and building the trust, credibility, and long term relationships your brand needs to make sure customers keep buying. If the value’s not there, the audience won’t be, either.

The signs of value skimping are painfully obvious. Endless and overbearing “BUY NOW!” messaging is a key indicator. Email marketing can be so much more than the digital equivalent of Valpak, although that’s mainly how too many businesses use it. They’re leaving money on the table.

Here are some ways to deliver value, so your customers look to you, rather than ignore your messages or duck and cover.

1) Discuss the problem(s) your products solve and how to combat them. Do this without directly naming or pimping your product as the solution.

2) Talk about other ways to use your product(s) rather than the primary use.

3) Interview influential people in your market about how they’ve reached success, strategies they use and how your readers can reach their goals too. This has the benefit of not only delivering value for your audience, but leveraging their celebrity and credibility for your brand.

4) Profile events related to your market or products that your audience may benefit from attending or reading about.

Those are only some of the ways that we’ve found to deliver value that provide a win-win for both brand and audience, rather than simply asking for more sales.

For example, if you sell health and fitness supplements, emails on protein timing, how to train chest for those with shoulder problems and supplement combinations that work to maximize training gains would all be valuable for your audience. They’re not direct sales messages, but can end with a call to action, and can lead directly to increased sales although that isn’t their purpose.

Big E-Commerce Email Marketing Mistake 3 – Missing the Upsell/Cross Sell Boat

email marketing mistakes : No upsells and cross sells

Not only can cross sell and upsell emails directly drive revenue, but they can actually boost customer satisfaction. Talk about a win-win! That, in fact, is how you frame these offers. Show the customer how they win by taking the offer, based on their recent purchase.

Your organization gets more customer interaction and value delivery. Each means more relationship deepening opportunity for you. Your customer bond grows with each contact, and because they feel you’ve benefited them more.

In most cases you’ll also have upsell and cross sell functionality built into your e-com platform. In most cases that means your customers will be offered both complementary (cross sell) and more expensive/higher value versions of their chosen product (upsell) when making their original purchase. If yours haven’t been, get on the stick.

Because your shopping cart delivers this functionality doesn’t mean you should avoid using emails to show your customers similar offers however.

Big E-Commerce Email Marketing Mistake 4 – Mis-Timed Messages (Not What You Think)

There is a big debate in email marketing about when to send messages, but this is not about that. Mis-timed message mistakes for E-com is email marketing challenges : timemore about missing the boat when it comes to timing messages for optimum effect as it relates to purchase and cart abandonment events.

Offering upsells, promotions, and the like at just the right time can unlock significant revenue, while costing nearly nothing. That adds up to big presents under the ROI tree. Cart abandonment emails can not only salvage sales, but also help provide clues so you can refine your process and reduce your cart abandonment rate going forward.

For example many (up to ¼, according to several estimates) cart abandonments are due to technical issues with your website or the user’s Internet connection. They wanted to complete the purchase, but were prevented from doing so. Help both of you out with an email that re-engages them with the sales process, so they can complete the sale.

If you’ve been negligent here, don’t feel bad. Mega e-comm platform provider Shopify reports that you’re not alone. Even huge brands that should know better are guilty here. We’re talking Macy’s, Apple, Nordstrom, and the Gap. Yeah, really!

Cart Abandonment Email Timing:

The first abandoned cart messages need to happen immediately after the event, with a first follow up several hours later and a third one a few days after that. Your sales numbers will thank you.

Cross-Sell / Upsell Email Timing:

Immediately after the sale is the first time to send a cross sell/upsell email. Combine it with a value booster for the product they’ve purchased.

For example:

That you for purchasing Product -X. Here are a few tips for getting even better results.

  • Tip 1
  • Tip 2
  • Tip 3

Use these tips and you’ll not only discover that you can do X, but many times you’ll now be able to do Y also! In fact, if you’d like to do Y, our customers report that Product-Y is a huge help for them too. Since you just got Product-X, you’re eligible for a special offer on Product-Y.

Click Here Now for your special on Product-Y

Immediately post purchase isn’t the only time to send cross-sell and upsell offers though. We’ve also had great success sending them at milestone events. These include customer birthdays, purchase anniversaries, and holidays (especially those that that fit with their purchase). The ability to deliver these offers over time is just another reason why email is a powerful e-commerce partner that should not be ignored.

Customer Retention Email Timing

Your email newsletter can be one of your highest ROI marketing activities. Email newsletters strengthen sales producing bonds, but they can also directly drive sales. See our post on How to Start a Profitable Email Newsletter if you don’t have one yet. Timing these is somewhat customer and market related. Sending too often can cause either newsletter blindness or unsubscribes, neither of which brings kudos from your boss.

Maintaining a strong customer value focus allows you to send your newsletter more often, so your brand is dancing in front of their eyes and working its way into their mind more frequently. Draw your own conclusions on what that means. It brings up a key point though. A regular newsletter isn’t about you, your brand or your products. It’s about your customer and how their lives can be better. That’s one to burn into the ole brain, and it plays right into newsletter timing. If you can genuinely add value and make their life better by sending weekly, then do it. In most cases 1-4 times a month is the optimum mix.

Another thing that plays into newsletter timing is the frequency of industry or legal developments that the customer would benefit from knowing about. If yours is a fast paced industry and things happen and change quickly, your customer may benefit from an email a couple of times weekly. That’s an exception, but it illustrates why knowing your audience is so vital.

E-Commerce Email Marketing Mistake 5 – No (or Poor) Segmentation

It comes down to value delivery, but segmenting emails ensures you can deliver the right email based on your particular customer. It will be more closely aligned with their needs / wants and so have more value to them. It also keeps you from burning bridges and wasting email sends, which you do pay for with most providers.

The possible number of segments is nearly endless, and can be based on myriad different details. Here are some of the more common ones, and each can contain more than one segment:

  • Product / Product Family Purchased
  • Customer Demographics
  • Geographic Location
  • B2B / B2C
  • Prospect / Buyer

This scratches the surface, but you get the idea.

Example: If you sell safety products to transportation companies and law enforcement agencies, segmenting the two allows you to address unique problems faced by each. This is true even if the product mix is largely the same. You can keep some content common, but the 2 segments allow the voice to resonate better with each market, in addition to tailoring the product-oriented content more precisely for each.

Another example would be selling hoodies to athletes. You customers likely include those who focus on different sports. Some are mainly basketball players, while others play baseball, football, lacrosse, or soccer. Some (too few, if you listen to college coaches) play multiple sports. Selling a lacrosse-themed hoodie to a hoopster is largely a waste of time, so for basketball players stick to content and offers that deliver value to them. They’ll thank you by responding better.

E-Commerce Email Marketing Mistake 6 – Subject Line Not Compelling / Personalized / Customized

This isn’t only for e-commerce emails, but all email marketing. It’s near the top of E-com email marketing fails too though, so in the list it goes. In study after study the subject line is the 1st or second most important factor to getting marketing emails opened. There have been entire books written on the subject. In fact, we have a big, fat white paper on it. Get yours here.

After all, if they don’t get opened, they don’t get read, so all your high dollar copy is wasted. Personalizing and customizing subject lines has a big impact on open rates. Customizing is simply including the exact reason you’re sending the email in the subject line.

Compelling Headlines Are:

  • Benefit driven
  • Curiosity evoking

Or a combination of the two. Making the headlines compelling and customized boost open rates and deliver not only the email to your customer, but more engagement opportunities for you.

For Example:

A subject line for purchasers of the ubiquitous “Product-X” would read something like:

  • “Mike, Kill 2X as Many Roaches with These Product-X Tips”


  • “Mike, How Product-X Cream Kills the Ointment”

And possibly

  • “Make Product-X 3X as Sticky Like This”

You get the picture. This way they know immediately it’s about their beloved Product-X, and some new benefits for them.

Ecommerce Email Marketing Mistake 7 – Not Re-Engaging Customer Who’ve Been Out of Touch With Your Brand

A huge benefit from email marketing is the ability to reach out to customers who’ve had you on the back burner for a while, maybe too long, like the gas is disconnected and they moved out long ago… In any case, your mistake for letting it get that far. If they’ve not ordered in a while, drop a value nugget on them.

Remember to hit it from the “What’s-In-It-For-Them” angle. Why haven’t they been by for a while? Answering that is important, but not as vital as determining how you can get them back and involved with your brand again. This can take some time. Research shows, and we’ve seen, months between sending re-engagement emails and the customer opening and becoming active again.

Some Re-engagement Email Ideas Include:

  • Offer a free item or coupon on their birthday – Starbucks uses this and it works wonders.
  • Show What’s New and Different That Your Customer Would Like. – Here’s another way segmentation helps. If you know your audience and segment accordingly, you’re more likely to know what changes the customer will appreciate.
  • Direct Them to Your Social Media Pages – No, Twitter, Facebook, and eMail aren’t enemies. In fact, they can be mutually beneficial friends indulge in a little mutual back scratching. The important thing is that your brand stay in front of your customer.


E-commerce and e-mail are a great team. Like most teams they perform much better together than simply the sum of their parts. These are the most costly mistakes we’ve helped e-com brands correct over the years. Fixing them is a fairly fast process, meaning you can be on the road to revenue boosting goodness almost immediately. It would be a great way to start off your new year.