Email Marketing for E-Commerce: Tips and Tools to Increase Sales | Learn with Mailchimp | Ariana Hargrave | Skillshare

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Email Marketing for E-Commerce: Tips and Tools to Increase Sales | Learn with Mailchimp

teacher avatar Ariana Hargrave, Director of VIP Services, MailChimp

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Business Goals


    • 3.



    • 4.



    • 5.



    • 6.

      Bringing It All Together


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About This Class

Eager to take your email marketing to the next level, and start increasing sales? This tactical 25-minute class with Mailchimp’s Director of VIP Services, Ariana Hargrave, shares tools and tips you can put into action today to send better emails and achieve your business goals.

Ariana walks through three key concepts to boost your business through email – Automation, Optimization, and Personalization – and several helpful tactics and visual examples within each.

  • Automation – Onboarding, Abandoned Carts, Purchase Followups, Best Customers 
  • Optimization – A/B Testing, Inbox Preview, Timewarp, Send Time Optimization 
  • Personalization – Merge Tags, Product Recommendations, Segmenting/Targeting 

By the end, you’ll have the tools to reach your customers more effectively, learn from your data, and increase revenue in a quick and easy way.

Whether you're kicking off a new email marketing campaign or looking to revamp your existing strategy, these lessons are key to growing your small or medium-sized business.


Mailchimp is an email marketing service provider founded in 2001. It has 12 million users that collectively send over a billion emails every day.

To learn more about email marketing, join Mailchimp's other essential classes on getting startedwriting and designing effective emails, and measuring impact.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ariana Hargrave

Director of VIP Services, MailChimp


Ariana Hargrave is MailChimp's Director of VIP Services. She leads the company's high-touch customer facing teams, who provide real-time support and strategic guidance to customers with unique sending needs. Ariana is an email marketing expert who has more than a decade of experience working with SaaS companies. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and Great Pyrenees.

MailChimp is an email marketing service provider founded in 2001. It has 12 million users that collectively send over a billion emails every day.

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1. Introduction: Hi. I'm Ariana Hargrave. I'm the Director of VIP Services here at MailChimp. MailChimp is an app that democratizes features and makes them very easy to use. We make features that really help your e-commerce business grow. In this class, we're going to focus on driving revenue for your brand without a lot of extra effort on your part, using features that automate, optimize, and personalize your content for email marketing. Before taking this class, it'll be really beneficial if you already have a base level of knowledge in email marketing. For that, we do have some other Skillshare classes that we've talked specifically about MailChimp and email marketing, as well as reporting and email design. This class is aimed at anyone who sells something online, but it's also good for anyone who just wants to optimize their emails, and learn more about personalization as well as automation. I'm very passionate about working with small and medium sized businesses. On the side, I've always had my own side hustle, working with small businesses of my own for the last 15 or so years. So, it's really important to me that the tools and features that we offer at MailChimp fit those needs of e-commerce companies, whether it's marketing a specific campaign or specific product, or even connecting with subscribers on a different level. 2. Business Goals: Before we really get going, it's important to think about what your e-mail marketing goals are and thinking about those e-mail marketing basics. Things like driving revenue, very important when you have an online business as well as building brand awareness. That's really going to help you connect with your customers. Within those goals you also want to get really specific and think about things like customer retention. So that's actually retaining the customers that you have as well as growing your customer base a little bit and getting those customers on board with your brand. You also want to start thinking about repeat purchases. As any business knows it's not just that one time purchase. You really want to make sure that people are coming back and making multiple purchases from you. Let's talk about recovering abandoned carts. Any time that you've shopped online, you may have put something in your cart and then navigated away and in a couple of hours or maybe even the next day, you've received an e-mail that says, "Wait a second, you've forgotten something in this cart. Didn't you want to purchase that?" And that is a great way to get people back in your store and actually purchasing items from you. When thinking about customer retention, you also want to think about how you're connecting with those customers and that's where some of these ancient tools comes in. We've got your personalisation. That's things like connecting with your customer by name or even based off of what they previously purchased. We also have optimisation and that's going to tie into all of these goals based around how you're connecting with these customers. Whether it's a regular cadence or it might be the methods with which you're connecting with them. Automations will also help you connect with your customers and retain them because with automations you can actually set them up to automatically send to your customers based off of behaviours or triggers. And that way you're keeping in touch with your customers without having to manually keep in touch with your customers. Some of the biggest concerns that people have when they're starting up their email marketing or even optimizing their email marketing is, they worry about spamming their customers. When somebody gives you their email address, they're actually inviting you to send them marketing content based off of your brand. When you pay attention to the types of content that you're sending and how your customers are engaging with that content, you're going to be able to optimise and automate and personalise based off of that data. So in today's class we're actually going to focus on those three topics so you don't have to worry about seeming spamming to your customers because we're actually going to go into details on how to optimise your campaigns, how to automate those campaigns and how to personalise those campaigns to truly tailor the message. Some of the things that you shouldn't worry yourself with right now are going to be; trying to set this all up at once or trying to set up too many things at once. As a business owner, you already have a lot on your plate so don't worry about trying to do everything at once. You can always start small, takes small steps and then build from there. So the tools today are going to help you get started and really customise what you're sending to your customers and how you're connecting with them. 3. Automation: First off, we're going to talk about automation. Automation is a really great tool because as a business owner is really hard to come up with fresh content all the time. You're trying to figure out what to say, when to say it, who to say it to. So, with automation, you can actually set up content in the beginning, and use a set of triggers that will send automatically to your customers or subscribers whenever they reach a set of conditions or take a certain action. So, with automation, you're automatically connecting with those customers on a very personal level at a time that makes sense to them as well as you. It's something that you set up once and it will just run automatically for you. When you're thinking about welcoming your customers, that's going to be an onboarding automation. You can do that through a number of different tactics. You might send them a coupon to say, ''Hey thanks so much for signing up.'' Now that you're a subscriber, a member, a customer, we want to make sure that you are going to actually make a purchase. So, we're inviting you to make that purchase by providing you with a coupon. Now, if your business is something that is more informative, and perhaps you're not specifically selling something right away, you might send them to a white paper or a free download. A lot of time people will include a song. So, might be a song, or even a welcome video. A welcome video is a great way for people to get to know you, and it feels a bit more conversational. So not only have you covered your bases by sending them an email and inviting them to engage, you've also provided them a video perhaps you talking about your brand, or what to expect now that they've subscribed to your list. A good way to think about onboarding emails is like small talk with your customers. They're a way for you to get to know them, they get to know you. Even though it's an email, it seems like it's a one way thing, you can actually set them up so that they can interact with your brand. So, through these three automations, we've actually introduced our customer not only to our brand, through the images, and colors, and wording that we're using in our emails, but we've also introduced them to the next steps. We've engaged them in a conversation by inviting them to join us on our site or click to learn more. Once you've onboarded your new customers, you should think about adding an abandoned cart message. So that means that anytime that somebody goes to your site, they add something to their cart, and then they navigate away. We all know how it is. We all get distracted. Maybe you're shopping in your lunch break and you realize, I've to get this report in. Or you're running your own small business and you realize that somebody just walked in the door. No matter what it is, you've navigated away from that site. Your customers have navigated away from that site. We all do it. So, how do we bring them back? That's where the abandoned cart email comes in. So, through this email, you're actually reminding them that they put something in their cart, typically showing them a picture of what it is, and inviting them to come back. So, very simple call to action, usually an image of the product, and then you invite them to come back and make that purchase. It's a really easy way that drives revenue. Here at Melcher developed Freddie and Co, which is an online store where we're getting to understand what our e-commerce customers are going through. After we built the store, we realized that we should also add an abandoned cart message. So, for our first series that we did, we actually sold socks from a company called Odd Pairs, and our abandoned cart message actually shows a picture these three socks, because odd pairs, they come in threes, and then it's got a simple message saying, ''Hey, didn't you forget these items in your cart?'' and it has a very simple call to action to view your cart. Now this one is smart, because not only are you viewing your cart where you could easily just go and simply checkout, but it's inviting you back to the store where you might find something else that you also want to buy. Within the abandoned cart emails, you can also personalize not only the images but the content as well. So, you might include somebody's name, you might customize the product description, the product name, and you can really customize how your brand and your voice is coming across. So, now let's talk about purchase follow-up automations. Now, some people might think that a purchase follow-up is more of a confirmation email of, you made this purchase or you bought this product, but that's not really what it is. The purchase follow-up is really something more along the lines of, ''Hey, you purchased this product. Now we want to ask you what you thought about it? Come on back to our site, give us a rating, give us a review, tell us what you thought about this product? Did it work for you? Did you like it? Did you love it?'' With the purchase follow-up, you can highlight the product that was actually purchased, and personalize the content of course, but you're also inviting people to come back to that conversation. So again, back to these automations, they're not just a one-way conversation, it's opening the door for a communication with your customers. Another great automation tool is a ''Best Customers'' tool. So, with your best customers, you really want to highlight those people who have spent the most with you, mean the most to you, or maybe they're frequently in your store, whether it's physical or online. With the best customers tool, you're going to send those people and just those customers early access. So, whether you're sending them, ''Hey, a sale is going to happen'' or ''This new thing is coming out with my store.'' A good example of a best customer automation is this Odd Pairs email. So, right at the top they actually have their branding super clear, and then they have a quick message telling you exactly what the offer is. So, this best customer message is a mystery bag special. It's ten odd pairs of socks for Australian $150. Then there's a little bit of text below that and a quick option to have free express shipping. So, really simple call to actions, and this email is targeted to the very best customers. So, the people that spend the most with them and are more likely to evangelize their brand and tell their friends. Highlighting your best customers is a standard across any sort of marketing campaign whether it's online or in person. So, you can really think about what content you're going to be sending to the people that are the most loyal to your brand, and you really want to engage those people. Because chances are, they're the ones that are spending the most with you whether it's spending the most time or spending the most money. In either case, they're helping to grow your brand through revenue, or loyalty, and evangelism. So, now we've talked about our four key pieces for automation to really get you going, and we've talked about our onboarding emails to help you connect with those customers right away. We've talked about our abandoned cart emails to remind them when they've forgotten something in their cart. There is also a product follow-up email to remind them that once they've made a purchase, they can still continue to come back and talk to you, whether it's by connecting with you online and leaving you a review, or even coming back and making another purchase. Then, of course you want to highlight your best customers, always great industry best practice, and when you connect with these customers, they are going to help build your brand and evangelize your brand as well. So, some tips to keep in mind when working on automations, watch your triggers. So, the triggers are going to be the times that they emails are set to send to your customers, and you want to adjust that cadence so that it makes the most sense for your customer experience. You can go in and adjust your triggers at anytime, and make sure that some of them should send right away, maybe some of them should send within an hour of somebody making a change or taking that action. But then others you might want to set them to send a day or even a week later. Not only do you want to pay attention to your cadence, but you should also go back and check your content and your links regularly. So, you want to make sure that your emails are sending at a time that makes the most sense for your customer journey, and you want to make sure that the content that you're sending even though it's evergreen, is still fresh. So go through make sure that the brand and tone are actually on-brand for your business at this time. Make sure that your links are linking to the appropriate places, because maybe you moved that page, or you closed that page, or that page that you linked to outside of your company isn't even there anymore. It's good to check on those at least once a month. But if you don't have time for that because you are a busy entrepreneur, then at least check once a quarter. Because automations are set to trigger based off of specific rules that you've set forth, you should always check to make sure that your automations aren't firing one after the other. What I mean by this is, you've probably set up a reminder for somebody to come back and make a purchase, but you also have set a purchase follow-up. So, maybe you don't want those to send in the same day, that can be a lot of emails to just one person. Especially, if you've sent a marketing campaign the same day, or maybe they joined your list, then they put something in their cart, forgot about it, came back using the abandoned cart email, and now you've sent them a purchase follow-up. So, that can be a lot of emails all at once. Just be mindful of the cadence of your emails, and make sure that you're triggering them around times that make the most sense for your customer experience. So, think about these four types of automations, and start small. There's no reason to go ahead and jump into all of them at once. So, pick one or pick two, but make sure that it's matching your brand, and that the content is spot on because it should be something that's evergreen, and you can come back and just check on it every now and then. Now that we've covered automation, let's move into our next key concept, optimization. 4. Optimization: So, optimization is all about making your e-mails the absolute best that they can be through database decisions. That really means, looking at how your subscribers are engaging with their e-mail, whether it's desktop or mobile. That's a really key differentiation there, because people do have different behaviors on both. You can also think about optimization as testing your content, subject lines, testing different images, testing even different send times. There's a lot of different ways that you can optimize your e-mails to get the most impact, and whether that's impact in revenue, or just impact with getting your brand message across to your customers. You may have heard the term AB testing before. This is a great example of optimization. So, AB testing, you can really think about it as comparing two things. So, is one better than the other? If it is, which one performs the best with your customers? You might try changing your from name, you might try changing the time of day that you're sending, you might even change some of that content around. Within the feature, you can actually choose what portion of your list you want to test with, or if you want to split it up 50/50, and test with your entire list. Now, one of the great things about AB testing is that, you can actually choose to automatically pick a winner based off of how people are engaging with that content. Is one getting more opens, or clicks than the other? Maybe one is even getting more purchases than the other. So, depending on what you want, we can automatically send the winning version of that campaign, if you're not testing with your whole list, right away to everybody else on your list. Or, you can actually choose to go in, take a look at the data yourself, and then choose a winner based off of the criteria that's most important to you. Whether it's a mixture of opens, clicks and revenue, or maybe it's something else entirely. Maybe something else is getting great shares on social media, and you want that version to really get out to the rest of your list. The next optimization piece that we're going to talk about is inbox preview. So, with inbox preview, you can see how your campaign comes across to different ISP, or Internet Service Providers. That's going to be things like Gmail, Hotmail Outlook, and even Lotus Notes. You can actually test how your campaign is going to display across mobile or desktop. It really gives you an idea of how your customers are viewing your campaign, how the images resize and how they're interacting with your different calls to action. As your customers engage with your e-mails, it's important to note that when you are viewing it on a mobile device, all your images are going to be a little bit different than they would be on desktop. So, on desktop, a typical rule of thumb is you want your e-mails to be 600 pixels wide. But on a mobile device, that can be anything from a smartwatch, to an iPhone, or something to a tablet. So, you've got a lot of range, therefore your content. With the inbox preview, you can not only see how your content looks on desktop but also on mobile. A mobile it's not just going to be a straight up and down, i'm reading my e-mail top to bottom. You can also rotate that device, and see how it's going to look when it starts to stretch out again. So, are your column stacking the way that you think they will? Is the button moving to the right place? All of these are different pieces that you can figure out when using in box preview. Not only can you optimize your e-mails, you can also optimize your time. With using inbox preview, you can test a template not just a campaign, so that when you've tested your template, you know exactly how that Layout is going to function in every type of device, whether it's desktop or mobile and different inboxes. You're going to be able to use that template over and over, keep your branding consistent, keep your tone consistent, and just swap out some of that content. So, that's going to make your e-mail creation time shorter, every single time because you've already tested the template itself, you know that it's good. The next optimization tool is Time Warp. So, with Time Warp, you can actually send your campaign at the same time to your subscribers across time zones. So, if you want to send your e-mail at 8 am to all of your subscribers, you can actually set it sent 8:00 am in their local time. So, across 24 hours, you'll actually have 24 different scenes, all within one campaign so that everybody who receives it in their specific time zone. When working on Time Warp campaigns, it's really important to think about your content in advance, because we can't travel through time even though we would love to. The content needs to be in place at least 24 hours before you actually want to send that campaign, because it's a different time everywhere in the world. So, if you're content is ready, it'll actually start sending at the time and date that you've selected for that content to send. So, 8:00 am across the globe it will hit the first time zone, and then keep on moving until it hits the last time zone. Time warp can also be used to help your customers get familiar with your cadence. So, if you're sending your e-mails at the same time every week or even every day, Time Warp can help your customers know when to check their inbox, because they know that you always send your e-mails at 8:00 am every Wednesday. Our next optimization tool is actually optimizing when you're sending your campaign to your subscribers based off of the time of day. We call that Centime Optimization. So, with Centime Optimization, we actually look at all of your subscribers in your list. We look at the time that they're actually engaging with those e-mails. So, even though they might have opened it at one time and engaged by clicking on another time, we're going to take an average of when everyone is actually engaging with that content. So, look at all the opens, look at all the clicks, and find the best average time to send that content to your subscribers. Because when you send your content to your subscribers at the right time, they're the most likely to open it, engage, and take action right away. You've been sending your e-mails on a Saturday afternoon thinking that hey, people aren't thinking about work, but they're actually thinking about where they shop on the weekends. But you may find that with Centime Optimization, that people are actually wanting to plan their weekends in advance, and they're actually engaging with your content on Thursdays at 1:00 o'clock right after lunch break. So, this is really a great tool to help you figure out the best possible time to reach your customers. When optimizing, it can seem like it's daunting because there's a lot of different data that you can consider but don't worry about that. Just think about your business goals that we talked about earlier, and figure out what's most important to you, and optimize on that. The worst thing you can do is do nothing at all. So, make sure that you are actually utilizing different tools. Whether it's Centime Optimization, Time Warp, you're finding the best content to send to your subscribers, whatever it may be, make sure that it meets your business goals. The more that you do it, the quicker your process will be, and the better your e-mails will be. 5. Personalization: Now that we've talked about how to automate your campaigns and how to optimize for the best possible emails, let's talk about how you can personalize your messaging for each subscriber. The more information that you know about your subscribers, the more that you can tailor your messages to them with different content as well as using their names and make recommendations based off of different things that they've chosen or even their region. Not only do you want to personalize your content, you also want to make sure that you're reaching the right subscribers and you're going to do that with targeting your subscribers. You target subscribers by segmenting to them. There's a lot of different ways that you can massage the data in your list to make it specific to your subscribers. You can do that on the front end by targeting the campaign and then you can do it within the message itself by personalizing that content. There's lots of different ways that you can connect with your customers on a very personal and intimate level. One of the biggest ways to personalize your emails is using merge tags because everyone likes to be remembered. Think about it. The last time that you ran into an old friend and they remembered not only your name but your kids names and asked about them. Personalization of email is like that because you're remembering the person, you're using their name, and you're reminding them of a previous conversation or previous interaction that you've had with them. You can do all of that automatically by storing that information in your list and then just merging it into the campaign. The most common type of merged tag is actually merging in somebody's name. So, you're going to greet somebody, hello, and you can insert their name automatically into the message. You can also use other information based off of purchase activity or categories that they've purchased from and remind them that, "Hey, I know exactly who you are and I know what you're interested in and I'm presenting that to you in this email." It's easy to merge an information that you have, like a name, or an address, or even a birth date. But what about when you don't have that information? That's when you want to set a default merge tag value. So, the default merge tag is going to be what replaces that missing information. You want to make sure that when you're adding a default, that it's something that matches your brand's voice. So, whether it's hello friend or something more formal like, dear customer. You can customize the merge tag as well as the content that's pulling in. Back when we talked about automation, we talked a bit about product recommendations and how you can use those in your automation series. You can also use those as a way to personalize the content that your subscribers are receiving. So, the product recommendations, if you remember, are a way to recommend products to customers based off of what they've purchased in the past, as well as what sold well in your store. So, that's where we're coming in and using lots of different algorithms to find the best possible products that are likely to be bought by those customers. With product recommendations, it's really important to be specific because if I purchased dog food and now I'm getting a product recommendation for diapers, that's not going to be something that necessarily catches my interest and wants to engage me with that store. It also makes me feel like they don't know who I am. So, making sure that those recommendations match to what your customers are interested in and matches what your brand is trying to push, makes the most sense. So, we actually use our algorithms to find that best match. So, if I bought a women's shirt, I'm likely to be interested in women's skirts as well. It's like if I go out and make one purchase that's a little bit different, maybe I bought some shoes for my husband, we're going to take that into account but that doesn't mean that every single time I receive a recommendation that it's going to be tailored now towards my last purchase. We're actually going to look at all of the purchases that you've done in the past and use those as a basis to providing the content that makes the most sense. This all ties back to those business goals of retaining your customers. So, customers that are engaged with you and making purchases, it's really helpful if you recommend additional products that will interest them, so they can keep coming back and keep bringing revenue and keep enjoying your products, which build your brand. It's good to keep in mind that any information that you've already collected about your subscribers, from their activity or even from information on the front end when they signed up, you can use all that information, not only to merge an information to personalize campaigns, you can also use it to target your campaigns. All of that can be used to segment and reach specific subscribers. So, whether they're based in a certain region, I might choose to target people based off a specific city or even a specific zip code. I can also build out my segment to target in depth. So, it's not just everyone who meets the criteria of living in Atlanta, Georgia or being within five miles of Atlanta city limits, I can drill down on that and say, "Everyone that lives in Atlanta, who is really into hip hop, really likes enamel pens, and then I might have a nice segment there to push our Freddie Inco pentral products too." So, you can get really granular as far as how you're segmenting. Personalization is a great way to save time and make your customers feel like they're the only person in the room when you're talking to them via email. Just using a couple of merge tags, sending to the right group of subscribers, and you're actually getting your brand's message across in a way that makes your subscribers feel like their customer journey is unique just to them. 6. Bringing It All Together: So, now that we've covered all the different "ations" automation, optimization, and personalization, go ahead and try your hand at this. Pick a campaign that really spoke to you that uses those different techniques. Try your hand at optimizing your campaigns, automating something, or even personalizing your content. Don't worry about doing it all at once. You can make incremental changes. Test, see how it goes with your customer base, and then change something else. So, each time you want to make a change and get better every time. So, no matter what you're doing, you're always optimizing. But don't jump in headfirst. Thanks again for joining me today. I hope that you learned a lot about automation, personalization, and optimization. Now you can go forth and send better email.