Every customer at your eCommerce store is on a journey. And while each customer’s individual journey can vary, there is an ideal path you want them to take. Your goal is to take a website visitor and turn them into a customer… turn a customer into a repeat customer… and turn a repeat customer into a loyal brand evangelist that tells everyone they know about your brand. 

Of course, not every customer will follow that path. Some might subscribe to your email list but never wind up buying. Some might make only one purchase and never return for another. Some might quickly become repeat customers, then gradually disappear. It’s not easy keeping customers on the ideal journey and there’s some amount of expected drop off at every step.

But strategic, well-timed emails can help. In this article, we’re going to cover seven crucial moments in the customer journey mapping and the key email to send at each of those moments to keep your customers moving down the optimum path.

A visitor subscribes to your email list

Key email: Welcome new subscriber

Goal: Turn a prospect into a customer

One of your top of the sales funnel goals is to capture “interested prospects” who visit your site but aren’t ready to make a purchase. One excellent way is to get those prospects to join your email list—that gives you a way to keep in touch and work your magic to turn them into a customer.

A welcome email, or series of emails, is the best way to kick off a relationship with a new subscriber/prospective customer. Subscribers who read a welcome email go on to read 40 percent more of your emails over the next six months—and the more emails they read (and digital marketing messages from you they absorb), the more confident you can be that they’ll turn into a customer.

Use your welcome email, or series, to introduce your brand, show off some of the best products you offer, and possibly offer a time-limited welcome discount to really encourage the subscriber to make a purchase.

Here’s an example of a subscriber welcome email from Bodybuilding.com. It greets (and, because of the nature of the business, gives some motivation to) the customer, introduces the brand, and sets expectations for future emails. It then links to four key areas around the site: A member zone, two different content categories in the blog, and shopping deals. The goal there is to catch a subscriber’s eye with something that motivates them to return to the site and continue their journey toward becoming a customer. 

Someone adds a product to their cart but doesn’t finish checking out

Key email: Cart abandonment recovery series

Goal: Turn a very interested potential customer into a customer

Roughly 70 percent of carts are abandoned, which means for every 100 orders you receive, you’ll have around 230 abandoned carts. When a first-time (or even longtime) customer abandons their cart, you need to be ready with an email series to try to bring them back to complete the checkout process. The customer feedback has demonstrated a legitimate interest in your products—enough to put them in their shopping cart—and with the right messaging, you can entice the customer to come back to your store. At Jilt, we’ve found an average recovery rate of about 12 percent—but that can push up to 15 or even 20 percent with a great recovery series.

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Use your cart abandonment emails to remind the customer what’s in their cart, to clear up any questions that might have caused the customer to hesitate on making the purchase, and to create a sense of urgency and scarcity around the products they wanted.

Here’s a cart recovery email from Ruggable that sweetens the pot with a 10 percent off deal. The email focuses on promoting the deal, and reminding the customer of what’s in their cart—and the call-to-action buttons in both sections lead right back to the abandoned cart.

A customer makes their first purchase

Key email: Thank you email

Goal: Kick off a strong customer relationship as you push toward the second purchase

When a customer makes a purchase, they’ll (almost certainly) receive an order receipt from your store. A thank you email is different. While the receipt covers the details of the transaction (what they purchased, how much it cost, where it’s being shipped), a thank you email is all about building and growing the customer relationship.

The thank you email can be the first email in a post-purchase welcome or onboarding series, or it can stand alone. The goals are to get the customer excited about what they bought, introduce your brand’s voice and personality, and begin the push toward getting the customer to make another purchase.

The period after a customer makes their first purchase is one of the most make-or-break moments in the customer journey map. After the first purchase, there’s only a 10 percent chance a customer will return to your store. After the second purchase, that jumps to 45 percent. After the third purchase, that’s up to 54 percent. And on those visits, there’s about a 60 to 70 percent chance they won’t just browse, they’ll make a purchase. In other words, the more purchases someone makes from your store, the more likely they are to keep coming back to buy more. 

You can use the thank you email or series to cross-sells and upsell customers, and/or to offer them a discount as an incentive to come back—after all, the goal here is to bring them back so they’ll make that all-important second purchase.

This post-purchase email from Birchbox (the first of a four-email welcome series) starts with a friendly headline and the first sentence of the intro paragraph follows suit—but from there, there’s a quick transition into bringing the customer back to the site by focusing on content. The call-to-action (“Read now”) backs up that mission.

A customer makes another purchase

Key email: VIP/loyalty program invitation

Goal: Turn a repeat customer into a top spender and brand evangelist

As we said above, turning a customer into a repeat customer is critical—and a VIP or loyalty program can help with the process. After a customer has made multiple purchases, an invitation to a VIP or loyalty program can solidify your relationship with them and provide an incentive to make more purchases in the future.

This is also a great way to transition the customer into the pinnacle of the journey: A frequent, repeat buyer and brand evangelist. Your loyalty program can (and should) incentivize the customer to keep making more purchases to attain rewards—and also to recommend your brand to friends.

One study found after a customer makes 10 purchases from a store, they’ll refer an average of seven customers. Those customers will go on to spend around 75 percent of what the initial customer spent. 

Here’s a loyalty program email from Kids Foot Locker that’s very straightforward. It lays out the perks of joining the VIP program—all perks, you’ll notice, that will keep customers returning to the site and buying more. The email also introduces the higher tier (“Platinum status”) as a goal for customers to strive for to receive even more lucrative perks.

A customer’s supply of a product is running out

Key email: Replenishment reminder

Goal: Make it so easy that a customer can’t help but reorder

When a customer purchases a consumable product from you, you’ll naturally want them to purchase more when they run out. Not only is that an easy, recurring sale for you, but if a customer gets in the habit of buying from you, it could mean many more easy, recurring sales down the road.

That’s where replenishment reminders come in. Replenishment reminders are an effective sales tool; studies have found they have extremely high open rates and click-through rates because customers appreciate them. That’s because a replenishment reminder is, on some level, a service to the customer: Now they don’t have to worry about remembering to reorder protein powder or dog food or whatever they’re running out of, because you’ve remembered for them.

Here’s an example of a replenishment reminder from Chemist Warehouse for Regaine (called Rogaine in the U.S., for anyone wondering if this is a generic knockoff). This reminder goes out before the customer’s supply runs out and also cross-sells some related products to push up the average order value. It has just one call to action (“Continue shopping”) to bring the customer back to the site to replenish their Regaine supply and, possibly, buy a few other products as well.

A customer’s membership is close to expiring

Key email: Pre-expiration notice

Goal: Get the member to renew without any lapse

If you run a membership website, it’s extremely important to get your members to renew. (All of the principles we discussed earlier in this article about the value of repeat customers apply to members, too.) Pre-expiration notices are one of the most important emails for membership sites and go out to members before their membership lapses, reminding them of all the great perks they’ll lose if they don’t renew.

These emails also perform extremely well. At Jilt, the average numbers we see from sites using the native integration between WooCommerce Memberships and Jilt are very impressive: 43 percent open rate, 14 percent click-through rate, 32 percent click-to-open rate. Much like replenishment reminders, pre-expiration notices can feel like a service to your members—they don’t have to worry about remembering when to renew, you’re letting them know.

Here’s an example of a pre-expiration notice from AMC Stubs, a membership program from AMC movie theaters. It goes out seven days before the membership expires, which creates a sense of urgency to renew fast. The email reiterates the perks of the membership and does a good job framing the value proposition. (“Pays for itself in only 3-4 visits, so if you go to the movies a handful of times a year — what are you waiting for?”)

A customer has stopped making purchases

Key email: Win-back

Goal: Re-engage the customer

We hope every one of your customers becomes a loyal, repeat buyer who never falls off the optimum path—but, of course, that’s simply unrealistic. Churn is inevitable, as customers’ needs and wants ebb and flow, and you’ll often come across customers who have stopped making regular purchases from your store. 

That’s where win-back emails come in. These personalized emails go out to customers who haven’t made a purchase in a specified timeframe and attempt to re-engage them. They’re a final attempt to continue the customer relationship as well; if a customer doesn’t respond to your win-back emails, it’s smart to purge them from your email lists for list hygiene and deliverability purposes.

Win-backs don’t have the highest open rate (right around 12 percent)—but considering that they’re going out to otherwise dormant customers, that’s not too bad.  

Here’s an example of the second email in a win-back series from West Elm. It uses an eye-catching but non-accusatory subject like (“We STILL miss you”) and offers a unique discount code. The email also presents “new styles you’ve been missing”—it’s good to showcase new products or features in a win-back email as a lapsed customer might not know about them.

Key takeaways

Every existing customer at your eCommerce store is on a journey, and your goal is to keep them on the ideal path toward becoming a repeat customer and brand advocate. To continue to nudge them along that path, you can use strategic emails at different key stages in the customer journey.

When an interested prospect subscribes to your list, that’s a good time to send a welcome new subscriber email to turn that prospect into a customer.

When someone adds a product to their cart but doesn’t finish checking out, a cart abandonment recovery email can bring them back to your store to close the sale.

After a customer makes their first purchase, a thank you email or series kicks off your relationship with that customer and begins to push them toward the all-important second purchase.

When a customer makes another purchase, that’s a good time to send them an invitation to a VIP/loyalty program to incentivize them to continue buying from you.

When you project a customer’s supply of a product is low, send a replenishment reminder to bring them back to your site to reorder.

When a membership is about to expire, send pre-expiration notices to remind the member to renew without any lapse in perks and benefits.

And finally, when a customer becomes inactive, use a win-back email or series as one last attempt to get them buying from you again.

Author Bio

Sam Greenspan is a Content Marketer at Jilt. He is based out of El Segundo, California, where he has great views of both the Pacific Ocean and Chevron refinery. He’s a veteran blogger as well as a board game inventor, t-shirt collector, and guy that random people instinctively stop on the street for help fixing their phones.