Introduction to email automation for small businesses

Email automation is something almost all of us have experienced at one point or another. You’ve probably received dozens of emails which have been sent as a result of it.

But how exactly does it work?

Email automation is a simple, yet highly effective tool that businesses of all sizes can use to increase open rates and drive conversions. It uses software to identify predefined rules, which trigger email messages based on specific actions your customers do or don’t take.

You may not even really think about it, but if you’ve ever signed up to a newsletter or registered a new account on a website for instance, it’s highly likely you’ll have received a welcome email almost instantly. This is because by submitting your details, you will have triggered an action which told the software to send out the relevant communication to you.

Benefits of email marketing automation

  1. It’s efficient – saving you the time of stopping what you’re doing to manually craft and send an email to a customer every time an action is taken.
  2. Helps you to connect with your customers by personalising their experience. 91% of people say that they’re more likely to use a company that sends individualised recommendations and offers.
  3. It’s automatic – which ensures you’re getting the right message out to customers at the right time.
  4. Improves customer service, which in turn helps to build brand loyalty. For example, if someone was to purchase an item from your website, they would expect to receive a confirmation email immediately afterwards.
  5. On average, automated email campaigns benefit from higher open rates. The average open rate for welcome emails is 82%, emails with personalised subject lines generate 50% higher open rates and sending three abandoned cart emails results in 69% more orders compared to a single email.
  6. It’s relevant. When someone receives an automated email, it’s because they’ve taken a specific action. As a result, the message they receive is highly relevant to them.

Types of email automation

Whether you’ve dabbled in email automation previously or looking to start using it, below are some examples of campaign ideas of how you can incorporate it within your business.

  1. Welcome emails

A simple welcome email is a great way to reassure customers that they’ve successfully registered with you. You also have the opportunity to remind customers of the ways they’ll benefit from doing business with you. For example, you could highlight free delivery, exclusive offers and news.

Welcome email

  1. Appointment reminders

You can also use email automation for appointment reminders to customers. Online bookings are a big thing these days, so automation would enable you to confirm appointments and send out reminders to people.

Many businesses also use it as an opportunity to remind customers of other information such as directions, payment details, cancellation policies and anything else customers may need before their appointment.

Appointment reminder

  1. Abandoned cart emails

Abandoned cart emails can be an effective method for turning a prospect into a customer. If someone has taken the steps to browse your website and move something into their cart, the chances are they’re very close to making a purchase.

However, any number of things could have caused them to change their mind at the very last minute – be it shipping costs or just needing a bit more time to think about their purchase.

Abandoned cart emails can help to encourage customers to make a buying decision and complete the purchase. You can do this by making it very easy for them to go through with the purchase, answer any questions they might have, remind them why they should buy your product or even offer a discount.

Abandoned Shopping Cart

  1. Exclusive offers

Another good way to show your customers you value them is to provide rewards for their loyalty.

There are a number of ways you can do this; it doesn’t have to be overly complicated.

You could send them exclusive offers to make them feel special or give them access to big promotions before opening it up to the rest of the world – this could be triggered when someone has signed up or opened a certain amount of email campaigns.

Exclusive offers

  1. Thank you emails

You can also show your customers that you value them by sending them a thank you email. If you add in a discount code, this can also encourage them to make a purchase that they weren’t even considering before your email landed in their inbox.

Thank you email

  1. Recommendations based on browsing behaviours

Email marketing automation can get very sophisticated. You can even set up communications that will be triggered after people have completed an action on your website – such as downloaded a guide, viewed certain products, or read a blog.

bareMinerals is a big fan of this. When you’ve been looking at a product on their website but haven’t gone through with the purchase, a few days later you will receive an email which shows you the items you were looking at and reminds you of a few other things they offer that you might also be interested in.

This can be a highly effective way of nudging people in the right direction to reconsider their purchase or tempt them with something else.

Recently browsed email

  1. “We haven’t seen you in a while” emails

If a customer hasn’t made a purchase or an appointment for a while, a friendly reminder that you’re here to help can be a great way to incentivise them to use your company again.

If you can, adding a discount with a time limit is also a great way to help persuade people to act fast.

We haven't seen you in a while email

  1. Request a review

Many of us search for and browse online reviews for companies and products before making a buying decision. Having reviews from real customers is a fantastic way to build trust and it can be the difference between a new customer choosing you over a competitor.

Rather than contacting each customer individually, what you can do is set up automatic emails to go out to anyone that has made a purchase and ask them to leave a review. The key is to make it as easy as possible. If it’s hard work or complicated, people are unlikely to do it.

Review email

How does email automation work?

Now you’ve got some ideas of the type of emails you can send out using automation, let’s look at how it works. Although every email automation tool won’t be exactly the same, they tend to follow the same process:

  1. A person visits a website and they perform an action such as downloading a guide, filling in a form, browsing products, booking an appointment, reading a blog or simply purchasing a product.
  2. Providing that the visitor has logged into the website, supplied their contact details and given consent, that person is added to an email marketing database.
  3. Visitors are put into different audience segments based on anything from their location and interests to their browsing and buying behaviours.
  4. Using the email marketing automation software, marketers can set triggers (rules) so that communications are sent to the right people at the right time.
  5. The recipient receives emails based on the conditions and campaigns set by the marketer.

It’s important to check your analytics regularly, so you can see how effective your campaigns have been. It’s a good idea to also test ‘we’ve missed you’ emails with and without a discount code. If the discount code communications are much more effective, you know to always try and include one in future campaigns.

Setting up email automation

From a quick internet search, you’ll see there’s no shortage of email automation platforms out there. Many of them are reasonably priced and easy to use which makes them ideal even for small businesses. If you’re already using an email marketing platform, most have detailed guides and step-by-step advice to setting up email automation within their help sections.

Popular email automation platforms include:

  • SendPulse

From abandoned cart, thank you and registration emails to confirmation, feedback and re-engagement communications, SendPulse is a great platform. The best part is if you have less than 500 subscribers – it’s free. There are various different packages available depending on how many subscribers you have starting from just under £5 a month.

  • MailChimp

As a small business you might already be familiar with MailChimp, it provides a generous free package that is very easy to use. Among many other features, MailChimp also offers email automation to help take your marketing to the next level.

  • Campaign Monitor

Another popular and highly rated platform is Campaign Monitor. You can set journeys that are tailored to a customer’s individual interests and behaviours with the added benefit of send time optimisation so you can guarantee you land in people’s inbox at the best possible moment.

  • Send in Blue

You can automate your sales and marketing processes quickly and easily with Send in Blue. There are lots of different pricing plans to suit your business, starting from a free package which allows you to send 300 emails a day right up to premium, where you can send up to 350,000 emails every month.

If you would like to compare more platforms, head to which has an up-to-date review on all the latest email automation software.

Video tutorials

You can find some useful videos on YouTube that explain everything you need to know about email marketing, such as:

By now you should have a really good idea about what email automation is and how it can benefit your business. Make sure you’re always getting the right consent and permissions to send marketing emails to keep GDPR compliant, you can find out more about GDPR in this online guide.


Originally posted by Monique Holtman on the UK Domain.

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