For Business

Email marketing tips from the experts

From top email types to tactics that drive results to avoiding the junk folder, this Q&A covers it all.


Done right, email marketing can be the difference between an email in a “Save” folder and an email in trash, or the different between a one-time customer and a long-time customer. But how do you know if you’re doing it right? And in email marketing, “right” is on a spectrum. What works for one merchant might not be the best approach for you, and what one of your customer segments wants is likely different from what other segments want.

Looking for help, we went straight to the experts at email marketing automation platform Klaviyo, a Buy with Prime Partner. We spoke with Jenn Brisebois, Principal Customer Education Specialist at Klaviyo, and she shared big-picture insights and tactics to help you get the most out of your email marketing programs.

Buy with Prime: Of the types of emails that brands can send out, how would you categorize or rank them?

Jenn: At Klaviyo, we divide our email messages into two categories: email campaigns and email automations, which we call flows. In order for brands to be successful, they need a good mix of both types of emails to support customers along their journey.

If we think about all of the interactions a customer has with a brand, we can identify the most important communication points. The absolute must-haves (or tier one) are:

  1. An automated welcome series that people receive when they opt-in to receive emails
  2. A recurring brand update (often referred to as a newsletter) that you send on a regular basis
  3. Promotional or sale event emails that get customers excited about your discounts or offers
  4. A browse abandonment automation that reminds your shoppers about the products they were looking at
  5. An abandoned cart or checkout automation that reminds shoppers about the products they have added to their cart or even started checking out before dropping off

Once you get those going, you might consider these additional flows (tier two):

  1. A thank you flow that branches based on whether someone is a new or existing customer
  2. A win-back flow that incentivizes lapsed customers to make another purchase. This is super effective with consumer-packaged goods like makeup, food, supplements, or other things that have a reliable replenishment date or life span.
  3. A sunset flow that reaches out to your lapsed subscribers and gives them one last chance to reengage.

A good tip to keep in mind is regularly cleaning your email lists to remove unengaged subscribers, which is important for both deliverability and cost control. Why pay for a bunch of contacts who are never going to engage with you?

What types of emails should merchants spend the most time and budget on?

Jenn: I’d say that it’s worth spending the time to look at your customer journey and set up your automations accordingly. Doing this audit regularly, say quarterly or biannually, can help you identify areas where you can let technology do a lot of the work of reaching out to customers for you.

Once you have automations in place, you can focus on building compelling email campaigns. Spend time segmenting your audiences and building campaigns with different types of emails that are tailored to the specific interests and buying patterns of these audiences.

What email tactics do you recommend for driving conversions, engagement, and customer loyalty?

Jenn: No matter what kind of email you’re creating, you can drive better results when you tailor the content to the individual recipients. Personalization has a lot of benefits for your brand.

  • For driving conversions: Include product recommendations or suggested content that’s related to your customer’s previous browsing or buying history. Making the content relevant to their past or in-the-moment experiences can help prompt the action you desire.
  • For greater email engagement: Send different versions of email campaigns that have different messaging or a different narrative focus based on the segment you’re targeting. You can do this based on collections of your products, buyer interests that you’ve observed, or previous buying history. And remember, always be testing to find the right mix for each of your audience segments.
  • For building customer loyalty: Having an automated “thank you flow” that branches based on whether someone is a new or existing customer is a great way to acknowledge customers when they choose to purchase. Giving them reasons to talk about your brand and incentivizing them to do so is an awesome way to turn customers into brand advocates.

Klaviyo recently released a new product called Klaviyo Reviews that allows Shopify merchants to automatically ask for reviews on products within the platform. You can offer coupon codes as a reward for customers who take the time to leave a review.

What are some best practices for personalization in email marketing for ecommerce businesses?

Jenn: As an ecommerce merchant, you’re collecting tons of valuable data about your prospects and customers. Go beyond just adding someone’s first name to the subject line or an email. Personalization can and should be so much more than that.

To achieve truly effective personalization, integrate all of your data sources into one place so that you can truly use all of your inputs. By integrating your tech stack and using a solution like Klaviyo as your customer system of record, you can create very compelling messages.

With an integrated view of your customer base, you can run smarter and more personalized programs that can help drive sales. Some examples include:

  • Retention: If you’re running a loyalty program, add a banner to every email that only shows to your loyalty segment and displays their current total rewards points (or whatever your scheme is).
  • Recommendations: Use the browsing and purchase data in your account to create personalized product feeds that automatically recommend the right products to your customers, and pop those recommendations into email campaigns.
  • Prediction: Leverage machine learning tools like predictive analytics to anticipate when someone’s expected date of next purchase is, and target them proactively with a flow reminding them to purchase.

The possibilities are truly endless, but your personalization efforts are only as good as the data you have available to use.

What’s your advice for avoiding the dreaded junk folder?

Jenn: The three basic recommendations are to avoid spammy copy in subject lines like “FREE MONEY.” Only send emails to people who have explicitly opted in, and use targeting to make sure you’re sending relevant content. But let’s talk about some of the less obvious tactics.

I cannot stress enough that repeatedly resending to “unopens” is a bad strategy and you should use it sparingly. I know you want to make sure every recipient sees your emails, but the truth is that the folks who want to open your emails will open them. If you keep sending emails to recipients who don’t engage, you actually increase your likelihood of landing in the junk folder—by a big margin.

Another great way to get more control over your sender reputation is to set up a dedicated sending domain. Email marketing providers like Klaviyo and Mailchimp always start you off by sending messages from a shared domain that’s being used by thousands of other customers of that same provider. The benefit is that the domain is already warmed and has an established reputation, so you can start sending emails right away.

But you can also choose to set up your own dedicated sending domain. Doing so allows you to match the domain of your emails to the domain of your branded website, which makes the email appear more legitimate.

Many customers ask us, “How do I get my logo to show up in Gmail or Yahoo next to my messages?” That functionality is actually called brand indicators for message identification, or BIMI, and you can only set that up if you have a dedicated sending domain. That’s a great way to add legitimacy and brand recognition in the inboxes of your intended audiences.

What are your top tips for using images and media in emails?

Jenn: This is a hot topic. A lot of smaller businesses like to create one image with a bunch of text and images all in one image file, and then include that as the body of their email. This is actually not a best practice and can be detrimental to deliverability for a few reasons. The first is that it’s not very accessible. If someone’s device can’t load the image or a person is using a screen reader, they can’t read any of the text on the image unless alt text has been added. Additionally, if the entire message is one image, you can’t create a call-to-action (CTA) button, so it’s unclear where users should click to learn more.

You want to keep the image-to-text ratio of your emails less than 50%. Image-only or image-heavy emails are much more likely to end up in a spam folder because it’s harder for email providers to decipher the content. Plus, they become bulky and might be clipped because the image file is too big.

User-generated content, including screenshots of actual customers who have tagged your brand, can be effective media to include in an email. You can also use GIFs, but just make sure the file isn’t too large. Klaviyo has a built-in clipping warning feature that shows you how likely your email is to be clipped as you build it.

A good rule of thumb is to stick to using a few images that enhance the message or that help keep the recipient focused on the copy and the CTA in the body of your email.

For more email marketing tips and best practices, check out 12 email types to maximize engagement and email tactics to build your brand and increase open rates.

The Klaviyo for Buy with Prime app empowers you to tap into automated solutions to nurture relationships with Prime members shopping on your site. The seamless integration allows you to sync order and customer data within Klaviyo to create a variety of automated email flows, including welcome flows, abandoned checkout emails, and always-on retention programs. You can further engage shoppers with advanced segmentation and personalization that can help drive conversions.

Learn more about how Buy with Prime and Klaviyo can help grow your ecommerce business.

Kelby Johnson