How To Create Email Campaigns Shopping

How to create email campaigns for eCommerce customers

17 min read
Anthony Capetola

Why ponder how to create email campaigns? Well, in the retail world, whether online or offline, there are only two things better than making a sale:

  • Making more than one sale in a single transaction.
  • Making more money from a single sale than originally anticipated.

In a traditional retail setting (i.e., a brick-and-mortar store), these upselling and cross-selling opportunities typically occur “on the fly,” so to speak, in that the salesperson can interact with the customer then and there in order to gain the information necessary to make such offers to them.

In the eCommerce world, the process of upselling and cross-selling is a bit different, especially when you look at how to create email campaigns.

While upselling and cross-selling via email inherently detracts from the “real-time” nature of traditional upselling and cross-selling, this method does have its fair share of advantages:

  • It allows you to reach out to current customers with offers of additional value.
  • It enables you to dig deep into your individual customer histories to pinpoint the perfect up- or cross-sell offer for a given consumer.
  • It allows you to collect even more data on your customers (e.g., whether they engaged with the up- or cross-sell email, took you up on your offer, etc.) which you can then use to improve future initiatives.

In this article, we’re going to go over some of the benefits as well as basic principles of upselling and cross-selling and then dig into how an eCommerce business can implement these strategies (along with examples) within your email marketing playbook.

Related: Upselling and cross-selling techniques for online stores

The benefits of upselling and cross-selling

The main benefit of upselling and cross-selling is probably pretty clear by now:

The more successful you are at both, the more money you’ll make for your company.

But let’s dig a bit deeper:

  • According to Econsultancy, upselling increases ecommerce sales by an average of 4 percent, and cross-selling increases sales by an average of 3 percent.
  • The probability of successfully up- or cross-selling a current customer is 60 to 70 percent, while the probability of selling to a new customer is, at most, 20 percent.
  • Successful up- and cross-sells inherently increase your average order value (AOV), as well as customer lifetime value.

As you can see upselling and cross-selling to current customers is not only more cost-effective than trying to acquire new customers — they’re also more likely to be successful.

Not only that, but upselling and cross-selling provides an opportunity to deepen your customers’ engagement with your brand.

First of all, these tactics allow you to showcase your company’s most valuable products and/or services — in essence showing your customers how much more they stand to receive from you if they so choose.

As email persuasion engineer Sophia Le points out:

“Think of upselling & cross-selling as a way to adding value to the customer experience. Its goal is to eliminate the inconvenience of having a ‘Damn, I should have bought that too’ moment.”

Additionally, as we’ll talk about later in this article, learning how to create email campaigns for upselling and cross-selling provides you with an opportunity to create personalized offers tailored to a specific customer’s individual needs and wants.

This kind of personalization could include an email from a clothing store that recommends a jacket that matches a pair of pants previously purchased by the customer.

By providing such individualized attention to each of your customers, you’ll inherently increase their trust in your brand moving forward.

Of course, everything we’ve discussed so far depends on your ability to truly provide added value to your customers’ experiences via upselling and cross-selling. Without further ado, then, let’s get into how to make that happen.

Basic principles of upselling and cross-selling via email

Above all else, upselling and cross-selling must be done with the specific needs of the individual customer in mind. In other words, providing the same upsell or cross-sell offers to all of your customers simply won’t be effective.

For example, given two individuals looking to purchase the exact same automobile model, the one who travels often would likely be interested in adding an internal navigation system, while the other might be more intrigued by heated leather seats.

Note: In order to provide such tailored offers to your eCommerce customers, segmentation is essential.

Alon Popilskis, email marketing and SEO consultant, had the following to say:

“When providing upgrades or supplemental products to your customers, you also want to keep their options relatively limited. For one thing, doing so furthers the level of personalization you provide each customer (as in, you’ve chosen three to five specific items that specifically provide value to that specific individual), proving to them that you truly care about their needs.

Additionally, narrowing your suggestions helps your customers avoid a case of ‘analysis paralysis,’ in which the prospect has too wide a variety of options to choose from causing them to not choose any at all.”

Related: How to use personalization to increase sales

How To Create Email Campaigns Personalization
Photo: Amazon

This is why companies often choose to create product “bundles,” essentially making the customer’s decision for them.

Another basic principle we’ll discuss here applies not just to upselling and cross-selling, but to doing business overall don’t force, trick, shame or otherwise coerce your customers into buying something they don’t want to buy.

Always keep in mind that upsell and cross-sell offers are added bonuses and that the customer is under no obligation to accept them. Even if they do end up going along with an upsell or cross-sell after being pressured into it, it might very well be the last time they do business with your company.

Simply put: Make the offer, but don’t press the issue.

Keeping these principles in mind, let’s now dig into how to use email to provide upsell and cross-sell offers to your customers.

How to create email campaigns to successfully upsell and cross-sell your customers

As we discussed earlier, upselling and cross-selling via email is done a bit differently than when done in “real-time.” This is mainly because a decision to make a purchase (or not to do so, as the case might be) has already been made.

Because of this, you’ll have more to work with in terms of information about the customer in question. In turn, you’ll be able to approach your upsell or cross-sell offer from one of two ways: based on the product in question, or on the customer’s behavior during their previous shopping sessions.

Let’s take a look at how to make the most out of each method separately.

Product-based upsell and cross-sell emails

When offering upsells and cross-sells based on the product purchased by a customer, you’ll want to do so at three different points in time:

  • Immediately after the purchase is made
  • After a certain period of time (in which the length of time is determined by the product purchased)
  • After you’ve released an upgraded version of the product purchased

Let’s start from the top.

Immediate upsell and cross-sell offers

As far as mimicking real-time upselling and cross-selling goes, this is about as close as you can get via email.

Your goal, here, is to reach out to your customers immediately after they’ve made a purchase in an effort to catch them while they’re still in “buying mode.” Hopefully, they’ll still be sitting at their computer, or still have their phone in hand, by the time your email hits their inbox.

Now, most individuals typically expect to receive a confirmation email once they place an online order — so they’ll likely be on the lookout for something in their inbox from your company after doing so in the first place.

While many companies use confirmation emails as an opportunity to provide recommendations for future purchases, this practice lacks the immediacy we’re focusing on.

How To Create Email Campaigns Amazon
Photo: Amazon

Rather than providing product recommendations to be considered in a future order, your confirmation email can serve as a way for the customer to edit their order before it ships. Take a look at how Dollar Shave Club does this:

Again, immediacy is key here. While the customer is, of course, free to order the items in the above example whenever they want, Dollar Shave Club serves up a reminder that their next monthly shipment is about to be sent out — meaning they’ll have to wait another month to add anything else unless they act quickly.

A few more ways you might use confirmation emails to make immediate upsells or cross-sells:

  • Cross-selling accessories, such as guitar strings and picks to a customer who just ordered a new electric guitar.
  • Offering insurance or protection plans to the customer before an expensive product is shipped out.
  • Providing one last chance for a customer to order a more advanced model of an item (rather than the baseline version).

Of course, you don’t want to hold your customer’s order hostage or anything — again, this will almost certainly turn them off to your brand moving forward. Rather, you’ll want to provide them with a time limit in which they’ll have the option of editing their order — which should essentially correspond with the amount of time it takes your company to process the order on your end.

If they don’t respond in time, simply move forward with processing the order as is.

Upsell/cross-sell offer after time has passed

OK, we know how ambiguous this sounds. But hear us out:

Here’s another reason to learn how to create email campaigns: upselling or cross-selling after they’ve had a chance to use a given product for some time.

This opportunity will arise for one of two reasons:

  • The product in question is a consumable or is subject to wear and tear.
  • The customer will want more value after experiencing all the initial product has to offer.

Regarding the first scenario, the case might be that your product, by nature, will be used up or degrade over time (ink cartridges, for example, don’t last forever; neither do sneakers).

In the case of consumables, you might offer the customer an opportunity to make a bulk purchase at a discounted price right around the time the customer would be placing a new order. For products that degrade over time, you might shoot them an email offering similar products that offer a bit more value than the item they’re currently using.

Referring to the second scenario, you’d also want to present a more valuable and advanced product to your customers once they’ve gotten full use out of their initial purchase. Say, again, you sell musical equipment and accessories — if a customer purchases a songbook for beginner-level guitar players, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll want to buy a more advanced book later on down the road.

Now, in all of these scenarios, the burning question is:

When should you send these offers?

The answer lies in the purchase histories of both your individual customers and your customer segments as a whole.

Focusing on the individual customer, you might notice that a specific customer reorders the same amount of printer paper every three months. Knowing this, you’d want to email them a few days before their next anticipated purchase with offers relating to their typical order (e.g., ink cartridges, higher-quality printer paper, or even simply a larger stock of the same type of paper).

To help inform your timing in this aspect, you’ll also want to look at the purchase patterns of your customer segments, as well as your entire customer base as a whole.

Referring back the guitar lesson example, you might find that customers typically purchase additional books and materials six months after they buy the beginner-level book. Again, you’d want to send an individual customer an email just before the six-month mark with such an offer not only to remind them of what your store has to offer — but also to show that you’ve had their progress in mind the whole time.

You also might choose to look internally, as well, to get a good idea of how long a specific product typically lasts in the hands of your customers. With this information in hand, you can, again, get a pretty good idea of when they’ll be in need of an upgrade — and can pinpoint the optimal moment to offer it to them. (Of course, you’ll have automated this process. — but your customer doesn’t need to know that, right?)

New release upsells and cross-sells

This is a bit more straightforward — and probably a bit more obvious, too: Whenever you release an updated version of a product or an item that relates to a specific product in one way or another, you’ll want to let your customers know about it.

While it might be tempting to send a blast email to all of your customers in a case such as this, it’s a bit more prudent — and likely more effective — to send the email only to the customers that the announcement is relevant to. This is especially true if the products you offer vary widely (e.g., if you sell a variety of outdoor equipment, from surfing gear to skis and snowboards).

Again, segmentation plays a huge role. The more you know about your customers, the more relevant of an offer you can provide each and every one of them via email.

Related: What information you should include in your buyer persona customer profile

Behavior-based upsell and cross-sell emails

Another way to learn how to create email campaigns for upselling or cross-selling is to focus on your customer’s behavior and habits with regard to engaging with your brand.

In this section, we’re actually going to focus on those on opposite sides of the “customer spectrum,” so to speak.

First, we’ll focus on how to use email to upsell and cross-sell to brand loyalists. We’ll then talk about how to do so with your most hesitant of customers: cart abandoners.

Upselling and cross-selling to brand loyalists

As we said earlier, it’s much easier — and more cost-effective — to sell to your current customers. This especially applies to your most loyal followers.

That said, it simply makes sense that you’d want to focus a decent amount of your email marketing efforts by learning how to upsell and cross-sell these customers.

In addition to using the tactics we discussed in the previous section, you can also create more open-ended offers (i.e., upsells and cross-sells) to these individuals by providing them access to a loyalty program.

Let’s use Starbucks’ Green- and Gold-Member program as an example. To become a Green-level member of the coffee company’s loyalty program, you need to earn five points, or stars.

How To Create Email Campaigns Starbucks
Photo: Starbucks

Once a customer reaches Green-level status, Starbucks sends them an email informing them of such — as well as instructing them as to what they’ll need to do to reach Gold-level status.

Once an individual reaches Gold level, they’ll be sent periodic emails (as well as in-app messages) that point them toward a number of different offers (e.g., drink specials and other products) that only they are privy to.

Additionally, Starbucks often challenges Gold-level members to make a certain amount of purchase — or purchase a variety of items — within a given period of time in exchange for additional stars. Starbucks leverages the fact that loyal customers are typically more apt to make additional purchases to upsell and cross-sell to them as much as possible.

The lesson here is that while you do want to remain cognizant of your individual customers’ needs and reasons for doing business with your company, you also want to recognize that your most loyal customers are much more likely to expand their purchasing horizons than your more low-value customers are.

Consider introducing your high-value customers to your other products — and begin the process of learning how to upsell and cross-sell them in this new area moving forward.

Upselling and cross-selling to cart abandoners

On the other side of the spectrum, our prospects and potential customers that have abandoned a purchase right before actually converting.

While using email marketing to re-engage cart abandoners is a topic all on its own, we, of course, want to focus on how to do so using upsells and cross-sells.

Perhaps you’re shaking your head, here, thinking, “Wait — if they didn’t make a purchase in the first place, what makes you think they’d come back in order to spend even more money than they originally wanted to?”

The answer: Because you’re going to provide them with more value than they were going to get from their original order.

Take a look at this cart abandonment email from PacSun:

This customer seemed to have a brand new outfit picked out, from a new hat down to a choice of shorts or pants. Playing things from an optimistic standpoint, PacSun provides a number of related items that complete the outfit — or create a brand new one.

While you might at first think a customer abandoned their cart because they didn’t want to make a purchase, you also want to consider the possibility that they were actually looking for more to buy before they confirmed their order.

In other words, there’s a decent chance that a customer who abandons their cart will actually be more receptive to an upsell or cross-sell offer than an individual who comes to your site looking to make a specific purchase.

Perhaps your cart abandoners just need a little nudge in the right direction.

We mentioned bundles in passing earlier on, but it’s definitely worth revisiting the topic here.

In this example, The Honest Company offers 40 percent off to individuals who abandoned their cart — but the discount only applies if they purchase the package deal.

Going back to the notion of limiting your customers’ options with regard to upselling or cross-selling, offering a bundle package at a discounted rate makes the customer’s options crystal clear: take the cross-sell offer and save, or purchase individual items at full price.

Another way to incentivize additional purchases from your cart abandoners is to offer discounts or free shipping after they reach a certain spend threshold.

Wrapping up how to create email campaigns

It’s basically Business 101: The more products you sell — and the more valuable the products are — the more money you’ll make.

Taking things a step further, the more you sell — and the fewer amount of resources you need to invest in each sale — the better off your business will be.

While upselling and cross-selling via email is quite different from doing so in person and in real-time, the fundamentals remain the same: As long as you continue providing value to your individual customers, they’re bound to continue giving you their business.

Related: Beginner’s email marketing guide for small businesses

Products Used