Table of Contents

Introduction

Marketing automation helps you reach the right people with the right content at exactly the right time, so you can eliminate repetitive tasks and focus on other parts of your business.

You can introduce folks to your company with a welcome series, get repeat customers by sharing product recommendations, re-engage lapsed customers, send happy birthday messages, and more. No matter what type of business you operate, it’s easy to set up the perfect automation for any situation.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the ways you can use MailChimp’s powerful marketing automation features to connect with—and retain—your customers, sell more stuff, and address the unique needs of your business. We’ll also show you how to learn from your reports, and share tips and examples to help you get started.

How Marketing Automation Works

Unlike one-off campaigns, automations are triggered when specific people meet the pre-defined criteria you set. For example, you could send an automated follow-up message to a customer when they buy something from your store for the first time.

MailChimp offers a number of automation types with built-in triggers for common activities, but if our pre-built options don’t address your needs, you can always create a custom automation instead.

Once you’ve chosen an automation, added your content, and set your sending criteria, MailChimp will manage your subscriber queue and email sends. After someone receives the first message in an automation series, they’ll receive every email in the series in sequence, unless they are removed from the automation.

Connect With Your New Contacts

Automation is a simple, effective way to make a powerful first impression. Reach out to your newest subscribers and customers to keep them engaged, improve retention, and cultivate lasting relationships.

  • Introduce yourself. Welcome your new subscribers with a single email—or an email series—to help them get to know your company, organization, or products.
  • Say ‘Happy Birthday’. Let your contacts know that you’re thinking about them on their birthday or anniversary. Create an automation, set it to send annually, and we’ll take care of the rest.
  • Send an educational or onboarding series. Provide new subscribers, students, or customers with the helpful resources they need to get acclimated with your organization or business.

Sell More Stuff

Once you connect your store to MailChimp, you can put your purchase data to use by creating automations that make it easy to communicate to—and follow up with—your customers, so you can drive more sales and improve your bottom line.

  • Recover abandoned carts. Reach out to customers who navigate away from their online shopping cart without completing a purchase. Send an email (or series of emails) to remind them what they’ve left behind and encourage them to return to your store. You can even add personalized product recommendations to give your customers more options and increase your conversion rate. On average, campaigns that include product recommendations generate 31% more revenue than campaigns without them.
  • Follow up on purchases. Ask for product feedback, send a quick survey, or provide customers with helpful information—like usage or care instructions—after they buy a specific product or make a purchase from a specific product category.
  • Get more out of order notifications. After a customer makes a purchase from your store, automatically send them an invoice, shipping confirmation, and other transactional notification messages. You can enable (or disable) any notification messages you need, and customize them with your brand’s logo and color palette so they match the look and feel of other campaigns you’ve created. You can even include a personal message to thank customers for their purchase or drag in a product notifications block to showcase related items.

Boost Customer Loyalty

The customers who support your business are vital to your growth and success, so it’s important to let them know they’re valued. And since retaining your existing customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, MailChimp offers several easy-to-set-up automations designed to keep bringing people back.

  • Thank first-time customers. Reach out to brand new customers who’ve just made their first purchase from your store to thank them for their business or offer a discount to encourage them to shop with you in the future.
  • Reward your best customers. Show appreciation for your most loyal customers or biggest spenders by sending them a special offer, coupon, or download.
  • Respond to subscriber updates. Automatically send an email to subscribers who join (or leave) a group in your list. Provide a sample of the new content they’ll be receiving, suggest other groups that might be of interest, or collect feedback about their experience.

Bring People Back

Automation can be a powerful asset for businesses during all stages of the customer journey, but can be especially helpful for re-engaging people who haven’t interacted with your brand recently.

  • Win back lapsed customers. Create an email or series of emails to encourage lapsed customers return to your store or re-engage with your campaigns. Showcase your latest products to customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while, or offer an incentive to potential customers who have signed up for your list but haven’t bought an item from your store just yet.
  • Improve email engagement. Automatically reach back out to subscribers who don’t open or click a link within one of your email campaigns. Or, use post-sending actions to update one of their merge fields, move those contacts to a different interest group, or remove them from your list completely.

Before You Start

Whether you create a custom automation or use one of MailChimp’s pre-built options, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before you get started.

Have you connected your store?

Throughout this guide, we’ve discussed the ways that automation can help e-commerce businesses communicate with customers and drive sales. Keep in mind, however, that many of the automations we’ve covered are dependent on data from your online store.

So, before you get started, be sure to connect your store to MailChimp. Once connected, you’ll be able to put our powerful marketing automation tools to work for you, making it easier than ever to reach your customers, build your brand, and make more money.

When should your emails send?

You can decide the timeframe and what days of the week you want your automated emails to go out. Immediately after the initial triggering action? The next day? The next week? It’s your call.

For automations that contain multiple emails, you’ll also decide on the order of the emails and how much time should pass between each new message being sent.

If you’re not sure about how to pace your content, experiment with sending at different times or in different intervals, review your reports to see how engagement and conversions have been affected, and then make any necessary adjustments.

If you have content that is likely to get missed over the weekend, don’t schedule an email for delivery on Saturdays or Sundays. The time delays you’ve built between emails will take the days you exclude into account. So, if your series has a 3-day delay between emails and one message sends on a Friday, exclude Saturdays and Sundays so the workflow will start its 3-day delay on Monday. If you want a message to go out on an annual date, you’ll want to have the option to send any day of the week.

What’s your trigger?

Our preset automations have triggers defined for you—you’ll just need to enter values for the trigger criteria. Custom automations, on the other hand, require you to define the trigger. And as mentioned earlier, every email in your automation can have its own unique trigger.

For example, if you’d like to send a follow-up email to every person that clicked a link in your last campaign, that click would be your trigger.

Inactions can also act as triggers for your automation. Maybe a subscriber opened a campaign, but didn’t click anything—that non-click can be your triggering event.

Or, you could add a customer to an automation after they join your list, send a message after they open an email, send the next after they make a purchase, and so on.

Are you targeting the right people?

A customer may like getting occasional updates about your products, but not want weekly reminders about seasonal items or sales. Consider creating groups based on the interests of your subscribers—or the frequency at which they’d like to receive your email—and developing automations that are tailored to each group.

Do your messages sound human?

The key to effective marketing automation is to create content that doesn’t sound like it’s automated. Communicate your message in a natural way, and be mindful of the voice and tone of your brand.

Example: Gauge Interactive, an agency that specializes in e-commerce design and development, strives to create automated messaging that feels authentic. They have 3 rules for writing better automation emails:

  • Don’t write like a copywriter.
  • Know your customers.
  • Think of the brand as a person.

Analyze Your Results

Automation reports are similar to your regular campaign reports, except they show complete automation statistics in addition to individual email statistics. Review your monthly performance chart to explore your automation’s open rate, click rate, and total number of emails sent for each month of activity. You’ll also find helpful trend data, so you can see how the overall automation is performing compared to your daily average.

E-commerce reports

If you’ve connected your store and created an e-commerce automation—like abandoned cart, customer re-engagement, or order notification automations, for example—your reports will contain more valuable data to help you measure your success.

You can track audience growth, campaign engagement, the number of orders you’ve received, and the amount of revenue you’ve generated. Then, review individual emails in the series for an even closer look at conversions, geolocation data, and more.

Learn from your data

Your reports contain a lot of valuable information that you can use to make adjustments to your automations or inform other elements of your marketing.

For example, once your reports start to populate, you notice that certain emails have better engagement or generate more revenue than others. Maybe you’ll find that your automation is more effective when you offer incentives. Perhaps your audience responds better when you use a certain template, a direct call to action, or a descriptive subject line. You might even notice that the timing if your automation emails or the number of emails within an automation series have an impact on engagement or revenue.

No matter what your reports reveal to you, don’t be afraid to be proactive. Whether that means testing different content, adjusting the length and delay of your automation series, or something else entirely, it’s never too late to review your reports, improve your performance, and build on your success.

Inspiration

Here are a few MailChimp customers that do a great job with automation.

  • Happy Socks built an automation series that sends to customers immediately after they’ve made their first purchase. The 3-part series thanks the customer for their patronage, introduces them to the Happy Socks brand and selection of products, and offers a promo code to incentive a follow-up purchase. This automation has resulted in a 20% higher open rate and 50% higher click rate than their average campaign.
  • Gauge Interactive uses automation to help their clients reach customers with relevant, valuable information at the right time, but they’re not afraid to try something new if an automation isn’t working. “You have to continually test,” business analyst DJ Henley says. “Create a hypothesis, run the automated series, and then look at open rates, click rates, and revenue. Does it match your hypothesis? If not, pivot.”
  • After testing a few different incentives in their abandoned cart automations, Topo Designs learned which type of offer resonated best with their customers—and was the most beneficial for their bottom line. Today, their abandoned cart emails consistently achieve a 20% click rate.
  • Bee’s Wrap, a company that produces a reusable food storage wrap made out of fabric and beeswax, has grown their list substantially and organically by adding a popup form to their website, offering a 15% discount to new subscribers, and then sending a welcome automation series.
  • Fjällräven, a Swedish company that specializes in outdoor accessories and apparel, uses MailChimp automation to introduce new signups to their brand. The series includes details about the company’s sustainability efforts, the materials they make, and provides links to their social channels and products.

More Resources

In this guide, we’ve covered the basics of marketing automation in MailChimp, but there are a bunch of other resources available to help you get started.

  • Visit our Knowledge Base for helpful articles, walkthroughs, and tutorials about marketing automation.
  • Our Integrations Directory contains hundreds of integrations with the web services and platforms that businesses use each day, making it easy to sync your data, import content, grow your list, and more.
  • You can connect with third-party MailChimp experts for help with anything from strategy and design to development work with the API in our Experts Directory.
  • We’ve got a number of other resource guides, a lot of research to share, and a Skillshare class with tips for increasing online sales.
  • Our helpful support team that can assist you if you run into any trouble along the way.