All eCommerce retailers have an email marketing programme but very often this means a one-size-fits all schedule. However, by setting up a marketing automation programme, retailers can set up triggers so that specific emails get sent out to customers automatically.

A lot of retailers fear setting up a complex automation system because it sounds so very complicated. However, email marketing platforms are so sophisticated these days that it’s actually very easy for any retailer or marketer to set up.

Marketing automation can really make the most of your database and the knowledge you hold about your customers' behaviour, which – if done correctly – can increase your online sales enormously.

Take a read through these set-up tips to help you start on the right path.

1. Get the basics right

​Our advice to retailers is to always start small but scale up quickly. From the beginning, make sure you understand the email marketing technology you're using and how to get the most from it.

Also have a think about what you already know about your customers and how can you leverage that knowledge along with the existing content you have to target them most effectively.

2. Focus on the customer experience

​People might be buying online, but that doesn't mean the purchase journey should be completely de-humanised. Think about the service and experience people enjoy in their local shop or bar – the bartender will probably know what their usual drink is, for example.

Technology shouldn't be a barrier to creating the same personal experience during the eCommerce purchase journey – it's not difficult to do and can result in significant ROI if done right.

3. Get the business strategy right and the email marketing strategy will follow

So often when a retailer comes to us asking for an email marketing strategy, it becomes apparent that what they actually need is a refined business strategy – because if the business strategy is right then the best approach for email marketing is easily defined.

With really clear business goals, it's straightforward to then start channelling customers down the right pathway in order to meet those sales targets – whether that's linked to a specific product, geographical area or upselling strategy.

Once the email marketing strategy has been developed then it's essential to start reviewing and tweaking it on an ongoing basis - only then can you be sure you're getting the best results possible.

4. Don't be afraid of sending lots of emails

​It's understandable that brands are fearful of becoming known for 'spamming'.  However, I would argue that every time an email is sent it's an opportunity to make money – so why wouldn't you do it as often as possible?

Increasing the rate at which you send emails forces a more strategic approach to the segmentation and targeting. As always, it's important to test every segment you create and if there was an increase in sales.

Make sure you're emailing the right message to the right people as often as they'll tolerate and if it's interesting and relevant people will engage with you.

5. Get the function right but don't forget about the form too

Think about just how many emails people receive and look at on a daily basis. There's a limit to the number of brands they're going to engage with on email, so if you want to be one of those then it doesn't end with the technical set up of your email, such as the segmentation or the messaging.

We very often see emails that, while technically correct and fully functional, completely fail when it comes to the way they look.

Think very carefully about the design of your email and you only have a split-second to grab the attention of the customer. Having a well-designed and eye-catching email is just as important as getting the offer and the messaging correct.

Tink Taylor is the founder and COO of email marketing provider dotMailer, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this month, with a platform re-launch.

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