How to use email automation to meet your subscribers where they are

Does the thought of automation conjure up images of robotic emails and generic content?

If so, we’re going to break that misconception today. 

The truth is, following email automation best practices can help you create a more personalized relationship with your subscribers – not less.

Your subscribers expect human experiences from you. 84% of customers and 83% of B2B buyers say that the key to winning their business is by treating them like a human being – rather than just a number. 

In this post, we’ll go over current best practices for using automation in your email marketing strategy and provide some examples that get it right.

12 email automation best practices to meet subscribers where they’re at and personalize every interaction

When given the choice, customers prefer to communicate with brands through email. 

email automation best practices to know in 2020

Source: DMA

57% of people prefer email pre-purchase, while nearly 70% of people choose email communication post-purchase. Email is convenient because people can handle the conversation on their own schedule. 

Email also makes it easy to personalize every interaction with your subscribers, which is what they want and expect. 67% say they expect brands to adjust content based on data and context. Meanwhile, over 40% get frustrated or annoyed when brands don’t. 

Automation works. Automated emails deliver more than 70% higher open rates and 152% higher click rates.

By understanding the current email automation best practices, you can create a seamless experience that your subscribers will love. 

1. Start with a clean email list 

An effective email automation strategy starts with a healthy email list. 

Sending emails to people who either didn’t explicitly sign up for your list or haven’t opened your content in months can seriously hurt your delivery rates. 

If your bounce rate has crept up to 5% or more, or subscribers are routinely marking your content as spam, it may be worthwhile to clean up your email list before you try to implement automation strategies. 

Email clients like Gmail have automaton in place to help subscribers clean up their own inboxes. It’s important for marketers to do the same.

keep your list clean for email automation best practices

Source: Gmail

2. Break up your audience into different segments

When you send the same email to your entire subscriber list, it’s nearly impossible to make your content relevant enough to grab anyone’s attention. 

One of the email automation best practices you can adopt is separating your subscriber list into distinct groups based on unique demographics – like age, gender, content preferences, geolocation, whether they’re a parent, etc.

Segmented campaigns tend to generate 760% more revenue simply because they’re more relevant.

Cottage Inn segmented this campaign based on two factors: Location and whether the subscriber had already signed up for their contest. The subject line said, “Don’t forget to sign up” and the body content contains the restaurant location where the subscriber typically places their order.

segment your list for email automation best practices

Source: Gmail

3. Create a welcome email series 

Did you know that welcome emails generate 50% open rates on average? That means these emails are 86% more effective than average newsletters. 

You can optimize and automate your welcome email series to enjoy the best results. Put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes when you design the content. 

Consider setting up unique workflows for different lead magnets, blog posts, or landing pages where someone might provide their email address so you can personalize their experience. 

Coursera sent two personalized welcome emails when this student signed up for a new course. It contains useful information about the course, and one of them is addressed from the instructor. 

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generatedset up a welcome email for email automation best practices

Source: Gmail

The Washington Post also sends out an extremely useful yet simple welcome email to new customers.

set up a welcome email for email automation best practices

Source: Gmail

4. Find your niche in personalization

Don’t stress out too much about making your personalized content over-the-top. Instead, gradually introduce personalization into your workflow. 

Companies like Amazon and Spotify have changed the game and made hyper-personalization standard. 

Don’t worry – modern email service providers like Emma make it easy to create highly personalized campaigns based on data you already have.

At first glance, this Peloton newsletter seems a bit random, but it’s actually highly personalized with content for parents interested in getting back into a workout routine.

Peloton email automation best practices

Source: Milled 

5. Optimize transactional emails

Transactional emails have over eight times higher open rates and generate six times more revenue than standard campaigns. Almost everyone opens their transactional emails because they contain useful information about a purchase, password, registration, or order. 

Of course, you don’t want to clutter your transactional emails since customers open them for specific reasons. However, you can optimize them for branding, upselling, and usefulness. 

Dunkin Donuts follows email automation best practices by sending out this campaign when a subscriber’s balance is running low to help build brand loyalty. The email contains a useful link for refilling the card.

optimize transactional emails for email automation best practices

Source: Really Good Emails

6. Don’t forget their birthday

Birthday emails are also important campaigns to automate because they help build a connection with your subscribers. Everyone likes to feel special.

Plus, they deliver 342% more revenue, 481% higher conversion rates, and 179% more unique clicks. Yep, you definitely don’t want to forget anyone’s birthday.

Runtastic sent this birthday campaign with a hefty 50% discount.

Birthday emails for email automation best practices

Source: Gmail

7. Incorporate dynamic content 

Dynamic content is neat because you can provide subscribers with a hyper-personalized experience without doing too much work.

You only have to design one email – that’s it. 

If one subscriber prefers running and another subscriber enjoys kayaking, each of them can get unique emails. Here’s what that might look like on their end.

use dynamic content for email automation best practices

Source: Emma

8. Re-engage inactive customers or subscribers

You can also use email automation best practices to reconnect with dormant customers.

Samsung managed to figure out that this customer had switched to a more affordable competitor, so they sent out this email with the subject line, “We’ve missed you, let’s catch up,” and included a buy-one-get-one offer. 

win back customers with email automation best practices

Source: Gmail

9. Set up an email preference center

A preference center makes it easy for your subscribers to tell you exactly what they want from your emails. 

Rather than guessing how often to send emails, what type of products they prefer, and which topics they want to learn about – just ask.

Don’t send a subscriber on their way when they sign up for your list – forward them to a landing page where they can set their preferences right away. Here’s what new subscribers see right after they sign up for Lululemon’s list.

set up a preference center for email automation best practices

Source: Lululemon

A preference landing page makes it easy to send personalized content right away.

It’s also a smart idea to include a link to your preference center at the bottom of every email next to your required unsubscribe link. That way, subscribers know they can adjust their preferences instead of unsubscribing if something isn’t working out.

Brooks Running offers a nicely detailed preference center.

set up a preference center for email automation best practices

Source: Gmail

10. Track your results and adapt

You’ll never know whether your tactics are working if you don’t track your results and look for patterns. 

Modern email service providers make it easy to see who opens, clicks, and converts through your emails instantly. 

email automation best practices for analytics

Source: Emma

A/B testing is also an important part of nailing down unique email automation best practices for your specific brand. Instead of guessing what type of content will work best for different segments of your audience, you can run small-scale tests.

11. Create a seamless experience across multiple channels

The best marketers understand that subscribers consume content on different platforms all day long. 

That means you’ll want to decide which messages to repeat across different channels, which subscribers to retarget, and how to blend your strategy. 

For example, you can easily track who hasn’t RSVP’d to your event through email and retarget them with relevant content on Facebook to create a seamless experience. 

Patreon sent this email encouraging donors to share their activity on Twitter.

email automation best practices for a seamless experience

Source: Really Good Emails

12. Use a conversational tone 

Finally, to create a warm and welcoming experience for your subscribers, it’s important to write as though you’re speaking to one person. 

People prefer email over other channels because it’s less noisy and impersonal than social media. One tactic is to author your email campaigns from specific people at your company, such as the head of marketing or sales. 

Cornell sends all of their marketing from their online program from the enrollment coordinator so it creates a one-on-one conversation.

email automation best practices for conversational tone

Source: Gmail

Wrap Up

Automation doesn’t have to be robotic or disconnected. Following email automation best practices can help you create a unique and human connection with your subscribers. Remember to:

  • Set up automated sequences like welcome, thank you, transactional, and birthday emails

  • Use dynamic content for a hyper-personalized experience 

  • Re-engage old customers with automated campaigns

  • Use a conversational tone to create a connection

  • Use data and metrics to optimize your campaigns and make a seamless experience

Subscribers want timely and relevant content. Check out our ultimate automation toolkit and start creating emails that deliver results.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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