Every email you send is a customer touchpoint. Each email should have a clear business goal, provide value to the end-user, and have a CTA describing the next action the reader should take. Make sure each email focuses on only one thing. Don’t lump a sale with a product announcement with your latest blog post.

Below, you’ll notice some overlap between email types (e.g., is a newsletter with a discount the same as a sales and promotion email?). The specific details of “how should we classify this email” doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you understand the different ways you can use email to drive value for your business.

Here are the different emails we’re about to explore:

  1. Sales and promotions
  2. Newsletters
  3. Announcements
  4. Welcome emails
  5. Onboarding
  6. Engagement
  7. Surveys
  8. Evergreen emails
  9. Cart abandonment
  10. Browse abandonment
  11. Purchase confirmation
  12. Shipping confirmation
  13. Replenishment series
  14. Back in stock
  15. Price alerts
  16. Wish list sale
  17. Sales letter

Quick aside: As you build a complex email program, it becomes difficult to keep track of which emails someone will receive. If, for example, a subscriber is going through your three-emails-per-week welcome flow the same week you decide to send a newsletter, all while abandoning their cart (which triggers a cart abandonment email), they will feel bombarded. Accounting for this in your email program can be very difficult. The best thing you can do is to create what’s called exclusion groups where new subscribers (going through your three-emails-per-week welcome flow) do not receive newsletters. Depending on your ESP, you can also set the logic so that once a cart abandonment is triggered, the three-emails-per-week welcome flow stops. The best way to keep track of everything is to map out your email strategy and then create the appropriate exclusion logic.

Sales and promotions

These are the typical promotional emails your favorite stores send you. These emails include a discount to prompt the subscriber to purchase.

Why use them

To drive sales. Be careful, though. Running promotions and sales will boost revenue in the short term, but can hurt you in the long term if you overdo it. Once you’ve given a discount, there isn’t much more you can give (other than another or a steeper discount). You don’t want your subscribers to buy only when you’re discounting.

When to send them

For special occasions such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the New Year. New seasons are a great opportunity for e-commerce too. If you’re behaviorally targeting users and creating segments based on intent, sales promotions delivered to high-intent customers is a solid strategy as well.

Pro tip

  • Include an expiration date to provide a sense of urgency
  • Include any industry must-haves (e.g., free shipping for e-commerce or XX days 100% satisfaction guarantee for SaaS businesses)
  • Heavily test your subject lines and how you position your offer (e.g., percent off vs. dollars off)
    • Note: There’s some research on this called the Rule of 100. When something costs under $100, percentage discounts seem larger than absolute ones. For goods over $100, absolute discounts seem larger than percentage ones.
  • Segment your list and provide different discounts to frequent purchasers vs. non-buyers. Yes, you can send the same deal to everyone, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. For example, it may take a large discount to convert a prospective customer (first-time purchaser), while a smaller discount may be enough to get an existing customer to buy again. It may take even less of a discount to convert frequent purchasers. You should test accordingly and use this to your advantage.

Sales and promotions email examples

Newsletters

This is the bread and butter of emails. This group includes regular newsletters, summaries, digests, and alerts. Newsletters keep users up to date on anything they might have missed.

Why use them

To stay in touch with your customers and blog readers. This helps you with top-of-mind awareness. The content specifics will vary from company to company, but popular examples include summary of blog posts recently published, recap of your friends’ activity, new items added to the shop, etc.

New feature announcements are often lumped into newsletters too—we recommend sending these as their own campaign. (Remember what we said earlier: Each email should have one clear focus.)

When to send them

Most companies send newsletters on a monthly basis. Other popular schedules include weekly summaries or quarterly reports.

Pro tip

A/B test your emails by only emailing a subset of your list first (you should be able to do this directly via your ESP). This will help you improve both your open rate and your click-through rate. A popular approach is the 10-10-80 rule: 10% of your list receives email version A, 10% of your list receives email version B. Once a winner has been identified, the remaining 80% of your list receives the winning variation.

Popular items to test include subject line, pre-header text, calls to action in the email body, time of send, adding personalization, and “from” name.

If possible, segment your list (e.g., by gender if you’re a fashion company) to make your newsletters as relevant as possible. The last thing a male subscriber wants is to receive an email showcasing the “latest products for you” where all items are female-centric.

Newsletter email examples

Announcements

Includes product launches, new partnerships, and events.

Why use them

To announce what your company has been up to. Think of these as extremely focused newsletters. Use this type of email to drive the first wave of user adoption: From promoting a new feature to selling a new product, the use cases are plenty.

When to send them

Whenever you’ve accomplished something special (e.g., launched an Android app).

Pro tip

Include only one, really clear, CTA. Make your reader feel special—that they’re amongst the first to hear about this.
Announcement email examples

Welcome emails

Welcome emails also include account confirmation emails. These have been made extremely popular by MailChimp and their double opt-in flow. A double opt in is when you receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription after signing up online.

Quick aside: Using double opt in decreases your list growth by 20–30%—since not all subscribers will confirm their account. My preference is to use single opt in for generic blog subscribers and double opt in for product signups. Why? If you use a fake email address to join my newsletter, that’s okay, I don’t care much. I care more when it comes to a high-intent action such as signing up for a free trial since I’ll spend more resources trying to convert you. Also, since fewer people will be registering for a free trial vs. the blog, you’ll enjoy data that’s less noisy.

Why use them

The welcome email is a must. Anytime someone joins your website, app, newsletter, or service, you should send a welcome email to confirm they’ve successfully joined your list. Welcome emails typically have very high open rates. This makes sense. The subscriber just joined and your company is top of mind.

The welcome email is often used to confirm a user’s email address by adding a “click here to confirm your email address” button (double opt in), establish credibility by including logos of companies that use your product or service, share a discount code to incentivize a user’s first purchase, or get a user to take the next step in your customer journey (e.g., take a “style quiz” or “finish setting up your profile”).

When to send them

Right after someone joins your product, service, or blog.

Pro tip

Keep this email as simple and clean as possible. Have only one CTA and make it prominent. If applicable, include a discount code to encourage a user’s first purchase (you can also wait 24 hours before sending a discount code, in case they’re planning on purchasing right away).

Welcome email examples

Onboarding

Help new customers get the most value out of your product or service.

Why use them

Onboarding emails often come as a drip series designed to help new customers understand, and use, the many features your product or service offers. Some clarification on the lingo: A “drip” is a series of emails sent over a period of time. While these can be used for user onboarding, as described here, they can also be used in many other situations, including cart abandonment, confirm your account, update your expiring credit card, and many more.

Generally speaking, onboarding emails are designed to educate new users, which helps decrease churn. From my experience, a good onboarding drip lasts between 2 weeks and 1 month and includes between 4 and 8 emails.

When to send them

Right after someone becomes a customer or starts a free trial.

Pro tip

These are particularly important for SaaS businesses. Make sure each email focuses on only one topic. This makes the email more digestible and ensures you don’t overwhelm the reader.

Include top use cases for your product or service and include success stories from other customers—the added social proof helps reinforce your value proposition.
Onboarding email examples

Engagement

Prompt users to perform a specific action.

Why use them

This often includes bringing a user back to your website (you know, the “we miss you” emails), trigger a first-time purchase by sending a coupon code, or getting a user’s new credit card once the old one has expired.

Use engagement emails to improve your business KPIs. If you want to increase your free-trial to paying-member conversion rate, an engagement email (or short email drip) is perfect for this.

When to send them

The moment you want a user to take action. These emails are often automated depending on specific on-site behavior or stage in the funnel.

Pro tip

For transactional services, include a compelling offer. For subscription services, make sure you clearly list why the reader should pay for your service. Basecamp does a nice job of this—see the example below.

Engagement email examples

Surveys

Better understand your customers and blog readers.

Why use them

Surveys help you identify which content you should be writing about, understand which new features your users would value the most, and get a sense of your net promoter score (a common measure of customer satisfaction). Make sure your surveys have a single theme (e.g., don’t ask about content suggestions AND new features in the same survey).

When to send them

Whenever you have a list of questions you wish you had an answer to. Limit these emails to once a quarter max—otherwise, it’ll get annoying for your subscribers.

Pro tip

Surveys are, by nature, all about you. Incentivize your users by offering them a discount, gift card, raffle, or other goodie.

Also, keep your surveys short: 3 minutes max (less than 1 minute is ideal). If your survey is really short (and it should be), call this out in the email to set expectations.

Survey email examples

Evergreen emails

Products, services, or content that is as relevant today as it is next year is the cornerstone of an evergreen email: It (almost) never expires.

Why use them

Evergreen content is powerful because it allows the content creator to focus on the content once, and then set a schedule for sending to their audience. This could be on a set schedule (like the changing of the seasons) or as users progress through different stages in your customer journey.

As an example, consider product reviews. Popularity is a hard contest to win—use this to your advantage. The last time you shopped on Amazon, which product did you buy—the one with 5 reviews or the one with 1,089 reviews? If you’re like me, you bought the most-reviewed item. The product with 1,089 reviews will have at least that many reviews forever, so it’s a nice candidate as a “popular product,” which can be part of an evergreen campaign.

When to send them

On an ongoing basis. Craft a few series including “popular items for the fall,” “summer best-sellers,” etc., and rotate these emails throughout the year.

Pro tip

If your email includes popular items, make sure to surface as much social proof as possible.

Evergreen email examples

Cart abandonment

Send reminders or promotional emails to prospective customers who’ve added products to their cart but did not complete the purchase. Cart abandonment emails tend to be very valuable, especially in the e-commerce world.

Why use them

The average person gets 1 interruption every 8 minutes, approximately 7 interruptions per hour, or 60 interruptions per day. The average employee gets interrupted 56 times a day. Needless to say, we get distracted a lot.

The problem with these distractions is that if they happen while a prospective buyer is adding items to their shopping cart, there’s a chance they’ll get busy and won’t complete the transaction. This is where the cart abandonment email comes in.

Cart abandonment emails allow prospective buyers to resume the shopping experience.

Another shopping behavior is that people like to comparison shop. They’ll add similar products on competing websites to see how much a purchase would cost including shipping.

Last, but not least, it’s worth noting that some visitors may be comfortable browsing on their mobile device (e.g., on their commute) yet are more willing to complete the purchase later, once they’re in front of their laptop.

When to send them

As soon as fifteen minutes after a cart has been abandoned. One hour or 24 hours are two other popular time frames.

Pro tip

Send cart abandonment emails. Seriously, do it. Over 68% of transactions are abandoned. By sending a cart abandonment series, some companies are recovering over 13% of abandoned orders. A MailCharts client is expected to make over $1.3 million this year just from this one series targeting abandoned sales.

One of the challenges you’ll face when dealing with cart abandonment emails is identifying visitors and tying them to their email address. One approach is to use cookies with a long expiration date, which persist even when customers sign out. This approach works well, but may fall short in today’s multi-device world. To counter this, add a unique URL parameter to every link in your email. Whenever a subscriber clicks a link in your email, given the unique URL parameter, you’ll be able to automatically log them in and/or drop the cookie discussed earlier. Note: You’ll need help from your development team to implement either of these recommendations.

Include popular or related items—if I left a coffee machine in my cart, follow up and include the coffee filters too.

Create a drip to send more than one email—you can provide steeper discounts over time or even send no discount in the first email. A popular approach is to use a discount ladder where no discount is offered in email 1. Email 2 offers 10% off, while email 3 offers 15% off (for example). You should test these different approaches, and discount percentages, to see what drives the most sales without hurting your margins.

You can also leverage the scarcity principle by saying there are only X items left or that your cart expires in Y hours. If you work in the airline or ticketing business, you can mention that prices are likely to go up in the near future.

Cart abandonment email examples

Browse abandonment

As mentioned earlier, we often get distracted. A browse abandonment email—sometimes called a session recap email—allows you to extend the shopping experience via email.

Why use them

Your website experiences a higher volume of browse abandonments than shopping cart abandonments—more people look around vs. add something to their cart. While the purchase intent is lower than with shopping cart abandoners, this is a worthwhile email to set up.

When to send them

A few minutes, to a few hours, after an engaged visitor leaves your website.

Pro tip

Just like we saw in cart abandonment, don’t feel obligated to offer a discount. This email can simply be around “Where did you go?” asking if they’re still interested in item_1, item_2, and item_3, and mentioning that they could reach out with any questions.

Browse abandonment email examples

Purchase confirmation

Everything you do in marketing boils down to this one moment: the purchase. Treat this email with the utmost importance it deserves.

Why use them

It’s not uncommon for shoppers to get nervous when buying online, particularly those customers who did not grow up with the Internet at their fingertips. The purchase confirmation email helps reduce the anxiety associated with entering credit card information online. It’s a way for shoppers to confirm that everything went as expected: that they bought the right item, in the right size, and are shipping it to the right address.

When to send them

Immediately after someone completes a transaction on your website. If you charged a credit card, send a purchase confirmation.

Pro tip

Many companies send purchase confirmations separately from their core marketing ESP. This happens because many payment processors offer confirmation emails out of the box. The challenge is that purchase confirmation emails may look different from the rest of your emails—potentially feeling off-brand or of lesser quality than the rest of your marketing communications. If that’s the case, make sure to spend the time required to make these emails look good.

Also, you should get feedback from your support team. They’ll be able to tell you which questions come up frequently after someone purchases. Adding missing information to this email can help reduce support volume.

Once you know who’s purchased and who hasn’t, create different subscriber segments in your ESP to feature different promotions. It’s worth understanding what drives previous purchasers to buy again. The answer might be different from what drives prospective customers to buy for the first time.

Whenever possible, include a one-click “track my package” link where the tracking code is clearly visible. Sometimes this will be a separate email, though, which we cover next.

Purchase confirmation email examples

Shipping confirmation

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Is it here yet?

Why use them

Your customer bought something and they want to know where their package is.

When to send them

Combine this email with the purchase confirmation (see above) or send it as soon as you have the package’s tracking number. If you’re sending two separate emails, make sure to point this out in the receipt email (which should go out the second the transaction is processed).

Pro tip

This is a great email to promote your referral program. You can also use this opportunity to reinforce something important about your brand (e.g., our candle wax is 100% organic and every candle is handmade).

Shipping confirmation email examples

Replenishment series

Are you ready to re-order?

Why use them

Buying household items online has never been easier. Use these emails to prompt customers to purchase from you again. Imagine that you bought from Method and now your soap is running low or that you bought from Diapers.com and you’re almost out. You get the point: If you sell items that get used, customers will have a need to replenish their cabinets.

When to send them

The right answer will vary based on the product you’re selling. Send these when you know customers are running low.

Pro tip

This is a great email to upsell new product lines and popular items and to help customers discover something new.

Replenishment email examples

Back in stock

The name says it all. The product was once gone and it’s now available.

Why use them

These emails will drive sales. Segment your list to find previous buyers and offer them to buy this product again. Look for shoppers that have shared this item or those that have marked it as a favorite—if that’s an available option.

When to send them

Whenever you’ve replenished your stock.

Pro tip

Use this email to make part of your list feel exclusive. Here’s a quick example: “Hey, Carl, just wanted to let you know that <product> is back in stock. You’ve been a loyal customer for two years and, to thank you for your support, you’ve received this email before 98% of our other shoppers. Thank you again for shopping with us.”

Back in stock email examples

Price alerts

Let subscribers know when a deal is right around the corner. These emails are extremely popular in the travel industry. Cheap airline tickets, anyone?

Why use them

You can think of these emails as another form of extremely targeted promotional emails.

When to send them

As soon as your system receives the price drop.

Pro tip

Make sure you don’t flood subscribers’ inboxes with these. Imagine that I want airfare price alerts and that I’m tracking 14 destinations. If your entire airline goes on sale, don’t send me 14 price alerts. Lump these into one email instead.

Price alert email examples

Wish list sale

Whenever a visitor marks an item as a favorite or adds it to their wish list, that’s gold. Use interactions like these to understand which products your visitors like and leverage this in your email campaigns. If you have a site-wide sale and you know what products I’ve marked as favorites, send me an email highlighting these products.

Why use them

Because the added relevancy drives more sales. You know what your subscribers are interested in.

When to send them

Whenever you have a sale.

Pro tip

Include some form of urgency. You know that the subscriber likes this particular item, so give them a little extra push to close the deal. This could be a mention of limited stock or a discount that expires.

Wishlist email examples

Sales letter

Writing a long-form email sales letter is an art as much as it is a science. These are the super-lengthy word-based emails you may have received from sites like I will teach you to be rich.

Why use them

These are extremely popular within the info-product world. Think online courses and ebooks. The same technique used to draft these lengthy emails is used to draft product sales pages. Their goal is to answer any and all potential objections a prospective customer might have.

When to send them

When announcing a new info-product.

Pro tip

If you’re interested in learning how to write these emails, I highly recommend you read this book from Copy Hackers.

Sales letter email examples
This is just one email from I will teach you to be rich. And it keeps going…