Email Marketing Automation: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?

Illustrated cover image of a cartoon robot sending email for the article: Email Marketing Automation: What is it & Why does it matter? by MKTR.AI

Every business needs to grow and generate more revenue, continually expanding its reach. And despite the plethora of tools available to marketers, email marketing remains one of the most powerful and effective ways to boost your marketing goals and connect with your audience on a human level.

But as your business grows, it becomes more challenging to handle all the different types of emails you need to send. Email marketing automation could be the solution to this problem! 

Automating your emails could supercharge your email campaigns by scaling them up in volume and personalization. So what is email automation and why should you use it for your email marketing campaigns? And if you do use it, what’s the best way to go about it?

Here, we outline the top things to understand about email automation for beginners. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s get started, shall we?

What Is Email Marketing Automation?

Email marketing automation is one of the ultimate solutions to staying relevant. Businesses that use marketing automation generate twice as many leads as those that don’t.

How? Simply put, email automation refers to automating the process of sending emails to lists of people according to set triggers, criteria, or a defined schedule

For example, let’s say your business is an online store, you might have automated email campaigns set up for welcoming new customers, recommending products based on previous purchases, or sharing the product experience after purchase. 

You don’t want to have to email every new customer after they make a transaction/purchase, right? Queueing each of these emails manually — as you might with newsletters and one-off campaigns — would take a ton of time. 

Rather than simply sending out broadcast emails (a.k.a. “email blasts”) or sending handcrafted emails one-by-one, automation tools allow you to streamline and leverage your efforts to get the right messages in front of the right people at the right time. 

How Does Email Marketing Automation Work?

The relevance of the email and its timing are important. 

With a bit of smart automation, you can send the right email at the right time and to the right person, with information that is relevant to them, based on the actions they take on your website. Instead of blasting out the same emails to everyone on your list, you can decide who gets what, when, and why, and use marketing automation to power your campaigns. 

It’s like hiring a smart and efficient marketing assistant to work on your behalf around the clock. But instead of replacing the job of a savvy marketer, email marketing automation frees up your time, provides valuable data, and can make every marketing action you take in your business even more effective.

Here’s an example of how it might work in practice:

  • You send a welcome email whenever a new person joins your “Signup” list.
  • You send out an email inviting everyone on your list to download a free eBook.
  • You send a Thank You email to everyone who downloads it.
  • Everyone who downloaded the eBook receives an invitation to review a case study on the same topic.
  • Everyone who downloads the case study is passed on to your team as a likely prospect to be followed up.

See that? It would be a huge waste of your time to manually create and send an email campaign to every person when they sign up, so instead, you could set up an automated email that gets sent whenever a new person joins your list.

That’s the beauty of email automation, you can set up the email once and then as more people continue to meet the trigger you defined, the email will continue to be sent to them without you ever having to lift a finger. It automates a piece of your marketing for you.

Below are some simple examples of types of events that trigger an automated task:

  • Email after someone signs up to your email list
  • Email when a previous subscriber logs in after a long absence–especially if you identify their previous affinities and which pages they visited in their most recent visit.
  • Survey response – You sent an email to your subscribers and asked them if they were interested in a product. Based on their answer, a different email (or series of emails) is automatically sent.
  • Cart abandonment email – If you collect the email address of the person during the sales process – or if you already have the email address as the customer is an existing subscriber – you can follow up via email to encourage them to come back. 

And the best bit: you only have to set up the email once and it will automatically send every time a predefined trigger is set off. It’s not just productivity impacted by email automation — automation can help you deliver timely emails that increase customer loyalty, boost sales, and more!

How Can Email Automation Help Your Business?

Email automation helps to automate ongoing conversations with customers, and build relationships by delivering relevant, practical content to your prospects. Apart from that, here are a number of other ways that email automation can level-up your marketing.


Automating your email campaigns saves time, and it could allow a team of one or two marketing experts to manage a list of thousands, if not millions.

Drive traffic

Email automation can be used to highlight useful content you have on your blog or website to drive traffic toward them. 

Engage and build relationships

Email automation is one of the easiest ways you can build and sustain relationships with a large customer base. You can customize everything from messages and offers, to infographics and newsletters, ensuring that customers receive only the most relevant content for their stage in the funnel.

Expand your reach

By the same token, email automation allows you to significantly expand your reach. Instead of sending messages manually, the process follows the specified workflow and decision matrix automatically. You can easily maintain close, personalized relationships that are segmented into detailed groups.

Make a bigger impact with segmented emails

you can segment your customer or lead database into different groups and tailor different messages to those groups based on their interests, demographics, or purchase behavior.

Automated personalization

Email automation is an excellent way to deliver highly personalized, one-to-one messages without manual decision making for each email. If done right, your email-automation software lets you connect with leads and prospects with the right type of content that’s highly relevant to their segment or their stage in the sales funnel. 

Detailed analytics

With a sophisticated email-automation platform, your email campaigns become two-way streets whereby you can capture detailed information about your leads, including valuable feedback about products. 

You can also track things like open rate, view rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate. You can use this data to generate insights for future campaigns, make product recommendations, or keep refining your workflows.

3 Key Email Automation Metrics

As with any form of marketing, you need to pay close attention to the data to assess whether your email automation is performing optimally and spot opportunities for improvement. 

Every automation will likely have different goals and your KPIs will vary based on said goals, but in general, you’ll want to pay close attention to: 

1. Open Rates

The Open Rate is a measure of how many people on your email list actually opened your message. It tends to be calculated by dividing the number of emails opened by the total number of emails sent and is usually displayed as a percentage. For example: If you send 100 emails and 30 are opened, you’d have an open rate of 30%. 

Two ways to improve open rate performance:

  1. Your subject line: If your subject doesn’t hit the right spot, your emails won’t be opened. 
  2. Timing: Have a look at when your emails are being sent. It could be that they’re arriving in customer’s inboxes in the middle of the night, or they’re being sent on weekends when people might not be in their inboxes. 

2. Click rates

Similar to Open Rates, Click Rates tell you the number of people who clicked a link within your email. This metric is incredibly important because if you’re sending emails, you usually want the recipients to take some kind of action like visiting your store, completing a purchase, or reading your latest blog post. And in these cases, if people aren’t clicking, your emails are failing. 

How to improve click rate performance:

  1. Change the copy: Maybe your CTA copy isn’t screaming “Click Me.” One of the simplest ways to boost your click rate is to experiment with a new, irresistible copy. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing a CTA from “Visit Store” to “Show Me More.”
  2. Play with buttons and colors: People ignoring your text links? Why not try a big, unmissable button in your email. And if you want it to stand out more, use a contrasting or bright color. 

3. Conversion rates

A conversion is a subscriber who completes the desired action from your email. Conversion rate is the number of conversions, divided by the total number of subscribers emailed.

Conversions will change based on the goals and desired outcomes of each email: 

  • For an abandoned cart email, a conversion would be completing the purchase.
  • With a sales email, a conversion might be clicking through to your landing page.
  • If you’re seeking product feedback, a conversion could be leaving a review on your website or replying to your email.

9 Email Marketing Automation Best Practices

1. Set your goals and create the right triggers

Before you start with automation, it’s useful to focus on your goals and your expectations from each automated process. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How could automation boost your email marketing campaign?
  • What’s the best way to save time while increasing your effectiveness?
  • What do you define as an effective email marketing campaign?

The ROI from email marketing automation depends on your goals, and it’s useful to be clear on what you expect from the earliest stages of your planning.

For example, if you’re interested in lead nurturing, then you can use email automation to send consistent and personalized messages to your recipients to create a relationship with them.

If you want to use email automation to increase sales, you can create the right set of emails to promote your products in the most relevant and appealing way.

Remember, not every email has the same purpose, and there needs to be a distinction between your goals in order to enjoy the benefits of email marketing automation.

2. Think carefully about your lead magnets

The first step is to encourage people to sign up with the right lead magnets that provide them a reason to do so. It’s better to think of a reason that is relevant and useful, rather than an instant reward, as this increases the chances to create a long-term relationship with them.

Lead magnets have to be clear, offering value that cannot be ignored by the target audience. Testing of several forms can help you understand what users find more interesting and this can be an indication that will make the building of the list easier.

3. Focus on the welcome message

Once a user signs up to a list, it’s important to send a welcome message that’s as relevant as possible. Not every user is part of the same customer journey, and this may affect their future relationship with your business.

Accurate segmentation of users allows you to send a warm welcome message that addresses their problems, helping them find the right answers while they are also learning more about your brand.

It’s also important to plan the emails you’re going to send, and how the workflow of the messages will work from now on. Ask yourself: What’s the best way to use automation to build a relationship with users who have already shown interest in the value you’re offering them?

4. Don’t underestimate lead nurturing 

Automation doesn’t have to be impersonal. On the contrary, it’s crucial to add a personal touch to your emails, as a way to show your genuine interest in every message that you send.

Personalized communication can be very useful as part of your nurturing process. A warm and welcoming message increases the chances of turning a prospect into a customer, with a smooth and positive inbox experience serving as a great lead magnet.

Once you manage to find a balance between automation and personalization, each email should indicate your genuine interest in every recipient. Lead nurturing is all about consistency and although automation can be very useful, it’s still important to excel in the segmentation of your audience to ensure that each recipient receives the right message.

5. Match the look and feel of your brand

When designing your automated emails, make sure they match the look and feel of your brand so your audience will always know the email is coming from you. Include your logo, name, or other familiar imagery in a prominent location—like the header of your email—to foster brand recognition.

Select a color palette and font similar to the ones you use on your website. Add relevant images to showcase new store arrivals or give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your business. And, if you’ve connected your store, you can even include personalized product recommendations to suggest items your customers will love. 

Corporate speak doesn’t belong in your marketing emails. Let your brand personality shine through and connect with your readers as people.

6. Test your timing

There have been plenty of articles written on the best times to send an email. However, the answer differs from brand-to-brand, product-to-product, and customer-to-customer. That’s why you need to conduct a test. For example, send emails at 9 in the morning and see how often they’re opened. Send them on a Sunday afternoon or midnight on Friday and track your open rates. 

You’ll notice that some segments of your list respond more positively at different times – so take advantage of that, and automate your emails to correspond with the best time for your subscribers.

7. Allow your subscribers to manage their preferences

It’s frustrating for users to keep searching for the option to unsubscribe from an email that they are not interested in. That’s why it’s best to have a clear display with all their available options.

Just as you add a CTA button to encourage further clicks in case they are interested in the email’s content, you should also feature an easy unsubscribe process.

Give them the opportunity to change their subscription preferences. How often do they want to be contacted? What kind of things do they want to hear about? Essentially, your subscribers will segment themselves for you. Even if this means that you’re increasing their chances of opting out, it also means that you’re only maintaining the ones that are truly interested in your content.

8. Keep evaluating the process

Although email marketing automation aims to help you create a streamlined process among your emails, it’s still useful to evaluate it from time to time to measure its performance and examine whether it needs to be changed.

Does automation bring you closer to your goals? How does the audience respond to your emails? Is there a part of the process that can be improved?

As every audience is different, it’s a good idea to monitor its automated process on its own to test whether it’s contributing to a successful email marketing strategy.

9. Select the right solution

Too many small and medium-sized businesses end up in over their heads because they select the wrong software right at the start. Instead of being amazed by all of the features a particular email subscription service presents, consider what you need before you start purchasing. 

Make a list of the following:

  • What’s important?
  • What’s not?
  • What’s your budget?

Then, when you’re looking for a solution, only consider those that are within your budget, and don’t bother considering features you know you’ll never use.

To help you choose the right solution, check out our previous article where we breakdown our favorite options to choose from 15 Email Marketing Tools For Small Businesses.

Email Marketing Automation Takeaways

Email automation can be an invaluable part of your email efforts, and when done correctly, it can be the most valuable marketing channel in your toolbox. Even if the initial planning may seem time-consuming, the benefits should give you additional motivation to work towards an effective process that will help you reach your set goals.

From welcoming subscribers and thanking customers, to following up abandoned carts and sharing helpful how-to content, email automation is about boosting engagement, nurturing leads, and personalizing your message.

All things considered, it can be an incredibly useful asset when implementing your marketing strategy. Email automation allows you to nurture existing clients and focus on providing them with whatever resources they need, exactly when they need them. Automation lets you achieve your goals, and increase your revenue faster.

Want help getting started with email marketing automation? Contact us at MKTR.AI and we’ll help you develop and implement a strategy that delivers results.

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