Jan 26
ecommerce email marketing

Analyzing 12,500 emails from eTailers Part 1, The Bad

Analyzing 12,500 emails from eTailers

This is a case study of over 12,500 eCommerce emails from 200 different eTailers in 15 different industries from March 2013 to May 2014. (15 months) “Mostly a horde of eCommerce images with captions”

What I Hoped to Learn From These eCommerce emails:

  • The Average Number of Emails eTailers Sent Every Month
  • How eTailers conducted Onboarding Series (Welcome Emails)
  • What eCommerce stores were doing about Shopping Cart Abandonment?
  • Were eTailers missing opportunities when consumers unsubscribed?

In September of 2012, I started this study with no intention of writing a post or performing a study, following eCommerce emails because it made me more successful at selling advertising. When I was at, we had 2 main programs, a traffic driving program and lead generating program, so I made a special email account “luizcentnews [at] just to receive eCommerce email campaigns. (Thanks Amy) Feel free to subscribe me to any eCommerce campaign, all others get sent to to spam.

eTailers that were sending out marketing emails excited me because once I had the owner or VP of eCommerce on the phone I would compliment them on their “amazing email campaign”. eCommerce stores experimenting with automation were already attributing dollar values to each of their opt in email subscribers, I recall Richard Slater from Medex Supply attributing each opt-in email as an $8 value to his company.

After analyzing trends in eCommerce email marketing I realized the top companies were engaging in practices that were subpar. Thus I opted in to every campaign I saw and never opened a single email.

In total there are 170 eCommerce companies that have been sending me emails for 1 year resulting in over 12,500 eTail emails and below are my findings.

Continue To Part 2 The Good

Over 70% of eCommerce Companies Aren’t Sending Emails Based On Behavior

  • 132 eTailers continued to send me emails for a year even though I hadn’t opened a single one
  • 38 eTailers stopped sending me emails after a certain period of inactivity. (Most cleaned their list in December and January)
  • Some companies email every day, some once a month, others just wing it – the average number of emails sent is about  6.73 emails per month, so roughly an email every 4 or 5 days.
  • In addition to the ones that have been active sending me newsletter campaigns, there are 8 eTailers who completely forgot about me. They sent me a welcome email and they never emailed me again!
  • There are also about 30 eCommerce email campaigns that I never confirmed my subscription to.

The eCommerce Companies That Don’t Deserve Your Email

I found some scary stuff prospecting eCommerce companies that need and still need help. I can’t blame them completely, these eCommerce marketers and owners had to learn SEO to bring in organic traffic, which social media channels to utilize for referral traffic, and now email to retain loyal customers. Even though every eCommerce company should have an in house email marketer, the $50,000 a year salary doesn’t always meet the budget. Thus, my explorations began.

Analyzing An eCommerce Site

There are a few steps I take when looking to see if an eTail store would be an ideal partnership for eCommerce Cosmos.

1. Analyze The Site With Wappalyzer

wappalyzer ecommerce

This will allow you to see what kind of technology the eTail merchant has. It is not 100% reliable as it won’t detect everything but from shopping cart platform to tracking scripts, to email campaigns we want to know what technologies they are currently using. There is even an extension that you can install on Chrome and Firefox. We streamlined this process using Sendbloom who is saving us about 20 hours every week.

2. Analyze the eCommerce Checkout Process

We want to work with companies who are going to succeed long term, conversion optimization testing and shopping cart best practices are essential. Barriers to checkout like captchas, and pop ups shouldn’t be used during checkout. Ideally, users enter their email where they are prompted to continue to billing and shipping preferences and voila you have captured the email.

really captchas on ecommerce

Don’t make it hard for consumers to check out with captchas!

ecc checkout

Wait I have never been here, I am buying security products and you want me to create an account with a demanding password, & no guest checkout? I’m Out.

interruped at checkout

Why are you interrupting me bro? I am about to check out and an offer pops up on curacao’s eCommerce site.

tire rack hard checkout

Oi! Billing Phone Number, how is this number listed , daytime phone number, automatic filling disabled. I give up


I cry when automatic filling is disabled

great ecommerce checkout

Optimal ecommerce Checkout, 4 step process collecting my guest email

ecommerce checkout

Great example of a nice checkout, 3 step process that collects the guest email first.

3. Sign up for the eCommerce Email Newsletter Campaign

The best way to get new partners is to give examples of how they can improve their email campaign with no expectation in return. We have acquired some of our most valuable clients by giving tips that resulted in improved click thru rates and higher revenue per email sent. Our entire team signs up to each prospect’s eCommerce email campaign, we compliment them on the good and give advice on what should be improved. Our goal is to give email marketing a better name so as long as better emails are being sent we done our job.

4. Complete the eCommerce Checkout

It’s staggering to me how many companies aren’t testing their checkout process. With nearly 70% of all eCommerce shopping carts being abandoned it was interesting to see what some companies were doing to mitigate abandonment.

shopping cart abandonment

After you exit out of Jewelry Vortex they prompt you to stay on the page to receive a discount by talking to a live agent.

This was my 12th hour of analyzing emails, I ran out of Café Bustelo and was borderline delusional so I decided to have a little fun.

free shipping dirty talk

Katie I didn’t mean to be inappropriate, free shipping seriously turns me on. Thanks for being a good sport.

overstock exit order confirm naviation

Leaving without checking out will prompt you to stay on the page to receive an incentive.


Contacting the eTail store Owner or VP of eCommerce

So this is the fun part, usually we rely on referrals from happy customers but there are times that I feel compelled to connect with the people in charge. I’ll typically start with the Founder or VP of Marketing and the conversation flow will go something like this.


Andrea a higher up tells me to contact Jennifer in marketing, Jennifer is too busy and wants a value proposition right way.


The 1st Attachment is showing over 10,000 opt in subscribers directly within the source code of this eCommerce site, hello lawsuit. The 2nd is a opt in form asking subscribers for everything short of their fingerprint to receive an email campaign.


Translated: Hi Luiz, thanks for saving our ass, please don’t tell anyone. We are working with a company that still isn’t doing it right and we don’t plan on changing anytime soon. I look forward to never talking to you again.

Most companies I contacted had no problem getting on the phone and talking strategy about their eCommerce emails, whether or not they were a client I was glad to help as the goal is an email disruption. We want people to enjoy opening their emails, and by people we mean your eCommerce customers!

email disruption

The sad truth, unless we start sending better emails consumers will not take us seriously.

Preview Text Jacked Up For Days

Studying 15 months of eCommerce emails all at once led to great insight, so many companies are just trying to sell, sell sell! Instead they should be delivering value to their consumers through educational emails that let them make the decision themselves.

ecommerce email deals

Well, he didn’t open the email last week let’s keep offering him an extra 5% until he opens one!

email marketing bronto

As iCuracao didn’t have my name, they neglected to use a placeholder such as “Hi There”.

Also notice the fantastic preview text, if I wasn’t familiar with iCuraco I would think this is spam. It’s not as if we don’t make mistakes, we test and break things all the time, heck I just found out that using names in the subject line is not an optimal practice especially as the first word as users will glance right by it.

It seems like preview text was one of the most common errors, and it made a big difference when companies did it right. Even Skymall a terrific eCommerce company has room for improvement here.

skymall-preview-text skymall-preview-ecommerce

This wasn’t happening only on Bronto, Constant Contact and Mailchimp… Listrak and Hubspot campaigns were also not tested for quality assurance. Apart from the subject line this is the most important part of getting the subscriber to open your email campaign.


Thank you, I was very curious about how the picture size in the email Jimmy Jazz.



The grommet runs a terrific email campaign but often neglects their preview text.


New In!!! We are not testing our [email protected]#


FavCrafts email team got it right the 28th, 31st, and 5th…I’d love to know how the emails with quality preview text performed vs “add us to your address” preview.

GW Little, eCommerce Emails from June to July

GW Little uses my name in All Caps which leads to mistrust, along with unoptimized preview text.

BuyFabrics eCommerce Emails Preview Text and Subject Lines from November to April

BuyFabrics eCommerce Emails Preview Text and Subject Lines from November 2013 to April 2014

 The Welcome Email

Its profound that eTailers don’t utilize this opportunity to build closer relationships with the customers. Most companies start the email relationship horribly wrong, or invest little time and end up branding their ESP better than themselves. Next week we will go over the optimal way of setting up a welcome series that makes your customers happy to receive your emails.


eCommerce welcome email


1st email confirming my subscription


Most eCommerce companies leave the default welcome text in constant contacts welcome series.


Woah! I just wanted some great deals in my email you guys are rating me?!

southern belle default mailchimp

Southern States confirms with the default mailchimp template, including an untitled field and my customer id.

The Unsubscribe

In addition to seeing 11 [email protected] email addresses another great way to tell consumers you do not care about them is to not ask the most important question; What are you unsubscribing from? There were numerous campaigns that were sending me daily emails and as soon as I click unsubscribe boom, you have been removed from the list.


Over 30% of campaigns 1 click unsubscribed me, this says do not pass go, do not follow us on social media, you were just an email. Goodbye.

Some did a little better by taking me to a page where I could modify my preferences or confirm my opt out their eCommerce newsletter but this is still bad practice.


Better than the automatic unsubscribe and a chance to edit my preferences but still off site, and no social interactions.


There are lists in here that should be hidden from the consumer, “Added from Facebook, Catalog Recipient” Focus on creating descriptive lists that match the content that will be sent.


This would have been so powerful in a visual format.

Overall this was a tremendous learning experience, and by no means are we perfect but we enjoy staying on top of the trends, and we live by ABT, always be testing. If anyone has an eCommerce email strategy that has worked well I would love to hear about it as well as follow the campaign.

Continue Reading Part 2 The Good.

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