Take a look at some of the different triggers that can be configured for automated emails. Discover a few ways to generate extra revenue that you may have forgotten, not thought of, or overlooked. 

As anybody who’s worked in email marketing knows, the whole process of segmenting your lists, preparing your message, and sending out the perfect emails is difficult and time-consuming—even if your data is accurate, clean, and free of duplicates.

If you’re not yet embracing automation for at least some of the steps in your email marketing campaigns, then the manual processes involved in this cycle, which might be repeated with frequency, take valuable time away from your team that could be better spent elsewhere.

In this article, we’ll first answer the most obvious question: ‘what is email automation?’ 

Then we’ll provide 14 examples to inspire you to best use your email automation software.

We’re going to look at where the value and ROI of email automation is—the campaigns and feedback loops you can build in order to boost the performance of your activities but also reduce the workload on your digital marketing team. 

But it’s important to remember these campaigns will only work properly with clean lists and reliable data. That’s why it’s always important to ensure you take proper data cleaning steps and do regular email list cleaning or you’ll be hindering the success of your campaigns before they’ve started.

You’ll also want to ensure that proper data nomenclature rules and standards are in place internally to help keep data consistent. Only when you’ve got your data under control should you feel confident enough to start automating your email marketing campaigns.

Want to see how clean data could help 6x the results of your email automation? Book a demo today.

What is email automation?

Email marketing automation refers to a strategy that makes your emails to consumers more personalized and timely.

Rather than manually typing and sending emails in every eventuality, where it makes sense you can automate many of these to save time and reach far more people much more quickly—and, so long as you’re working with clean data, you can draw on what information you have about the customer to ensure the emails are still personalized and highly relevant to the individual.

According to Daniel Foley of Hometree.co.uk, email automation is “any message automatically sent from your email service provider (ESP) in direct reply to an individual user’s specific actions made on your site or web app.”

Much of this automation rests upon setting up certain events as “triggers” which then send messages automatically. The triggers are already set up so that they work seamlessly at the appropriate time of an event or configured lag time after an event or event series. 

A user's actions can result in all sorts of complex triggers as automation software gets more and more sophisticated. Here are a few simple examples of triggers in action:

  • A user signs up and triggers a ‘Welcome’ email that is automatically sent to their inbox.
  • A user logs in for a fourth time to your platform without buying and an email is triggered that will be sent three hours later to check whether or not they require any additional assistance. 
  • A user registers their date of birth and this information is stored in the relevant place in your CRM and retained, triggering an email on their birthday—perhaps containing a special offer. 

There are so many options for email automation and many systems are dynamic, allowing triggers to work at a set time after an interaction or upon certain conditions being met. The triggers you set up will likely be quite different if you’re in the business of B2B email marketing or aiming to target individual consumers.

We also put together 10 simple email automation workflow examples you can incorporate today, from lead nurturing through to engagement, retention or re-engagement, perfect for newbies.

Related post: Marketing Automation vs Sales Automation: Which One Do You Need?

How do you automate email marketing? 

As previously touched upon, email marketing automation involves the configuration of triggers to dynamically react to customer interactions consistently and in experience-improving ways. This also reduces the amount of time it takes your team to enact campaigns while maintaining a personalized feel, provided you’re working with accurate data.

Good email list management is going to be key if you’re going to make the most of automated email marketing, which means ensuring you aren’t sending emails to contacts who consistently bounce, potentially damaging the authority of your domain.

Once you’re working from a good list you’re ready to look at beginning to run your first automated email marketing campaigns. To do this you’ll need to find the right email marketing automation software platform to suit your business needs.

There are various software options allowing you to automate all types of email and we’ve already written previously about which ones we recommend.

Combining an effective email automation system with reliable data will make automation a very powerful tool. With tye, getting perfectly clean data is simple, enabling you to get the best possible start.

Email automation examples

If set up to respond to certain trigger actions, automated emails will allow you to engage with your target customers in a number of interesting ways.

Here’s a list of great best practice use cases for automated email marketing. Following some of these examples is sure to help in generating market-qualified leads your sales organization will thank you for.

1. Example of email automation: welcome emails 

Not only do new customers often expect to receive a welcome email in this day and age, sending one as a form of lead nurturing helps to establish loyalty from the start of your relationship with a customer.

Maximizing your first impression is critical to encourage consumer confidence, making your enterprise seem more professional. To streamline this process, setting up an automation trigger that sends that important introduction out ensures that no customer is missed. 

Welcome emails are great for creating the first interaction with a new user, customer, or client. Because you’ve got free reign over the process of building the welcome message, it pays to make it solid and relatable. It’s your first impression after all.

But it’s just the start of how you build your relationship with customers over email

With this in mind, consider including a compelling next action in your welcome message, like an introductory offer your customer can click on, turning subscribers into potential customers.

Live streaming studio platform Streamyard provides a good example of a “welcome” email in the image below. Their email provides new sign-ups with a friendly greeting as well as useful links to things like a guide for how to use their service and the FAQs page.

Example of a welcome email sent via an email automation

2. Email automation examples: lead magnets 

Leads are the cornerstone for most sales teams and it’s an ongoing objective for most marketers to try and generate more of them.

However, generating those leads and ensuring they’re well-qualified can take a very long time. With a lead magnet, you can offer something of value, such as a digital product or an interesting industry white paper, in exchange for an email address.

Once a prospective customer has signed up for what you’re offering, you can then automate an email workflow that will not only deliver what they signed up for but also thank them for their interest and even tell them a little about your business.

A person who signs up for this constitutes a new lead for your sales team to follow up with, though for this to have the required relevance, the offering should relate to the products or services your sales team are selling and clue the salesperson into the specific area of interest the customer may have.

Here’s an excellent example of a lead magnet in an email from Optinmonster. The user already signed to get the freebie and it’s instantly sent to them automatically: 

example of an automated email used as lead magnet

3. Examples of email automation: Seasonal offers promoted

Seasonal occasions such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween are great times to send automated emails. Setting these up prior to the day or period allows you to target customers when they’re most in the mood to spend their cash. These types of automated emails also work effectively for re-engagement campaigns, where marketers make contact with inactive subscribers or past customers. 

Automating a relevant promotional offer to different segments of your mailing list based on holidays or seasonal offers (for example, a spring sale) can directly lead to increased sales.

Website design company Wix provides an example below of how to elegantly use a holiday that doesn’t necessarily bear relevance to their product (Valentine’s Day) as an excuse to deliver a compelling, limited-time offer to users of their service.

Seasonal promotion sent via email automation

4. Marketing automation examples: user onboarding made easier

A user onboarding automated email series can be created to trigger emails at certain events or even each day for a period of time. These allow users to be shown relevant content such as how to use your product or software tool, providing them with tips and advice, or reminding them to complete the process if they dropped out halfway through.

They can contain instructions to encourage users to engage with your service or to use what they purchased from you which ensures better customer satisfaction, increased loyalty, and opportunity for upselling or cross-selling in the future. 

Having a series like this adds value to your offering and helps your business to seem trustworthy and professional.

Over a series of emails, or via one link to a short course (as in the example from Hootsuite below), users are instructed on how to use the basic features of the product.

If they haven’t already purchased your product, this engagement with them is more likely to take them to the point of purchase. And, if they are already paid users, ensuring that they know how to get the best from your service will increase the likelihood that they will choose to renew.

5. Email automation campaign example: Gated content delivery

Gated content works similarly to lead magnets in that you request an email address in exchange for content you provide, though in this case it’s more significant, ongoing data than an individual paper or digital product and usually customers pay for access to this content, often in the form of a subscription.

This type of content is appropriate for knowledge-based businesses that have a lot of data to offer customers, like large organizations with a wealth of internal information, or news organizations that operate behind a paywall.

In either instance, email automation workflows can be set up to deliver snippets of information on a weekly, or even daily, basis to encourage the user to interact with their subscription, increasing the chances that they’ll find it useful enough to renew once the term they’ve paid for is up.

Automating a paid newsletter, as in this example, is far easier than any sort of manual process and ensures the information is delivered on a consistent, timely basis.

(Of course, if you’re a business that leverages internal data and analytics for your customers then you’ll want to make sure that data is clean and accurate, which is something tye can help with.)

Below is a great example of paid content for subscribers that can be made accessible to them via email automation.

6. Interactive & personalized outreach

The age that we live in means that many—especially younger consumers—appreciate and expect ultra-specific messages that reassure them that their individual needs are valued and they aren’t simply a number in your database.

Of course, personalization requires that you do a first-class job of gathering and storing relevant customer information (and then ensuring that this information is properly stored, consistently formatted and that there are no duplications), so that you can then send the right message at the right time to the right person.

One way to gather this information from customers is to quiz them. This way you can find out all sorts of things, including what brought them to your service in the first place and what they like about your products, but also what they need next.

A quick quiz takes the guesswork out of discovering customer needs. To reach a decent amount of your segmented audience, automation is the way to go and quizzes and surveys can be sent out where relevant. Perhaps triggered after a purchase or after a certain amount of time as a customer.

Example of quiz to newsletter subscribers to get more personalized information

Source: https://www.involve.me/

7. Abandoned cart conversion

Abandoned shopping cart emails are sent to those who don’t follow through with a purchase in an online store after adding items to their basket or leaving during the checkout process. They could also be sent to those who leave having spent considerable time on the page of a particular item page. The triggers can be set up for all sorts of parameters. 

Ecommerce managers will know that distraction is a big cause of shopping cart abandonment. However, salvaging a decent cut of otherwise lost customers is a great way to boost sales. Setting up this type of email automation is relatively easy, too.

Among the email automation examples here, this is one that can make one of the biggest differences to your bottom line, quickly converting abandoned baskets to sales.

The below example, pulled from an email from the online hobby store ForgeWorld, is quite typical of the format of these messages, which encourage the reader to click to complete their order.

Email automation examples abandoned cart

8. Existing customer retention and up-selling

While engaging with current customers on a regular basis is what you (probably) already do, automating this will save time and money. Marketing to existing customers is less expensive than marketing to new ones. Customers already (usually) trust you as they have spent some money with you. Keeping current customers happy and engaged radically increases their lifetime value.

What’s better about marketing to existing customers is that they often become evangelists of the brand, referring you to friends and family (or to colleagues if this is a B2B proposition).

As you’ll have noticed throughout this article, keeping the customer experience in mind when automating emails is key. Automation is great but user experience is just as important and losing sight of that can cost you.

Example of how to add upselling into an email automation

9. New customer engagement

How you respond to and engage with first-time customers is—or should be—different from how you engage with longer-running customers. Of course, it’s important to keep your existing customers happy and engaged, but you might have to put even more effort into establishing the customer relationship with those who are new to your products or services.

As mentioned at the start of this list, customers should receive an automated welcome email but other tactics can be used to lure new customers into purchasing more. Bonus promotions, such as small discounts for new customers on an additional item, can work well.

In this example, a user of Etsy has set this up to promote a discount about three days after this new customer's purchase.

New customer engagement email

10. Email receipts that sell add-ons

Another opportunity to market products to customers exists when they’ve just purchased from you. Automated email workflows can be configured that choose the most appropriate products to display below an invoice or email receipt.

Email marketing automation has transformed the role of receipts into an unmissable up-sell opportunity. Of course, Amazon does this extremely well, for instance, offering you a protective cover to go with the phone you just purchased.

Delivered in a timely, automated way along with the receipt can make these messages extremely powerful as they come with information that’s inherently valuable to the customer and unlikely to go unread or disregarded, especially for significant purchases.

Below is an example of recommendations Amazon embedded beneath a fairly standard receipt email after the purchase of a book, using their algorithm to encourage the reader to consider buying items that were of interest to other customers who purchased the same item.

Example of an email receipt that sell add-ons

11. Actively soliciting customer feedback 

Certain customer behavior triggers, such as a cancellation of your services, can be useful prompts to automate an email seeking feedback. This can allow you to address issues that the customer experienced which may enable you to earn back their trust or, at the very least, could help to prevent future instances of dissatisfaction.

Soliciting customer feedback doesn’t have to be so reactive either. While a feedback email is often a single event, regularly sending customer feedback emails at intervals on a proactive basis can also ensure that you know how to keep your customers happy. 

Having an automated customer feedback email shows them that you care about their experience and that you’re putting them first, which will not just lead to customer satisfaction, but can aid with customer retention.

Here’s a general example of an NPS email as featured on Sendpulse.

Example of using email automation to get customer feedback

12. Educational content for branding

In a similar fashion to how you’d configure an onboarding series, sending out emails on a regular basis that inform and educate customers or prospects can be a great way to keep customers engaged with your brand and offer them value.

Automation could be used to ensure your latest company blog post is sent out to customers via email, perhaps full of information geared at growing their trust and engagement with your brand rather than directly increasing sales.

For instance, your customers may be interested to learn about your company’s engagement with environmental issues and the efforts being undertaken to reduce waste. Sending an email about this information could help to bolster your customer’s affinity with your brand and increase the trust and positive feeling they have when purchasing with you in the future.

Below is an example of an email sent out to attendees of the Berlin Film Festival about how they were intending to meet sustainability goals. No attempt is being made to sell anything here but just to establish that the organization in question is responsible and conscientious. The hope is that they will align themselves with the values of their target audience.

13. News & pop culture content

Engaging with current events relevant to your sector and expertise is a great way to interact with email contacts. For instance, having an automation set up that generates an email highlighting cultural events can be relevant for certain businesses.

Online trading providers are a great example of this.  Automations that send out emails to traders to encourage them to trade if there have been big moves in markets, or on important macroeconomic data being publicized, are used by these firms on a regular basis. These are really time-sensitive and demonstrate the power of email automation.

For your business perhaps being able to respond to certain search trends might be a great way to trigger an impactful email to customers while the pop culture moment or trend is still relevant.

14. Email marketing examples: milestones celebrated

We’ve already covered how seasonal events, holidays, and birthdays can be used as triggers for automated email campaigns. Milestones in the context of this list are a little different.

Milestones are time-governed emails concerning the user’s engagement with your product, such as yearly anniversaries since purchase. These types of emails are rarer than others but despite their typically infrequent use, they can account for 13% of all purchases. 

This milestone email from Spotify both shows how they can look and how usage information can allow for interesting personalized emails to be sent that prompt further engagement in your product or service from the customer.

Example of email automation from Spotify

Does email automation make sense for your business?

Email marketing automation can offer a great deal to your business: from lead generation to lead nurturing, converting sales, and creating brand evangelists. It can also help to improve customer experience through increased personalization impossible through manual processes once you reach a certain scale.

On top of all of that, there’s a significant benefit to your marketing team in terms of the time automation will save them that will enable them to focus on other aspects of their work that can’t be so easily automated, such as running and attending events.

Not to mention that automating your email marketing has proved to improve metrics from open rates to click-through rates and conversion rates. 

Automated email workflows that are dynamic and designed to engage with users at key moments are a clever and cost-effective way to generate more revenue. With the right email automation software building these systems can be simple. 

These email automation examples show you how it’s possible to use a wide variety of trigger events as the basis for sending relevant, impactful emails to customers. 

However, in order to do this it’s imperative that you understand that, in order for data to be meaningfully personalized through automation, that underlying data needs to be consistent, free of errors, and well-maintained.

Clean data will aid you enormously in your quest to run effective automations for your business. Campaigns have a much higher chance of success when customer information and details are correct—and why would you put time, energy, and money into a great marketing campaign only to have it hindered by bad data?

Want to see how clean data could help 6x the results of your email automation? Book a demo today.

Markus Beck

Markus Beck - March 16, 2021

CEO with a passion for data relationships. Markus is half Finnish, half Austrian & fully committed to helping businesses keep bad data from ruining great relationships. Process Engineer by training, with digital marketing & project management skills from previous jobs.