3 MailChimp Autoresponders Every eCommerce Store Owner Should Use

The 3 autoresponders this guide covers:

Introduction

This MailChimp autoresponders guide is an extension of the free eCommerce store training course offered right here on StoreCoach.com, and more specifically it's linked to from the must-have Shopify apps section of Module 3: Build Your Online Store.

MailChimp: the email marketing solution for eCommerce storesAre you using MailChimp yet? If not, we highly recommend it as your all-inclusive email marketing solution. It's free until you have over 2,000 contacts in your mailing list, and by then you should be making more than enough to upgrade to a paid plan. If you don't have an account w/ MailChimp yet, you need to get one before going any further into this guide.

In MailChimp you can create a single audience list that consists of any & all contacts you've gathered, regardless of how they got added. You can then create each of the 3 autoresponder (AR) series discussed in this guide, and they can all utilize that single audience list, so there's really no reason to have more than one.

Before we dive into creating the autoresponders (aka automations within MailChimp) discussed below, but after you've gotten your MailChimp (MC) account and set up a single list, add the ShopSync app to your Shopify store and tie it to your MC account & audience.

Still not clear on what an autoresponder is?

An autoresponder (or "automation") is nothing more than a series of emails that are sent out in a specific order, at the times you specify, and to specific members of your mailing list with a single goal (typically to get an order for any eCommerce store!).

For example, if someone joins your mailing list without making a purchase, you can send them a series of 5 separate emails over the next week encouraging them to place an order. Each message is similar, but has a unique angle or message.

#1 - Free Opt-Ins Autoresponder Series

Every online store should have what's referred to as a general newsletter that customers can opt into from any page on the site, and this is tied to a AR series (or "automation" in MC) that follows up with them until they buy - which is the first autoresponder we're going to cover here.

Most commonly, web stores promote their general newsletter through a simple popup (generated with an app like MailMunch that integrates with your MC account) that offers a discount code or freebie (i.e. buyer's guide on choosing the best __") to visitors who opt-in. Most Shopify themes also have an opt-in form in the footer of the website, and if your Shopify store is synced with your MailChimp account anyone who uses it is added to your one & only MC audience.

To be clear, the emails sent from your 'free opt-ins' automation typically only go out to those in your MC audience who have not purchased from you yet. The main goal of this AR series is to get someone who's never bought from you to make a purchase.

What's your pitch?

Every autoresponder you create needs a main message that ties to the goal of getting an order. You need to decide what your pitch is to get someone into your newsletter, and your series should be tied to that messaging as its main theme. (i.e. if you offer a $5 coupon in the pop-up your AR series should be all about that coupon.)

Here's the first grouping of steps you need to take:

  1. Log into your MailChimp account
  2. Click on 'Create Campaign'
  3. Choose 'Email'
  4. Click 'Automated' link along the top
  5. Click 'Welcome new subscribers' box
  6. Click 'Onboarding series' across the top
  7. Name it something descriptive (only you will see it) and make sure your one & only audience is in the drop-down below, then click the 'Begin' button
  8. You should now be taken to an automation layout with 5 separate emails listed down the page

At this point we typically delete every email on the list except for the very first one. Simply because we will customize the first one a lot, and then duplicate it for any remaining emails in the series. Which is far easier than doing all of those customizations to each & every email one-by-one.

Once you've cut down to nothing but the first email by deleting the 2nd through 5th emails (you do so by clicking the drop-down icon next to the 'Design Email' button on each one), click the 'Design Email' button on that one remaining email. Fill out the information for this email so it looks something like this:

Settings for the 1st email in your free opt-ins automation in MailChimp

Since this is the first email information form you've filled out, let me give you a bit of info on each field shown:

  • Name your email - This field is internal and only you will see it, so we always use a format like this: "Email 1 - short description", "Email 2 - short description", "Email 3 - short description", etc.
  • Email subject - This field will be the actual subject line of the email the customer receives, so you want it to look sharp without being too long or "spammy" feeling (generally we just put what's in the field before but make it more user-friendly & enjoyable to look at).
  • Preview text - Certain email programs will show the preview text immediately after the subject, but since the 1st line of the email is grabbed when this is left blank we typically don't bother with it.
  • From name - This will appear as the 'sender' in their email program, so I recommend entering your brand name or the domain name of your store.
  • From email address - This appears as the full email address next to the sender name in your client's email program, so we generally just enter the actual store email address (you created in Module 2) here.
  • Google Analytics title for email - This will be used later when we are looking at traffic to our website and figuring out how to increase our profits, so just enter a descriptor here with - or _ symbols between each word.

Once you've entered everything on this page click the 'Next' button and you'll be taken to the next page in the creation wizard. You can choose any template you want, but just make sure you place your store's logo in the top/center of the template you choose.

Create the email (here's a good tutorial on designing one) with the main message being whatever you "pitched" in your pop-up (i.e. $5 off coupon code - here's how to create one on Shopify). We also recommend matching the typography & colors that were selected in your Shopify theme's settings so it's consistent with your brand's chosen styling.

Once the email is complete click the 'Save And Continue' button, and that should return you to the overview of your automation with just the one (now complete) email appearing in the list. 

We recommend creating at least 2-3 additional emails, each anywhere from 1-3 days apart from the one sent before it. However, before you can duplicate the one & only email you've now fully customized, you need to activate this automation. You can do so by clicking the 'Next >' button, and then the 'Start Sending' button (and confirm) on the page that follows. That will activate the automation and allow you to move forward.

Now follow these steps to create any additional emails you want in this automation:

  1. Click on 'Automations' from the main menu and then 'My Journeys' from the hyperlink tabs across the top, you should see the automation you just created in the list that appears.
  2. Now click the 'triple vertical dots' icon within that automation's row and choose 'Edit'.
  3. Now click the 'down-arrow' next to the 'Pause & Edit' button on lowest (or only) existing email in the list and select 'Replicate' (which will create duplicate email at the bottom of the list).
  4. From here you can customize the newly created duplicate email before activating it and making it part of the automation.

Just note that you may want to alter the amount of time between emails, and you may also want to have each subsequent email in your series only be sent if the subscriber still hasn't ordered. The following image highlights the two areas you will need to edit on each email you add to the original email in this series:

Alter the send duration and segment on an email in a MailChimp automation

Let's go into a bit of detail on each of these settings that can be edited:

  • Trigger - Generally you will just want to change the number of days each email is sent after the previous email in the series (we generally spread them out by just 1 day)
  • Filter by segment or tag - To make it so the email is only sent to those who haven't ordered yet, tick the box next to 'Choose segment or tag' and then choose the radio button 'Contacts match the following conditions',  then leave 'any' selected in the top drop-down, choose 'Purchase Activity' from the lower left drop-down and 'has not purchased' from the lower right drop-down, and then click 'Save Segment' button.

That will make it so that email in the series is sent the amount of time later that you've specified and only to those who still have not placed an order. This allows you to increase the discount amount in the series's later emails without worrying about people who have already bought asking for a partial refund when they see a bigger promo code after they've already ordered.

Once you have at least 2-3 emails in this autoresponder series you can let it ride, and simply watch the metrics to see how it performs. If very few people convert from the email series you may want to alter it after a while and try something else.

#2 - Abandoned Cart Autoresponder Series

The steps for an abandoned cart series in MailChimp are a bit different than the steps for creating the general AR series above. The Abandoned Cart series automation is built right into MC, so just make sure that the ShopSync app in place to continuously sync your Shopify store w/ your MC account so you can use it. Below we'll go through the steps of creating & configuring an abandoned cart (AC) series for your online store.

What's your pitch?

Every AC series needs a pitch that can be promoted in order to turn a "tire kicker" into a buyer. Most frequently store owners use a discount code, and we typically do for most of our stores, but it's not the only option. For example, you could offer a free shipping promo code and claim that it "expires in XX hours" and have that number decrease with each subsequent email that's sent. The choice is yours, but for what it's worth we generally offer no discount on the first email in the AC series, a decent little promo code on the 2nd, then a larger promo code for the last email (or two).

Here's the first grouping of steps you need to take:

  1. Log into your MailChimp account
  2. Click on 'Create Campaign'
  3. Choose 'Email'
  4. Click 'Automated' link along the top
  5. Click 'Turn on abandoned cart email' box
  6. Click the 'Email series' tab across the top
  7. Name it something descriptive (only you will see it) and make sure your one & only audience is in the drop-down below, then click the 'Begin' button
  8. You should now be taken to an automation layout with 3 separate emails listed down the page

At this point we typically delete every email on the list except for the very first one. Simply because we will customize the first one a lot, and then duplicate it for any remaining emails in the series. Which is far easier than doing all of those customizations to each & every email one-by-one.

Once you've cut down to nothing but the first email by deleting the 2nd & 3rd emails (you do so by clicking the drop-down icon next to the 'Design Email' button on each one), click the 'Design Email' button on that one remaining email in the list. Fill out the information for this email so it looks something like this:

Settings for 1st email in your abandoned cart automation in MailChimp

Once you've entered everything on this page click the 'Next' button and you'll be taken to the next page in the creation wizard. You can choose any template you want, but just make sure you place your store's logo in the top/center of the template you choose. Create the email (here's a good tutorial on designing one), and we also recommend matching the typography & colors that were selected in your Shopify theme's settings so it's consistent with your brand's chosen styling.

Note: We typically don't offer a discount on the very first email within the abandoned cart series, we reserve that for Email #2 & beyond.

Once the email is complete click the 'Save And Continue' button, and that should return you to the overview of your automation with just the one (now complete) email appearing in the list. 

We recommend creating at least 2 (and up to 4) additional emails, each anywhere from 8-24 hours apart from the one sent before it. However, before you can duplicate the one & only email you've now fully customized, you need to activate this automation. You can do so by clicking the 'Next >' button, and then the 'Start Sending' button (and confirm) on the page that follows. That will activate the automation and allow you to move forward.

Now follow these steps to create any additional emails you want in this automation:

  1. Click on 'Automations' from the main menu and then 'My Journeys' from the hyperlink tabs across the top, you should see the automation you just created in the list that appears.
  2. Now click the 'triple vertical dots' icon within that automation's row and choose 'Edit'.
  3. Now click the 'down-arrow' next to the 'Pause & Edit' button on lowest (or only) existing email in the list and select 'Replicate' (which will create duplicate email at the bottom of the list).
  4. From here you can customize the newly created duplicate email before activating it and making it part of the automation.

Just note that you may want to alter the amount of time between emails, and you may also want to have each subsequent email in your series only be sent if the subscriber still hasn't ordered. The following image highlights the two areas you will need to edit on each email you add to the original email in this series:

Alter the send duration and segment on an email in your abandoned cart MailChimp automation

Let's go into a bit of detail on each of these settings that can be edited:

  • Trigger - Generally you will just want to change the number of days each email is sent after the previous email in the series (we generally spread them out by just 1 day)
  • Filter by segment or tag - To make it so the email is only sent to those who haven't ordered yet, tick the box next to 'Choose segment or tag' and then choose the radio button 'Contacts match the following conditions',  then leave 'any' selected in the top drop-down, choose 'Purchase Activity' from the lower left drop-down and 'has not purchased' from the lower right drop-down, and then click 'Save Segment' button.

That will make it so that email in the series is sent the amount of time later that you've specified and only to those who still have not placed an order. This allows you to increase the discount amount in the series's later emails without worrying about people who have already bought asking for a partial refund when they see a bigger promo code after they've already ordered.

For your information, this is our typical schedule for this series:

  • Email #1 (sent 1 hour after abandoning) - You left these items in your cart
  • Email #2 (sent 8 hours after previous email) - Here's a promo code that expires in 24 hours
  • Email #3 (sent 12 hours after previous email) - Your promo code expires in 12 hours
  • Email #4 (sent 8 hours after previous email) - 4 hours left before your promo code expires

Note: The promo code doesn't really expire, but we "bluff" and say it's going to in order to increase the fear of missing out and to give them a sense of urgency.

Once you have at least 2-3 emails in this autoresponder series you can let it ride, and simply watch the metrics to see how it performs. If very few people convert from the email series you may want to alter it after a while and try something else.

#3 - Past Customer Autoresponder Series

Creating an autoresponder series for past customers is very much like the process for creating the AR series we created in section #1 above (for free opt-ins who haven't purchased), but the pitch & voice are very different since it goes out to those who have already ordered.

Since these are past customers we really want to avoid pestering or being irritating at all. In other words, we really only want to communicate with good info, and when we do have something we want to sell to them, it needs to be more of a "soft sale" than a pushy one!

What's your pitch?

Since these folks have already ordered we don't have a "pitch" like we would for pre-purchase clients. Our goal is to offer some value and keep them on the hook so we can sell more products to them later. Think "value first" when creating (and extending over time) your AR series for these paying clients.

What will I eventually want to sell to them?

Well, it depends greatly on what products you sell in this store, but there are lots of possibilities here. For example, do you sell something they may want a 2nd or 3rd one of down the road? If not, maybe there are accessories or "add-ons" for the product that they already purchased from you that you could sell them? If all else fails, you can almost always find related products that can be created (like a digital eBook related to your store's topic) or sold via affiliate links.

Think outside the box here, I've never come across a niche yet where there isn't something that can be cross-promoted and sold to an existing customer list! To give you an example, when I sold parrot cages my past customers AR series would pitch a parrot training digital course that I became an affiliate for. I also pitched cage covers and other accessories within the AR series.

Another consideration here is the fact that this series can really have an infinite number of emails in it. Once a customer purchases a product within a specific niche you know for a fact they are into that topic (i.e. if they bought a parrot cage you know they're into tending parrots!). So as long as you can provide good info on that topic they are likely to stick around for years & years of emails from you. It's also important to note that you can mix in 1-time email blasts to this list as well, not every email you send to them needs to be scheduled within an automation for the future.

Here's the first grouping of steps you need to take:

  1. Log into your MailChimp account
  2. Click on 'Create Campaign'
  3. Choose 'Email'
  4. Click 'Automated' link along the top
  5. Click 'E-Commerce' in the lower section of horizontal links
  6. Click 'Thank first-time customers' box
  7. Click 'Email series' across the top
  8. Name it something descriptive (only you will see it) and make sure your one & only audience is in the drop-down below, then click the 'Begin' button
  9. You should now be taken to an automation layout with 3 separate emails listed down the page

At this point we typically delete every email on the list except for the very first one. Simply because we will customize the first one a lot, and then duplicate it for any remaining emails in the series. Which is far easier than doing all of those customizations to each & every email one-by-one.

Once you've cut down to nothing but the first email by deleting the 2nd & 3rd emails, click the 'Design Email' button on that one remaining email. Fill out the information for this email so it looks something like this:

Settings for the 1st email in your past customers automation in MailChimp

Once you've entered everything on this page click the 'Next' button and you'll be taken to the next page in the creation wizard. You can choose any template you want, but just make sure you place your store's logo in the top/center of the template you choose. When you create the email (here's a good tutorial on designing one) be sure to use the typography & colors that you selected in your Shopify theme's settings so it's consistent with your brand's chosen styling.

Once the email is complete click the 'Save And Continue' button, and that should return you to the overview of your automation with just the one (now complete) email appearing in the list. 

Before you can duplicate the one & only email you've now fully customized, you need to activate this automation. You can do so by clicking the 'Next >' button, and then the 'Start Sending' button (and confirm) on the page that follows. That will activate the automation and allow you to move forward.

Now follow these steps to create any additional emails you want in this automation:

  1. Click on 'Automations' from the main menu and then 'My Journeys' from the hyperlink tabs across the top, you should see the automation you just created in the list that appears.
  2. Now click the 'triple vertical dots' icon within that automation's row and choose 'Edit'.
  3. Now click the 'down-arrow' next to the 'Pause & Edit' button on lowest (or only) existing email in the list and select 'Replicate' (which will create duplicate email at the bottom of the list).
  4. From here you can customize the newly created duplicate email before activating it and making it part of the automation.

Just note that you may want to alter the amount of time between emails, and you do so by clicking 'Edit' next to the Trigger for any given email from the automation overview page. We generally avoid emailing past customers more than once every week or two (unless we specifically tell them we'll be delivering a series of emails daily for X amount of days, like when we give away a free course).

Watch your series to see how it performs and make tweaks wherever you see fit along the way.

Next: Jump back into Must-Have Apps in Module 3 or go to the beginning of our free training course