Ultimate Email Nurture Campaign Guide

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What is email nurture?

Email Nurture (a.k.a drip campaign) is a systematic method to nudge interested buyers from Attention, to Interest, to Desire, and — finally — to Action (i.e. a closed sale).

Why email nurture matters

There are 6 main reason why a email nurture campaign is important:

Learn more about the reasons below -or- skip straight to how to make an email nurture campaign.

Reason 1: Users spend little time on a site (and what bad marketers do about it)

In 2020 Wolfgang Digital analyzed 130 million website sessions, over €330 million in online revenue, and calculated the average session duration (time on site) for all of e-commerce at 2 minutes and 32 seconds. Source.

Think about this: when a new visitor lands on your site you have under 3 minutes to convince and convert them. You might feel like the tire change crew in a Formula 1 race:

Email Nurture and Formula 1
Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

Don’t know about you but I don’t operate well under pressure. Also, I don’t know how any marketer can realistically convert someone in under 3 minutes.

When bad marketers realize they have under 3 minutes know what they do? They speak louder, they throw more at the visitor in hopes that something, anything will stick.


And this is how we end up with sites that look like this (see if you can find all 6 items I’ve marked in screenshot below):

Notice how many screaming elements the marketer has added. This is why you need an email nurture sequence.
“Dude, I’ve literally just landed on your site, chill.”

Clearly this isn’t going to work.

Reason 2: Sites have very low conversion rates

According to Neil Patel’s research 96% of your site visitors aren’t ready to buy. So no matter how hard we post we still can’t convert 96% of visitors, they simply aren’t ready to buy right now.

The solution is to add these engaged folks into a nurture sequence.

If you’ve been part of an email nurture sequence you know they suck. But they don’t have to. We’ll show you why lower in the article.

Reason 3: Some products are technical

If the product is a deodorant that’s a pretty straightforward sales pitch:

Pretty straightforward sales pitch

But if you are selling something that is somewhat expensive and has long term consequences (if a deo isn’t good I can just chuck it) then your shopper is going to do proper research (watch videos, read reviews, read details, etc.)

For example, imagine you sell a dog wheelchair …

Dog wheelchair. Image taken from HandciappedPets.com

Or maybe you sell a a room purifier or a compression sock made for people with diabetes.

My point is that if you are an ecommerce business selling a technical product, there is no way you are converting a new visitor in under 3 minutes.

For such cases your email nurture series will really come in handy.

Reason 4: Users are giving us their partial attention

Did you know humans make 35,000 choices during the course of the day? (Source). That’s a lot. It’s going to feel like a donkey kick but the truth is that visiting your site is just an item on their daily checklist.

Shoppers are crazy distracted. According to Namogoo the most common thing consumers are doing when they’re shopping online is – drumroll – office work. So if you think you have 100% of their attention you are sadly mistaken.

Think about it. Not only do you have under 3 minutes to convince and convert a shopper but you need to do it while the shopper isn’t even giving you their full attention (that’s reserved to look behind to see the boss is doing a walk-around).

Reason 5: It’s difficult to control the narrative on the site

This speed dating approach to online shopping poses another challenge– the shopper is making split decisions about you. Split decisions are made by system 1. That means the moment they see something they don’t like, they abandon. But this is a problem because sometimes our initial instincts are flat out wrong. For example, my initial instinct is that I don’t want to pay for shipping. But free shipping is a myth. Packages don’t magically travel from a warehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah to Lansing, Michigan. There are costs involved. If the retailer says shipping is free, what they’re really saying is, “I’ve made shipping free by baking the shipping cost into the price of the item.”

There are dozens of aspects of your sales pitch that don’t look right initially but make sense in the long run. A personal example: I don’t work with clients month to month, I work in 6 month projects. Why? Because improving a site’s over conversion rate by 10% is a huge project and takes 6 months. If I was pitching a new prospect I met on an elevator, they might be turned off by this 6-month commitment. But if they thought about it some more, it would make sense.

First impressions are important, but they’re not always right.

So, the nurture email series will help you appeal to the shopper’s System 2 mode.

Reason 6: Seeing multiple navigation paths can be confusing

Shoppers demand the freedom to roam about, so designers, over the years, have built sites with open layouts. You can navigate using the top navigation, but then there is also that floating tab that’s calling for your attention, or you could use one of the links available halfway down the homepage.

So we’ve suddenly gone to having 3 different ways in which people can navigate the site. This may seem like it’s good for the user but it’s not because now the user can easily go down the wrong hole, get frustrated, and leave.

It’s also not good for the marketer because now we don’t know exactly where the problem is since there are so many paths available. If there was one path and people left on step 3, we know step 3 is the culprit.

It’s hard to convince the client to make their site navigation more rigid (people consider that too user “unfriendly”) so nurture emails are perfect. By definition, they are designed to follow a very structured pattern, quite like a book where chapter 3 is proceeded by chapter 2 and followed by chapter 4.

For these 6 reasons, we know we’re limited by what we can do on our site. But if we could get the user’s permission to keep in touch via email, we could significantly increase our time with them and minimize distraction because we could give them our sales pitch in bite-sized pieces.

But emails have a problem …

The state of email open rates

MailChimp provides some interesting e-commerce email stats:

  • Average Open Rate = 15.68%
  • Average Click Rate = 2.01%


So if you want to have an effective email nurture campaign you better craft a good one, something that your shoppers actually want.

But first, how to get potential buyers into a nurture sequence

Don’t show a popup. Here’s what we know: shoppers hate popups. In a survey of 1,300 online consumers by Namogoo, two-thirds (62%) of respondents said they would feel these ads meant the retailer does not prioritize the customer experience.

Our goal isn’t to just add more people into an email sequence. Our goal is to add qualified people into the sequence. So my advice is to add this line at the bottom of your product description:

Need more details about [product name]? {YES} {NO}

People who get to the bottom of your product page are the most motivated. They are the ones most likely to convert. When someone clicks {YES}, get their email address and add them to your nurture sequence. You could add one more level of detail where when {YES} is clicked, you ask one or two more questions. This will come in handy when building a personalized nurture series (explained below).

Types of nurture sequences

There are 2 types:

Type 1: One template for all

This is the simplest one to put together. Craft one email nurture series and send it to anyone who signups.

Type 2: Personalized

A personalized campaign is a little harder to construct but it is more effective. Plus, building a campaign is a one time effort. So it’s worth it.

Personalization example

Let’s say you sell a home air purifier. There are many use cases for this product. Here are a couple:

  • People who have pets and are allergic to pet dander.
  • Parents whose kids suffer from seasonal allergies.

You could tell these customers one story about how amazing your room air purifier is -or- you could tell them a story that specifically relates to their use case. Clearly, the latter would be way more effective.

How to structure a nurture sequence

Think of your nurture series as a movie plot. Each email nudges the shopper along the purchase funnel. So the last email should be designed to close the deal (though it’s possible some shoppers will be convinced earlier in the process, possibly buying as early as email 2).

In simple terms, here is how we look at the structure:

Email 1

In email 1 we could talk about the following:

  • Why you exist. Your origin story. The problem you struggled with.
  • The difficulties you endured to bring this product to market. You against the world. Long nights. Setbacks and disappointments. Shoppers root for people who beat the odds.
  • Show a picture of the triumphant team behind the product. Show an interview with the CEO.

In email 1, we’re getting the user to care about the people behind the company.

At the bottom of the email, add this line:

Did this email address your questions about us as a company? {YES} {NO}

This is an opportunity to get feedback from customers. When {NO} is clicked, the user is taken to a landing page with a text box so they can speak their mind. This could even be an opportunity to connect that user to your customer service team and convert them.

Email 2

In email 2, switch the discussion to the following:

  • Why your product must exist. Why the world needs it.
  • How competing products simply don’t match up in terms of value for money. People like knowing they have stumbled into something rare.
  • How your solution is perfect for a very specific audience.
  • Your surprise that someone didn’t think of it earlier and save you lots of trouble.
  • Shoppers are visual animals. Show them visuals to highlight key features.
  • Share fascinating details about your product. Buyers love surprising details. For example, if you are selling an air purifier, you can say, “Did you know indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air quality?”
  • Let them know how competent the product is. Shoppers find expertise sexy.
  • Show customer reviews.
  • Your biggest competitor isn’t a competing brand — it’s inertia. The shopper always has the option to do nothing. They need motivation to break a habit. But here’s the thing: this shopper came to your site and gave you their personal email address. So they clearly want the product or are considering the product. But they’re also lazy, which means you need to give them the psychological push to pull the trigger. That’s what this email is for.

In email 2, we’re getting the user to care about the the product.

At the bottom of the email, add this line:

Did this email address your questions about [product name]? {YES} {NO}

This is an opportunity to get feedback from customers. When {NO} is clicked, the user is taken to a landing page with a text box so they can speak their mind. This could even be an opportunity to connect that user to your customer service team and convert them.

Email 3

In email 3, switch the discussion to the following:

  • Our confidence that the buyer will love the product.
  • Justify price. Talk about the incredible value for money (an example of how to tell price justification story). Talk about your satisfaction guarantee.
  • Draw up a list of negative questions that the shopper can have. Maybe shipping isn’t free, so explain why you charge for shipping. Maybe a competitor product has a feature that your model doesn’t, so explain why you left this feature out. Take all these questions and rebuttals and put them into one email.
  • Address the buyer’s question, “what if this product isn’t as great as advertised.” Talk about post-purchase customer service.

In email 3, we’re overcoming the final hurdle in the mind of the shopper so they can pull out their credit card.

At the bottom of the email, add this line:

Did this email address your questions about [product name]? {YES} {NO}

This is an opportunity to get feedback from customers. When {NO} is clicked, the user is taken to a landing page with a text box so they can speak their mind. This could even be an opportunity to connect that user to your customer service team and convert them.

Ultimately, all marketing is about storytelling. If you want to learn more about how we use storytelling to boost conversion rates, read this article.


It’s best to send the emails 2 days apart. Also, once a shopper in the sequence buys, you should take them out of the sequence if your email marketing platform allows for that functionality.

Rinse and repeat

Your first sequence is likely going to suck. You might notice people don’t open email 2 because the subject didn’t have enough of a hook. Or you might find most people are buying by email 2, which could indicate you need to speed up the sequence. You might get terrible feedback in email 4. That’s ok. We have had worse feedback.

But the good news is that you take these learnings and make the email sequence better.

Measuring ROI

In the end, all roads lead to return on investment, as they should. I measure effectiveness of this campaign by first looking at the original look-to-book ratio for the product page.

Look-to-book ratio = # of unique visitors to the product page / # of unique unique units sold for that product.

It’s expressed as a ratio, like 18:1. That means for every 18 unique visitors to this particular product page, we sell 1 unit of that product.

If adding our email series improves this ratio to 12:1, then we know it’s working.

So this, my friends, is how you can improve conversion rates in a world where average e-commerce session durations are going down.

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