How To Convert Email Subscribers To Customers

Email is a great vehicle for reducing the time between key milestones for a subscriber. After all, subscribers are great, but customers are even better. Take advantage of email’s automation capabilities with these triggers at various subscriber milestones to create additional purchases.

Subscribers That Have Never Purchased

The first of these key milestones is reducing the time between when a subscriber signs up for email and the time of their first purchase.

Start with a dive into your subscribers’ purchase history. What you’ll most likely find is that the majority of subscribers on your email list have never made a purchase. Take the average conversion rate for your promotional emails and apply it to the number of subscribers that have never purchased – giving you an estimated number of transactions. This number multiplied by your average order value will result in an estimated revenue goal.

The goal you’ve just established will help you justify the setup of the triggered emails targeting the conversion of non-purchasers. Remember also that creating automated triggers is a one-time cost, while the return on investment is ongoing for the length of the email program.

Evaluate the history of subscribers that have purchased to determine the average time between when a subscriber signs up and when they make their first purchase. This sets another goal — timing. Your goal is to reduce the number of days between when a subscriber opts in and when they make their first purchase.

Email campaigns that target these subscribers include the following.

Welcome Reminder

The first email targeting these non-converting subscribers is usually your welcome email. But if the subscriber doesn’t convert on this, what are you doing beyond it to encourage the first purchase?

For instance, if your welcome email includes a coupon, I recommend dynamic content in the second email of your welcome series to remind the subscriber that they received a coupon, paired with messaging that creates a sense of urgency. The following is an example of such a campaign from Lee Jeans (a client at DEG, where I work).

Lee Jeans Welcome Reminder

One-Time Email Campaign

If you are just starting to target these non-purchasers, you can also create a one-time email targeted at this group of subscribers.

For the one-time campaign, you may want to only include subscribers that have also been on the list for a specified period of time. Subscribers that have recently joined are typically more engaged and may be more likely to purchase on their own from your promotional campaigns.

This one-time campaign can include content specific to a non-purchaser. For example, you might include calls-to-action such as “Try us,” or include rating and review content from other purchasers to give the subscriber more confidence in making a purchase.

Your offer may need to be aimed at reducing their risk to purchase, such as offering free shipping or free returns. You can also include customer service contact information such as a 1-800 number, link to live chat, or an email address to allow the subscriber to have any questions answered that might be hindering them from making their first purchase.


Based on your key findings from this one-time campaign, you can create an automatically triggered final version aimed at reducing the time between sign-up and first purchase. For example, if the average time between sign-up and first purchase is 60 days, you may want to set the trigger at 48 days in an attempt to shorten the time by 20%.

First Purchase To Second Purchase

Another milestone is the conversion of a one-time purchaser into a two-time purchaser.

Evaluate your data to determine the average time between a customer’s first and second purchases. Then, set your goal to shorten the time to create a repeat customer. There are several different approaches to content for this campaign. You can also create a series of email triggers by using more than one.

Rate & Review

The most common post-purchase trigger is the email asking for a rating and review. Most marketers don’t view this as a trigger with a revenue target, so you might be surprised to see the revenue generated from this email.

Related Items

Another post-purchase trigger could focus on related items to the previous purchase. This content is more targeted toward an additional purchase based on the first. In this example from Best Buy, additional products are suggested for a recent camera purchase.

Best Buy Post Purchase

Product Usage

A third post-purchase trigger could be based on product usage. In this example from 1-800-Contacts, the advertiser targets the subscriber based on when the product should run out.


Closing The Gap

By targeting these gaps in subscriber-to-purchase, you can increase revenue generated from email. These conversions can be critical. How do you decide when to send your email triggers? As with the majority of decisions that factor into an email, deciding when to send a triggered email should be based on data.

In the data analysis for one of my clients, we observed that once a customer makes their first purchase, the time between their first and second, second and third purchase, and so on, becomes less and less. In addition, each subsequent purchase had a higher average order value.

Therefore, the sooner we can shorten the time between a subscriber signing up to their first purchase, and from their first to second, the better. By doing so we exponentially increase the lifetime value of a subscriber.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Email Marketing Column | How To Guides | How To Guides: Email Marketing


About The Author: is Director of Digital Direct/eCRM at DEG, a full-service digital consultancy based in Kansas City. Leveraging her 14 years of experience and thought leadership in digital direct marketing, she and her team lead email and SMS strategy, integrations, and campaign execution for flagship brands like Crocs, Helzberg Diamonds, MathWorks, Cabela's, Life is Good, and TITLE Boxing. In her spare time she runs half marathons, cheers on her beloved Royals, and drinks copious amounts of coffee while trying to exhaust her eight year-old daughter, five year-old boy, and one year-old golden retriever.

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