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Essential guide to building an email marketing automation strategy

14 min
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Email marketing is a highly effective way to generate leads and nurture prospects into customers. In fact, Nielsen’s Annual Marketing 2023 Report states that 50% of marketers perceive email as a highly effective channel.

With the right tools and strategies, email marketing automation can help take your business to the next level. According to Mailmodo’s 2023 State of Email Report, 50.8% of brands saw a 2X improvement in their email marketing ROI in 2022.

In this guide, we’ll cover 6 tips to help you create an effective email marketing automation strategy that drives results.

What is email marketing automation?

Email marketing automation is using software to automate repetitive tasks that are essential for engaging subscribers. Some tasks you can automate include responding to customer questions, sending regular newsletters, and following up with unengaged users. 

With email automation, you can:

  • Qualify leads based on their level of engagement.
  • Nurture prospects into customers with valuable content.
  • Welcome new subscribers with onboarding emails.
  • Follow up with viewers who attend your live webinar.
  • Reengage customers who stop opening your emails.
  • Follow up with buyers who added products to their shopping carts but didn’t complete their purchase.

Learn more about email automation straight from the GR marketing automation expert:

Benefits of email marketing automation

With an email automation platform, you can streamline the marketing process and improve the quality of customer interactions with relevant, targeted communications. You’ll be able to provide a smoother customer journey and turn potential customers into brand ambassadors.

With that in mind, let’s look at three key benefits of email automation:

It boosts your ROI and revenue

An email automation campaign is a fantastic tool for increasing revenue. It’s actually more effective than any other marketing channel, with a return on investment (ROI) of $38 for every dollar you spend, according to a Barilliance study. 

Email my cart campaigns have the highest ROI, earning 168% more than the average triggered email campaign.

It helps you retain existing customers

Each customer is unique and wants tailored solutions from your company. With marketing automation tools, you can segment subscribers and offer them the relevant and personalized solutions they seek. 

When you give customers what they want, they’re more inclined to keep doing business with you.

It saves time and boosts your team’s productivity

Automated email campaigns let your marketing team complete more tasks in less time. For example, you can automate 1 email to send to all prospects instead of manually delivering 100 or even 1,000 individual messages. 

This gives you more time to focus on other aspects of your marketing campaigns, such as customer relationship building.

Email automation tips

  • Choose email marketing automation software with targeted features.
  • Segment your target audience.
  • Personalize your email marketing campaigns.
  • Use AI to plan and develop your campaigns.
  • A/B test your email campaigns.
  • Track and measure your email marketing metrics.

1. Choose email marketing automation software with targeted features

According to HubSpot’s 2023 State of Marketing report, effective marketers are 46% more likely to use automation than those with ineffective strategies.

The Litmus State of Email report also shares that 82% of marketers use automation for triggered emails, 67% for drip campaigns, and 56% for segmentation.

This means the right marketing platform can help you build email campaigns that apply best practices to yield positive results.

For example, OTUS, an educational platform for IT specialists, increased sales from emails by 200% in 1 year using automation.

OTUS used GetResponse’s automation, segmentation, and tagging features to create 29 unique automation workflows and group users by areas of interest. As a result, it could send emails with relevant content and boosted its open rates from 17.6% to 30% in just 6 months.

OTUS increased sales from emails by 200% in 1 year using email automation
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Some key factors to look at when picking an email marketing platform include:

  • Advanced automation tools to help you engage subscribers with personalized offers and content across all relevant channels.
  • High email deliverability to ensure your emails reach subscribers’ inboxes.
  • Data protection to keep your customers’ details safe.
  • Customer support in real time so you can get help when you need it.

GetResponse MAX checks all these boxes, making it one of the best marketing automation platforms available. 

GetResponse MAX’s key email marketing feature
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GetResponse MAX’s key features include:

  • Email and SMS automation with visual workflow builders
  • 99% email deliverability rates
  • High level of security with firewalls and 24/7 monitoring
  • Dedicated Customer Experience Manager to help with the daily operations of your account
  • AI Email Generator with GPT technology
  • AI product recommendations
  • Flexible terms and payment options

2. Segment your target audience

Email segmentation is dividing your subscribers into distinct groups (aka segments) based on specific characteristics, such as purchase behavior, interests, or demographics.

For example, Submission Technology, a lead generation agency, segments its customers and consistently gets high engagement rates from its emails. 

In one of its email marketing campaigns, the brand grouped its customers by gender and saw unique opens of 27.58% for females and 23.49% for males. That’s 50% higher than the industry standard for females and 28% higher than the standard for males. 

Here’s what the emails looked like:

Submission Technology email segmentation by gender
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On top of high engagement, other benefits of email segmentation include:

  • Higher inbox placement rate: Email segmentation helps you send relevant content to subscribers, which results in increased engagement. As the metrics improve, internet service providers (ISPs) will increase your email reputation score. As a result, ISPs will send more of your messages to subscribers’ inboxes.
  • You can use the segmented data in other marketing campaigns: You can integrate your email automation platform with customer relationship management (CRM) software. That way, you can use your segmented data to send personalized content to subscribers on other marketing channels, such as social media and SMS.

3. Personalize your email marketing campaigns

According to a McKinsey report, 71% of customers expect you to give them personalized interactions. And more than two-thirds will become frustrated if you don’t deliver.

To that end, you can personalize your email marketing campaigns by:

  • Adding value to your subject lines.
  • Personalizing the email body.

Add value to your subject lines — not generic personalization tactics

Mailmodo’s 2023 report shows 47.4% of surveyed marketers used subject line personalization tactics in most email campaigns. However, our 2023 Email Marketing Benchmarks report shows this strategy no longer works.

For example, personalized subjects had an open rate of 22.17%, while the rate for non-personalized subjects was 28.89%. 

On top of that, the click-through rate (CTR) of emails with non-personalized subject lines was almost 2X higher than those with personalized subjects (2.49% vs. 1.29%).

Most recipients recognize generic personalization tactics like “[firstname] Claim your offer today.” That’s why these tactics are failing.

Instead of just recognizing their first names, give recipients a reason to open the message. Highlight the value they’ll get in the email, such as a special offer. You should also A/B test your subjects to find the best version and apply it to your campaigns for better results.

Personalize the email body

According to our 2023 benchmarks report, personalized email bodies have higher open rates (30.26% vs. 26.55%) and CTRs (2.7% vs. 2.1%) than non-personalized bodies. They also have a lower bounce rate (2.41% vs. 3.62%).

An ideal way to personalize your emails is to match your subscribers’ needs to your solutions. For example, you can use AI-driven product recommendations to personalize your offers based on each customer’s needs, preferences, and behavior. 

 Benefits of AI product recommendation
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You can then suggest the services and products they’re most likely to buy and increase engagement and sales. 

4. Use AI to plan and develop your campaigns

AI can perform many email marketing-related tasks at scale thanks to its robust capabilities. These tasks include writing subject lines, drafting copy, and improving email deliverability.

For instance, GetResponse MAX’s AI Email Generator helps you create excellent copy and gives you ideas you can add to your email marketing strategies. 

You provide keywords and select your tone, design, and industry. After that, your AI-generated email will be ready in seconds.

Benefits of GetResponse MAX’s AI Email Generator
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You can also use AI to do the following:

  • Personalize your emails with AI-driven product recommendations: As mentioned earlier, you can use AI to discover each customer’s preferences, needs, and behavior. Then, you can personalize your offers to boost sales and engagement.
  • Analyze customer data to stay ahead of competitors: L’Oréal analyzes millions of images, videos, and online comments using AI to identify trends before its competitors take notice. As a result, the brand can develop on-trend products and incorporate the terms currently engaging users into its online marketing strategy. You can also use AI to implement such tactics and stay ahead of your competitors.
  • Keep your email list healthy: AI can clean up your email list automatically and update email addresses, contact numbers, and other information. This saves you the hassle of manually going through the list to remove inactive contacts.

5. A/B test your email campaigns

A/B testing means sending one email version to a group of your target audience and another version to a second group of the same audience. 

The variant that receives the most opens, clicks, or conversions will help you know what your audience wants so you can apply these results to future emails.

Some elements to test include:

  • From name
  • Subject
  • Preheader
  • Email design
  • Email copy
  • Call to action (CTA)
  • Email frequency

For example, Mobile Fun used GetResponse to automate its processes, segment its subscriber lists, and run A/B tests to deliver targeted newsletters to its global audience.

The brand split-tested two campaigns and got the following results:

  • Variant A’s open rate: 11.69% 
  • Variant B’s open rate: 12.37%

After adjusting its email campaigns, the winning campaign’s opens shot to 49.17%. 

Regularly A/B testing your emails lets you focus your marketing budget on campaigns that hit the target as Mobile Fun did.

6. Track and measure your email marketing metrics

Tracking your email marketing metrics — like opens, clicks, and unsubscribes — helps you better understand how customers engage with your content. 

Without monitoring these metrics, you won’t know if your marketing efforts are paying off. You also won’t clearly understand how your email content resonates with recipients. 

That said, privacy features, such as the Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) policy, have led to unreliable and sometimes inflated open rates. That’s why you should use metrics like the conversion rate to measure your email marketing success. 

Nevertheless, an increase in opens also could show improved engagement with subscribers, so you should still track this metric. 

You can improve your email opens by:

  • Testing your subject lines’ length, tone, and content.
  • Optimizing your preheader text.
  • Testing your sender name and email address (e.g., CEO’s name vs. company’s name).
  • Testing the send time and send day (e.g., daily vs. weekly).

You can also improve your CTR by:

  • Having fewer CTAs. Choose one or two primary actions you want recipients to take after opening your email.
  • Not burying your CTAs. Make them visible and accessible so they stand out. Use text decorations or a different background color behind the CTAs and place them prominently.
  • Spicing up your copy by using personalization and focusing on the value your customers will get from your offerings.
  • Creating stronger segments so you can offer recipients relevant content.

You can decrease your unsubscribe rate by:

  • Improving your signup process.
  • Nurturing new contacts with your best content.
  • Figuring out when and why people unsubscribe.
  • Letting your subscribers choose when to hear from you.

Email marketing automation examples

Usually, we send different types of emails when running marketing campaigns based on where customers are in the sales funnel. 

Here are 6 of the most common automated email series:

1. Welcome email

A welcome email is the first email you send to a subscriber. So it’s one of the most important messages you’ll send in your marketing campaigns. Our 2023 benchmarks report shows these emails have 3X more opens and click-throughs than regular newsletters.

Welcome emails set the expectations for your relationship with new customers. And you can use them to share crucial links, tell your brand’s story, or highlight what makes your business unique. 

Here’s an example from our own Content Team:

GetResponse’s welcome email
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The email is brief and tells new subscribers exactly what they’ll get from the GetResponse team — expert insights from our top authors. It also adds relevant links to essential guides that can help the recipient get started with email marketing campaigns. 

The image of the Content Team waving gives off a friendly vibe, making recipients feel much more at home.

2. Abandoned cart recovery email

You typically send abandoned cart emails to customers who’ve added items to their shopping carts but haven’t checked out. The email acts as a friendly reminder to shoppers who may have become distracted and forgot to complete their purchase.

Abandoned cart emails are an effective customer retention tactic ecommerce businesses use to boost revenue. According to Barilliance, these emails have a high conversion rate of 18.54%.

With that in mind, let’s look at an example from Casper

Casper’s cart abandonment recovery email
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The catchy, playful headline “COME BACK TO BED” draws the customer in. The email is easy to read, with a clear CTA button that directs shoppers back to the checkout process. The brand also adds a customer testimonial to boost credibility and show that its products are worth investing in.

3. Order confirmation email

An order confirmation email is a transactional message sent to customers after they purchase a product from your online store. The email contains the shopper’s confirmation details, including the estimated delivery date, the purchase total, and what they bought.

Like most transactional messages, order confirmation emails keep your customers in the loop, and every shopper will expect to receive one after making a purchase.

Here’s an example from Asos:

Asos’ order confirmation email
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This email is simple and straightforward. It thanks the customer for purchasing the products and skips to the order confirmation details. 

The email provides all the necessary information, including the products bought, the estimated delivery date, and the collection address. As a result, the recipient can immediately check and correct any details if their order doesn’t look right.

4. Re-engagement email

Re-engagement emails are messages sent to subscribers who’ve stopped engaging with your brand. They’re also called reactivation or win-back emails.

A reactivation email has two goals: Convince inactive customers to continue opening your emails or remove them from your email list to keep it healthy.

Here’s an example from Animoto, a cloud-based video creation service:

Animoto’s re-engagement email
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Animoto asks its subscribers a simple question: Do you still want to hear from us? 

The email focuses on allowing the unengaged user to update their email preferences using a prominent CTA button that takes them to the preference center.

Browse even more powerful win-back email templates here.

5. Product review email

Review request emails are sent to consumers to ask for feedback on a brand’s products or services. 

There are many reasons why you should request reviews from your customers. 

First, a 2023 BrightLocal report shares that a massive 98% of shoppers at least occasionally read reviews when looking for local businesses. The same report also shows 81% of customers are likely or highly likely to leave a positive review if they feel you went above and beyond to deliver an exceptional experience.

As a result, if you focus on giving customers what they want, positive reviews can be free marketing for your brand

Here’s a good review request example from J.Crew:

J.Crew’s product review request email
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J.Crew’s email is straightforward. Its headline — “So… Did You Love It?” — conveys a warm and inviting personality and a lighthearted tone.

The brand is also creative with its incentive. Instead of the regular discount that most companies offer, it tells customers that their reviews could end up on J.Crew’s website. The message ends with a friendly, “You’re the best,” to further motivate recipients to give feedback.

6. Anniversary email

Anniversary emails are automated messages sent to customers to celebrate the day they made their first purchase. These emails aim to increase customer retention and encourage subscribers to purchase more.

They typically have personalized offers, such as coupons or discounts, to boost open and click-through rates.

Here’s an example from Busuu:

Busuu’s anniversary email
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While most brands celebrate their customers’ anniversaries after a year, Busuu took it to a different level by sending an anniversary email after only three months. 

The brand also offers a high discount (60%) on its premium plan, adding more incentive to click through and make a purchase.

Final thoughts: 6 tips to build an email marketing automation strategy

Email automation saves you time and boosts your team’s productivity and efficiency. As a result, your team can use that time to attend to customers and other tasks that need more attention. 

Automated campaigns also boost your ROI and revenue and help you retain customers by giving you the marketing tools you need to constantly engage them.

To get the most out of your campaigns, you need an email marketing automation software like GetResponse MAX that can help you automate your processes and grow your brand. 


Anna Kvasnevska
Anna Kvasnevska
Anna is a content marketing specialist and a proud member of the GetResponse team. With more than 5 years of experience in content creation, as well as her intercultural background and cross-industry perspective, Anna is happy to share her insights into the latest updates from the world of online marketing, eCommerce, and technology. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.