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eCommerce Subscription Emails

9 Best eCommerce Subscription Program Email Optimisations & Strategies (With Examples)

💬 For those running eCommerce subscriptions, here is a checklist with key tactics as thought starters to help with experiments/tests.
by Dan Siepen
Created On:
19/4/2024

💬 A big component of a successful eCommerce subscription system is having a solid email automation and campaign strategy in place - that includes emails across promotion and transactional.

I believe emails for subscription programs (in conjunction with ads, landing pages, etc), are a really critical part to get right (promotion and CX once users subscribed) - and that why I put this checklist together to help uncover and think about tests/strategies.

Tactical areas for subscription email optimisations to drive more signups, and retain them (for greater LTV)

💬 There aren't many resources out there that delve into what great subscription emails look like, so I've shared some key examples below, along with some top takeaways, and a list of strategy/tactical ideas that you can implement for testing.

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A key component of great subscription emails is ensuring there’s dynamic personalisation - particularly with pricing offers, customer details, and any other sort of dynamic content blocks. 

There are some great eCommerce subscription software vendor solutions on the market - and when it comes to choice, these are some factors/questions to ask yourself for research and consideration: 

  • Is there a seamless integration with customer database/CMS and ESP (email service providers) - i.e. for most of you, this would be Klaviyo and Shopify
  • What’s the UX like for both customers and of course for the internal team - i.e easy login functionality for customers, dashboard view for analytics/performance for the team internally, etc. Primary is ensuring a platform satisfies super simple UX for customers (anything clunky can lead to churn)
  • What data points can you feed from the platform to your email automations? What segmenting and personalisation tags can you implement? 
  • Are there reminders/triggers for performance (like slack/email notifications) for team members to be aware of who’s churned, cancelled, etc?

This isn’t an exhaustive list of factors when choosing/vetting, but these are some that I keep in mind when researching.

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Readers/audiences naturally get a lot of promo emails, so you have to get right to the point in terms of the offer (which is most important), and then how customers can sign up and purchase. 

It doesn’t need to be over-thought either - just a simple digestible format can work wonders - clear headings (ideally numbered), icons/image and mini-descriptions can help accelerate a reader’s understanding of how to get involved. 

I like this example from Refreshments, which is actually a confirmation email post an ‘free offer’ kit. 

Refreshments email example
(Source: Refreshments and Really Good Emails)

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In my personal opinion, whenever you can and it makes contextual sense, add in social proof elements and even soft social following CTAs to remind audiences to join/follow. 

It’s a good way to try add on another touchpoint where you can communicate to customers (and in many ways, follow them around, so your brand can stay top of mind). 

See how the brand Refreshments does it in the above email (at the bottom).

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Pending on the capabilities of technology/tooling you have in place (and my recommendation is that you use a 3rd-party provider that can help do the bulk of this logic), having transactional emails automatically sent to customers based on delivery and subscription info is key. 

Whilst it’s not a ‘converting’ email per se, it does play a role in retention. 

I love the simplicity from Ritual here, which clear details and dates - with then a button for customers to easily ‘edit’ if required. 

Ritual example email
(Source: Ritual and Really Good Emails)

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Brainstorm and think about ways to get ‘one-time’ customers (or any infrequent customer segments - however you define it in your company’s context), with upsell/cross-sell offers based on past purchasing behaviour attributes - such as SKU, AOV, past deals, etc.

Check out the example below from Allplants. 

Tip: DTC/eCommerce food-based brands do an awesome job with their email marketing with offers. 

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A great way to highlight/heavily promote your subscription plan is by doing an ‘irresistible’ offer, tied in with a key seasonal campaign period like Black Friday, Cyber Weekend/Monday, as well as the likes of Christmas. 

I like this idea in particular as it’s an awesome way to deliver an offer which is a bit more unique to the classic discount-based offers (and the race to the bottom) for single-order/bundle items which many brands do which are typically ‘one-off’.

If you can drive up new subscriptions, it will go a long way to recoup your initial CAC and acquisition costs.

Check out the example below from the brand Buoy.

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Test various offers/incentives to drive subscription adoption (especially if you’re really wanting to drive uptake) via your primary newsletter list. 

Just like you would with many other promos, state key benefits/USPs (icons, imagery and descriptions), how it works (the process), social proof (like quotes/reviews and UGC) and clear CTAs. 

View the examples below to get some inspo for design/copy, messaging and layout/structure.

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Winback emails (and any strategies tied to getting customers back to buy) are a great initiative to remind customers what they’re missing out on. 

With so many distractions and competition, sending a personalised offer(s) can help get people to come back. 

The key components to remember with these types of ‘winback’ emails for subscriptions include: 

  • Remind them of the core USPs of your product
  • What makes your subscription plans awesome
  • A ‘unique’ offer (if possible) which isn’t seen across the site or via other advertising messaging/campaigns you’ve done across channels - note: it could be a similar discount, but angled in a different way
  • How easy the process is to sign up/manage
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A small ‘quick’ optimisation win is to try add in an incentive for users to share a deal or about your offer with their friends. 

Just a simple soft CTA like ‘refer a friend’ through a post-purchase transactional email like this is awesome. 

It’s non-invasive nor distracting, and it’s a great way to motivate those who has already purchased. 

There’s a greater chance from someone who’s made a purchase to recommend friends/family so, remind them, just like this example from Green Chef. 

Which examples of subscription emails do I rate (which possess good practices)?

Here are some really solid examples from brands who've done an awesome job, with some high-level commentary/takeaways.

Example #1

Allplants email example

  • Aside from a beautifully-designed UI (which looks amazing and on-brand for them), it has a great structure from top to bottom - incl. Key product image and clear heading, ‘what is it’ section, two primary CTAs, ‘why’ and further info (second CTA). 
  • Imagery highlights how the product is made
  • Then, the TrustPilot reviews embed (social proof)

Example #2

Buoy example email

  • I love this design and layout from Buoy for this Cyber Monday campaign they ran. 
  • Bold and very clear offer and CTA (readers see this right away). 
  • ‘Scarcity’ element with ‘Last Day to Start’ - this helps drive action (i.e. bit of FOMO)

Example #3

Athletic Greens example email

  • Athletic Greens are awesome for inspo when it comes to subscription emails.
  • This reference here is more of an “offer” email to upgrade - like the simplicity and the clear CTA, with then supporting info and USP icons.
👋 G'day everyone, Dan Siepen here from down under 🇦🇺🦘🐨. I'm an experienced growth marketer w/ 8+ years exp. across SaaS, B2B, DTC & eComm. Get to know more about me (check my homepage too) & if you want to connect, just reach out. 👇
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