5 Pillars of Email Automation: Unleash the Power

by Andrew Edgell August 3, 2021


Ever dream about making money while you sleep? Email automation makes that dream a reality. Sometimes referred to as “flows”, “workflows” or “drip campaigns”, email automation is a staple of every marketing strategy. When it comes to automations, many people think of auto-responders after a purchase or quick, automated transactional emails. In truth, email automation is so much more than that. It’s a way to develop a personal relationship with a customer or lead, a canvas to tell a brand story, and ultimately, a mechanism to increase the lifetime value of a customer. In this post, we will focus on the power of email automation. We will look at what the statistics say, learn the 5 pillars of email automation, identify 3 automations that are must-haves for every business, and understand how automations can improve and facilitate the customer journey.


According to Klaviyo’s Benchmark Report for 2020, email automations opens, clicks, and conversion rates are all considerably higher than one-off email campaigns. For example, the ideal open and click rate for campaigns are around 20% for opens and 2% for clicks. For automated email flows, opens are around double at 40% and clicks are 3 times higher at around 6% average. Why are the statistics so much higher? The answer lies in the simple fact that email automations are much more targeted by a contact’s behavior. Email automations are triggered by specific behaviors that a user takes on the website or on forms. These automations catch buyers in the right place at the right time, delivering relevant content when a buyer is at the height of their buying behavior.

Now that we have seen the numbers to back up the value of automations, it’s vital to understand what types of behaviors warrant automated email series. 

What do you need to automate in your emails? 

Apart from transactional emails such as order confirmation and shipping notification, there are many uses of automations within your email marketing strategy. Some examples of when to include automations are: when someone subscribes to the mailing list, when a product has been added to the cart, when a customer spends time viewing a specific product, or when a customer hasn’t bought in the last year. That list goes on and on. In reality, email automations can be used in a variety of situations. No matter what that situation may be, every successful email automations needs 5 things to make it work.

Five Pillars of Email Automation

It’s all nice to turn on automations and let them run their course, but it’s important to make sure they are up to speed with best practices. Every automation needs 5 things to make it as effective as possible. These “5 pillars” are the keys to making sure every automation performs at its highest level.


Triggers are the actions or behaviors that customers take on a website or during the sales funnel. Some examples of triggers include a person filling out a form, a visitor starting the checkout process, or a visitor making a purchase. They are so powerful because every action that a visitor takes triggers a specific email with specific messaging to that visitor. Triggers add a high degree of relevance to email subscribers.


Whether an automation is triggered to send an email immediately or in 1 year, they need to be timely. For example, when a visitor signs up to receive emails from a business they are expecting to receive an email immediately welcoming them in. That new subscriber will be left disappointed if they receive that welcome email after a week. Likewise, an email that is cross-selling complimentary products will not be welcome right after a purchase is made. The timeliness of an email helps build a subscriber’s confidence in a brand and shows that the brand is reliable.


Adding a personal touch to automations is key. Personalization can be the use of a subscriber’s first name, showing the specific products the subscriber has in their cart, or calling out their purchase history. People want to be seen as individuals, as people, not just an email address. A person’s inbox is more of an intimate touchpoint and when a person allows a brand to be in their inbox, this should not be taken lightly. According to Campaign Monitor, personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. 


Segmentation is a buzzword for email marketers. It’s the separation of contacts based on engagement, behaviors, interests, purchase behavior, location, etc. Segmentation can be used to make targeted lists of contacts to send specific, tailored messages to them. Clearly, if a subscriber shows interest in a particular product category, it makes sense to send them an email based on those interests. If a brand is using a lead magnet like a free webinar, segmentation of these signups will help this brand send content based on the fact that they initially signed up for that webinar. 

A/B Testing

It’s not possible to make improvements and gather key learnings if there is no testing. An important part of email automation is conducting A/B tests. That is, making changes to things like subject lines, email content, and calls-to-action to see what resonated with the audience. Testing is not just a one time thing and needs time to produce statistically significant conclusions. It’s easy to assume a test is a failure after a couple days and it may even be tempting to turn off the test. Don’t do it. Every “failure” produces valuable insights into what works with an audience and what doesn’t. The great thing about doing A/B testing within automations is that there is a constant stream of data coming in. The data begins to reveal a story and actionable insights can be gleaned. 

Three Email Automations Every Business Needs to Have

Welcome Series

A welcome series is an automated flow that triggers once a contact subscribes to receive email marketing from a business. The welcome series is a perfect way to welcome a subscriber to the brand, introduce them to the brand story, and focus on the brand’s Unique Selling Propositions (USPs). Welcome emails are timely and are sent when a brand is the most top of mind. As a result of this, welcome emails tend to be one the highest performing automations that a business has. Depending on the industry, open rates are generally high (between 40-50%) as are clicks (between 6-9%). Best practices for welcome emails include timely deliveries, personalization based on a subscriber’s name or interests, and a small incentivizer, such as a discount. A welcome series is the first automation every business should have set up. 

Abandoned Cart

The abandoned cart flow allows a company to pluck the lowest hanging fruit off their lower-funnel website visitors. These visitors have taken the specific action to add an item to their cart, but then for some reason or another they never made it to the point of making a purchase. The power of abandoned cart automation is that because a contact has provided their email address, they can then be sent specific, targeted emails with the specific products they left in their cart. We know they are at the bottom of the sales funnel and that they showed the intent to buy. A gentle reminder that they have items in their cart is a great way to capitalize on this buying intent. Conversion rates for abandoned cart automations are sometimes 3 to 4 times higher than the conversion rate of welcome series. 


Reviews, thank you messages, and repeat buyers. What do these three things have in common? They are important parts to any successful post-purchase flow. Post-purchase emails are a great way to drive brand loyalty and encourage repeat purchases. A simple, personalized note from a company after a purchase goes a long way. Say a customer just bought an awesome new razor. What goes well with that razor? Replacement razors, a new handle, shaving cream, after shave, etc. Post-purchase emails are the perfect way to offer complimentary products based on the purchase history and behavior of a customer. The ultimate goal of every post-purchase flow is to increase the lifetime value of the customer, create loyal customers, and strengthen relationships. 

Customer Journey

Automations are all about the customer journey. They give a business the ability to control a customer’s experience all the way through the sales funnel. In the end, email automations are key to increasing the lifetime value of every customer. They are both timely and personalized in a way that other marketing channels cannot be. 

Every customer journey includes various touchpoints. It’s important to analyze and determine when email automation can enhance a touchpoint with a lead or a customer. For example, top of funnel leads that aren’t ready to make a purchase need a lighter touchpoint such as an introduction to a brand. What better way to do this than through a welcome email? As a contact moves through the funnel, email automation can tell a deeper brand story and focus on the unique value that the brand brings. 

Email Service Providers (ESPs)

Email Service Providers or ESPs, are paid services/platforms that facilitate email automations and campaigns. To clear up any confusion, Gmail, Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, and Yahoo  don’t have the capabilities to enable the types of email automations we have been talking about. These automations require more firepower and technical ability. Although there are countless ESPs on the market, we will focus on 3 of the best.


Klaviyo is the top dog for all things relating to email/e-commerce. It has very powerful native integrations with Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce enabling it to pull very specific data into the platform. This becomes a very powerful tool because whatever happens on an e-commerce website, whether it be an item added to a cart or a purchase made, that data is then brought over to Klaviyo. It’s email automation abilities are unmatched and it’s drag-and-drop email builder makes it very user-friendly. 

Active Campaign

Active Campaign is another powerful ESP that makes data integration for email automation very accessible and customizable. Active Campaign is powerful for customized websites and allows for virtually any type of trigger and automation that a company needs. It also has a powerful lead scoring system that can automate the lead generation and sales process for B2B companies. 


Probably the most well-known, one-stop-shop for all things digital marketing, Hubspot has very powerful email automation capabilities. The great thing about Hubspot is that it acts as a CRM, thus consolidating all data and user-behaviors. It has very powerful tools to integrate sales and marketing together, making it easy to identify touchpoints where email automation can be used. 


Email automations are an important part of every email marketing strategy and every marketing strategy as a whole. In this post, we reviewed the numbers behind automations, talked about when to implement automations, discovered the 5 pillars of email marketing, identified the 3 email automations that every business needs to have in place, and now understand what role automations play in the customer journey.

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Andrew Edgell

Andrew Edgell

Andrew Edgell is an email marketing aficionado who especially loves email design and making high-performing email strategies. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, watching soccer, and fashion.

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