Why More Than Half of Your Ecommerce Email List Won't Convert

By Tinuiti Team

Studies show only about one-third of ecommerce email subscribers actually make a purchase from the retailer they subscribed to.

And of those that do buy, only 15% become repeat customers.

Is that a terrible number? No.

Could it be closer to two-thirds? Absolutely.

There are plenty of reasons why two-thirds of your email subscribers don’t end up actually making a purchase–whether they don’t see the email or they just aren’t convinced yet that your product is for them.

Or perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that your email sequence isn’t quite on par with other retailers.

We caught up with Kim Stiglitz Courvoisier, Director of Content Marketing at Campaign Monitor, an email marketing platform used by over 200,000 international businesses including retailers Adidas, RipCurl, Topshop, and Birchbox.

kim stiglitz

Stiglitz answers three of our most burning questions about ecommerce emails so you can start making changes and seeing better results with every campaign.

Q. First, why do you think retailers send so many emails?

It’s been said that a lot of people unsubscribe because they get “too many emails” from a retailer. Is there a sweet spot in general for retailers to aim for?


A. Retailers send “so many emails” because email marketing is a powerhouse for generating sales for retail.

But you’d expect me to say that given I work for a popular email service provider, Campaign Monitor. But don’t just take my word for it.

Netta Kivilis, who heads up marketing at Custora, said that email was one of the biggest revenue-driving channels for customers, accounting for as much as 40% of total revenue in some instances, so it’s not surprising that retailers have embraced email marketing as a marketing tactic they depend on.

To address your question of why some retailers send so much email we need to examine the balance between sending enough and too much.

As you mentioned before, studies show only about one-third of ecommerce email subscribers make a purchase from the retailer they subscribed to.

Some attribute this to getting too many retailer emails in a month.

How many times have you discovered a new retailer you loved, navigated to their website to sign up and then started getting daily emails (sometimes more than once a day) from them?

We’ve all experienced this, and it can feel like overkill. While I do love Charming Charlie, I really don’t need to hear from them every single day. More isn’t always better.

69% of U.S. email users unsubscribe from a business because the organization sends too many emails, according to a report from Chadwick Martin Bailey.

When subscribers sign up to hear from you, you need to clearly state what you will send them and how often and stick to it.

Don’t offer to send out a weekly newsletter and quarterly sales only to send daily deal alerts or you can assume you’ll get heaps of unsubscribes.

We wrote about the topic of how often to send promotional emails on a blog and the results might surprise you.

The chart from MarketingSherpa gives you an idea of optimal send frequency.

This survey is based on how 2,057 adults answered the question, “How often, if ever, would you like to receive promotional emails (e.g., coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with?”

Clearly, the two most popular choices were “At least monthly” and “At least weekly.” The third most popular choice was “weekly,” and the fourth option picked most was “monthly.”

Weekly emails are so effective that many marketers send them.

Monthly emails can be effective, too. But there’s always a concern that mailing monthly may be so infrequent that subscribers might forget who you are, and thus be more likely to delete your messages.

The key is to provide context about how often you will mail subscribers and deliver on that promise.

If you change your frequency, alert subscribers and allow them to manage how often they want to hear from you and what they want to receive through a preference center.

Another important tactic is to segment your list and send relevant content to that segment of your subscribers versus sending a one-size-fits-nobody email ala the old email blasts of the past.

Surfing brand Rip Curl does this very well.

When Rip Curl launches new products, they use email to drive shoppers to their online store. They’ve seen especially high performance in relation to a line of wetsuits, called the Bombshell. James Taylor, Rip Curl’s Global Creative Director, said, “Beautiful emails have turned our Bombshell wetsuit into a global phenomenon.”


Q.What does the ideal sequence (drip) of emails look like?

Should it follow the marketing funnel and where the buyer is, or should it be based on their site behavior?


A. For retailers, I believe emails should be a hybrid based on a combination of the marketing funnel and user onsite behavior with emphasis on-site behavior when possible as it shows intent.

Marketing according to the funnel is fine to a degree as you need to help your subscriber get to the point of conversion and keep coming back.

However, your users are also giving you heaps of information by the pages on your site they visit, how much time they spend there, and what they click on so don’t turn a blind eye to that.

One of my favorite examples of a great email sequence comes from beauty box retailer, Birchbox. Birchbox starts the relationship off right with an engaging welcome letter.


Once a subscriber has started their monthly box plan, Birchbox keeps them coming back with series of emails. Check out the actual examples from my inbox below:

Birchbox Email Series

Pick your box options:

Box option confirmation:

Upgrade your box:

Your box has been shipped:

Buy full sized items of samples you received:

Loyalty program update:

Birthday message:



Q. How does segmentation play into the conversion rate on emails?

And what are some of the keys to segmenting correctly?


A. Today’s consumers are bombarded with information, and marketers are constantly looking for ways to cut through the noise and reach audiences.

Relevancy is the marketer’s secret weapon and the fastest path to revenue.

Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, and marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.


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During the holidays only 21% of marketers were using real-time personalization or A/B testing, and only 56% were using segmentation-based targeting as a top tactic within their email strategy according to an article by MediaPost.

Segmentation is the division of email subscribers into smaller segments based on set criteria.

Lists can be segmented in a variety of ways, including:


To execute segmentation effectively, you need to collect the right data from subscribers up front.

You can segment subscribers in two main ways:

  1. Self-segmentation via separate, page or location-based opt-in lists
  2. Sorting subscribers based on data they’ve provided


Once you’ve created your different segments, you can start sending more targeted emails.


Email marketing continues to be a powerhouse for retailers.

By sending the right message to the right person at the right time using the data they have about their subscribers, retailers can continue to drive engagement and revenue through the roof.

Have questions about this post? Email [email protected]


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