How To Drive BIG Profit From A Small Customer List

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As an ecommerce merchant, making sales is top of mind. All of your energy and hard work goes into that very moment.

While there are lots of resources out there on how to get started or what to optimize to get your first few sales, there’s not much on the topic of how to really grow your sales from your existing customer list.

Sure you can run ads, create social campaigns, work with influencers and more… But none of these campaigns put you in direct contact with your customers. There’s no long term relationship building between your brand and the consumers of these campaigns.

When you stop putting dollars in, or someone with a bigger budget comes along — your exposure to that same audience drops.

So what’s a merchant like you to do anyway?

Consider investing in your own channels — like your website, blog and email list, just to name a few. These are just some of the great ways to make sure that you aren’t dependant on other factors or platforms to make sales.

But aren’t these channels a lot of work? Asking yourself as you’re reading this. I hear you, and yes they are. Although the benefits of investing in your business and building a sustainable marketing channel that you can rely on time and time again is critical.

In this post, we’re going to focus on: your email list. Also known as, your customer database.

You can drive BIG profits from even a very small customer email list.

And we’re here to show you how.

Section 1: Why email?

Granted email marketing isn’t the ‘sexiest’ marketing channel around. It does remain the most effective, and the most profitable.

Just look at Shopify’s data from last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday as an example — email still has the most orders per channel.

With email marketing, you ‘own’ a direct line of communication to each individual, and given the right strategies (which we’ll cover shortly) can build a lasting relationship with each customer.

But we often hear smaller merchants say email marketing is something along the following lines:

  1. They eventually want to get around to email marketing.

  2. They would do it now, but it takes a lot of work to start and do consistently.

  3. They don’t know where to start.

Well the good news is that we’re going to cover how to overcome these hurdles.

Email marketing does require some work to start and it’s important to have the essentials set up to establish a foundation to build on.  Especially, if you hope to maximize your chances at success later on with larger, automated campaigns that a platform like can provide; as well as with lean and effective, transactional emails that help you retain customers (similar to the ones Spently provide).

Section 2: Creating your foundation

For any type of marketing to be successful, you need to first start off with a solid foundation.

This all starts with your website and how you make (potential) customers feel.

Be sure to make it really simple and easy for your visitors to find:

  1. Testimonials or reviews (about both products & service)

  2. Press mentions or professional reviews

  3. Any awards or distinctions

Also, don’t be afraid to have your visitors and potential customers opt-in to your marketing in several different locations on your website. One of the simplest ways to grow your email list is by giving people more options with which to opt-in.

Add your email sign-up for to your,

  1. Hero Banner area

  2. A break in the theme around the middle

  3. In the footer

Extra points for either a pop-up or exit intent opt-in - depending on which style you prefer.

There are a ton of great tools that can help you capture a visitor or prospective customer’s email address and automatically add it to your email list for the marketing campaigns we’ll cover shortly.

Some of our favorite tools include:

  1. Privy

  2. Sumo

  3. JustUno

You can also explore’s pre-made integrations with these apps and others, thanks to Zapier.

For more advanced lead capture tactics, checkout this post on Lead Magnets.

Section 3: Designing a strategy for engagement

Now that you’ve got some of the basic elements covered that will help you maximize your traffic and turn them into subscribers, it’s time to dive into how you can design a marketing strategy around increasing engagement (not just for opens or clicks, but actual sales)

Here are some of the most important elements that go into any successful engagement plan, no matter the industry or type of products sold.

  1. Consistency, stick to a general layout for different email types. Your offer campaigns should have one look and feel, and your education emails should be different from those.

  2. Email types, be sure to mix up the types of emails you send. Generally, your customers will prefer a solid mix of education, added-value & VIP offers (belonging to your email list should be your first tier of a loyalty program!)

  3. Media formats, be sure to mix up the type of media you send or give out in these campaigns. Visual-centric emails are fine - but don’t forget to try things like ebooks, PDFs, infographics, videos, courses and more!

  4. Smart delivery timing, don’t just send all your emails on Mondays at 9 am in your local time zone - take the end customer and their preferences into account with a smart email marketing platform.

Now that you’ve thought about the core elements of your formatting and schedule, you can take it to the next level by supporting this work with automated emails.

Sometimes people hear the word “automated” and their initial reaction is to associate it with ‘non-personal or robotic’ but that’s not the case at all.

To enable your business to run effectively all year round, you either need to have some degree of automation in place, or a lot of staff, but we prefer the latter — it’s more cost effective.

True engagement means being ready to help or recommend the right products, at the right time — to each individual customer. Automated emails, as you may have guessed, are one of the best ways to achieve this.

The must-have automated emails every ecommerce business should have sending, no questions asked, are the following.

  1. Welcome Emails

  2. Abandoned Cart Emails

  3. Product Upsell or Refill

  4. Idle Customer Emails

  5. Churned Customer Emails

  6. Loyalty Emails

Section 4: Maximizing conversions from a small list

You don’t need as many subscribers as you think to make email marketing your most profitable channel.

In fact, you don’t need loads of subscribers at all if they never open or click. What you really need are a few, very loyal fans — quality over quantity.

So how can you find out who the most important customers on your list are? With customer segmentation.

If you aren’t sure of which customer segments you should really be looking for, or what groups of users might be unique to your business, you can use a tool like Customer Segment Builder to find out.

Here are the segments you want in place,

  1. Prospects, people who’ve signed up, but haven’t made a purchase yet.

  2. First Purchases, people who’ve made only 1 purchase

  3. Loyal (VIP) Customers, people who’ve made more than x number of purchases or x$ of purchases (you can decide what works best based on your business)

  4. Idle Customers, who are all the customers who haven’t made another purchase in the last 6-12 months

  5. Churned Customers, who are all the customers who haven’t made another purchase in the last 12+ months

As mentioned, there are other segments you could add to this list to get super granular contextual to various groups, but this is where they start to ‘fall off’ along your customer journey.  

Once you understand what groups you’ve got available to work with and the audience within these different groups, you’ll be able to craft compelling offers and campaigns personalized for them.

Not only personalizing content and product recommendations for different customers, but also personalize delivery time for each individual.

Monday morning, 9 am blasts are the fastest way to end up in the trash bin.

Section 5: Email Design & Copywriting

We’ve now come a long way in changing how you are able to market to a small list and get big returns. The last big element to consider in helping us really maximize this entire process is to further optimize and iterate on our email design and copywriting.

While this could easily be an entire topic off on its own, it’s important to take this into consideration at this stage.

Any email from one of your custom segments to another should look completely different. Sometimes, you’ll even want to mix it up based on the audience.

For example, maybe your general email list’s welcome email has one style and format; whereas if you’re running a specific campaign for an upcoming product release and someone signs up off that landing page, you’ll want to make that welcome email more specific with context related to that last touch point.

However granular you want your email marketing strategy to be, what’s important to remember is that the content and value you choose to deliver in these automated campaigns are largely going to be your predictors of future engagement.

If people know you send out amazing emails packed with value, they will subscribe (and tell their friends.)


We wanted to provide actionables here for you to take advantage of and apply back to your own ecommerce business and email marketing strategy.

However, the overall takeaway has been that you don’t need a huge email list in order to make lots of sales.

So go ahead and try’s Smart Ecommerce Email Marketing platform and make email marketing your most profitable channel! We offer a free 14-day trial and VIP support to get up and running!

About the author:

Franco is the Head of Partnerships and Growth at RareLogic, an ecommerce growth studio that’s behind great apps like When he’s not helping merchants sell more, he digs making podcasts and enjoying craft beer on any patio.

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