Email: Kurt Elster explains the top automation flows that drive revenue (episode 005)

by April Buencamino-dy

Kurt Elster’s been helping Shopify merchants uncover the hidden profits in their websites since 2011, and he’s also the host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast.

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Email Marketing Early On

Kurt has been running a marketing agency for a decade and says he had to get great at email marketing to survive and grow that business.

Early on, he says that he saw the potential power of email and used his very small list to grow his business in the very early days of email marketing. At that time, Kurt points out that there wasn’t the crowded field of email marketing platforms there are today.

Necessity is the mother of invention and so he built his own automations using Drip—largely because he didn’t want the hassle of building complicated HTML emails.

As an early adopter, he says he’s been thrilled with how easy new technologies have made email flows. 

Marketing Automation

According to Kurt, marketing automation can be really simple, While he personally uses Klaviyo, he says there is likely an equivalent way to do all of the suggestions he makes in any popular email platform.

Product Specific Browse Abandonment: Cart abandonment is popular and browse abandonment is a similar concept, but it happens earlier in the process.

If you can gather a person’s email before checkout you have the ability to connect with them even if they don’t put anything in their basket. 

Example of a Successful Product Specific Browse Abandonment Email

Kurt cites a men’s accessories company that sells a series of wallets of which there are many variations. While working with the company, Kurt had asked the owner if anyone had ever broken down the nuances between the styles of wallets.

He confirmed that they had in a blog post two years previously. Armed with this information, Kurt created a product specific browse abandonment email in which he filtered customers using Klaviyo’s technology who had viewed, but not purchased a wallet.

Kurt took the blog that had already been written and sent it to those customers with a link back to the product. Days later, the business owner messaged Kurt and told him they had already made $800 from the email (their price points for wallets are between $20 and $50).

Kurt points out that this success is the simple act of being proactive with the information you do have. In this case, it was who had browsed without purchasing paired with some answers to a common question. 

What should be in an abandoned cart series?

According to Kurt, the first email you send should not be selling, reminding or pitching a scarcity narrative. Instead, try the following formula:

  1. Start with a timely plain text email (split test on timing) that has a simple subject line offering help. This email can be a simple customer support answering commonly asked questions or simply asking if you can help. 
  2. The second email can be a reminder (simple reminder only for carts less than $50) or a reminder email with a coupon. 
  3. The third email can offer a time limited incentive coupon code. 
  4. If  they didn’t use the coupon, follow up with a final email telling them the coupon has expired and that you’ve signed them up for the newsletter. Include an easy way to unsubscribe.

Welcome Series

You can differentiate between types of people (site visitor vs. new customer for example) in your welcome series, but either way—it’s crucial that you have a good one! 

To avoid making it complicated, just send your welcome series when someone first joins your list. If necessary, you can create a welcome series that drops people in different parts of the series.

For example, people who purchase might get their first email from farther down than someone who has joined but not purchased any product. Typically you want all your copy to be customer but the welcome series is about you and your business! The basic formula is:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Tell your story—tell the story of how you got started, your purpose etc.
  3. Common Questions (FAQ) and testimonials
  4. Extend an offer (coupon code) with time limits
  5. Reminder of coupon expiration + testimonial
  6. If they didn’t buy, simply ask if you can include them on future correspondence, let them know what they can expect and offer an unsubscribe link.

Another great tip is to include a shadow newsletter—rather than recreating a long newsletter sequence, simply tack on your best hits from your existing newsletter series to the welcome series and dole it out to new subscribers. Consider doing this with other resources like evergreen flash sales, and customer support resources.

Insider Tips

If we’ve inspired someone to take their first step with Email Marketing – what do they need to know to give themselves the best chance of success?

Don’t overcomplicate email. Just start with a plain text email and often will perform better

Once you’ve started of course you’ve got to ‘keep optimising’! So what’s your favourite way to improve email marketing performance?

Split Test. Best send time, best subject line, best offer.

It’s impossible to improve our marketing unless we’re monitoring the performance – but the list of stuff we could monitor can be overwhelming. So what, for you is the number one email marketing KPI?

Click Through Rate—The dark truth of email marketing is that content is less important than staying top of mind. 

Crystal ball time – what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months that we should be getting ready for in email marketing?

SMS marketing is really starting to come into its heyday and in the next 12 months, likely all email platforms will be adding SMS as a feature. Personalization will likely become more useful and more powerful. 

Interview Links

Kurt on Social media:

Sponsored by…

Klaviyo is a leading customer data and marketing automation platform dedicated to accelerating revenue and customer connection for online businesses. Klaviyo makes it easy to store, access, analyze and use transactional and behavioral data to power highly-targeted customer and prospect communications.

The company’s hybrid customer-data and marketing-platform model allows companies to grow by fostering direct relationships with customers, without giving up their valuable data to popular big-tech ad platforms. Over 80,000 innovative companies like Unilever, Custom Ink, Living Proof and Huckberry sell more with Klaviyo. Learn more at

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