How to Build Your First eCommerce Email Sales Funnel(s)

Let’s be honest straight from the start. You already have at least one sales funnel.

If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have a business. You would be running a hobby.

Every business has a process, regardless of what it’s called, that performs the role of a sales funnel.

Let’s consider a quick definition that I like of what a “sales funnel” is (I’ve come up with this based on many other people’s versions);

A sales funnel is your preferred process for moving individuals or organizations from prospects to paying customers to repeat customers.

So you can see from this basic definition that everyone has some form of sales funnel already, even if you don’t think of it that way.

If you have a website where you present products and you send new customers to that website from say Google Shopping ads, that is your funnel. It’s basic but on some level, it meets the definition above.

What many eCommerce store owners don’t have is a well planned, multi step emal sales funnel or funnels, that are optimized to produce the most revenue at the lowest cost.

Can you have multiple eCommerce sales funnels?

Of course you can, in fact, it’s recommended. The more specific funnels you have tied to specific products or conversion events the better.

But for the purposes of this post, we are going to focus on getting your first email sales funnel(s) in place. This is for eCommerce business owners who have never given serious thought or action to building a planned and optimized email sales funnel.

Already a funnel ninja? No problems, read on and leave a comment on the end of this post to tell us about your most successful eCommerce email funnel.

Want to just dive right into email marketing?  Check out our step by step course, Email Marketing for eCommerce.

Why you need eCommerce email sales funnels

This may seem like a no-brainer to some. Building a well planned and optimized eCommerce email sales funnel takes a bit of time and effort. But it’s definitely worthwhile.

Here’s why you should focus on developing your eCommerce email sales funnels;

Increase Conversions. Kinda obvious but good email sales funnels will help you convert more of the traffic that comes to your site. Even if you are converting at a healthy 2% that still means that 98/100 visitors are leaving your site without buying anything and most are unlikely to return ever. This sucks if you are paying for those visitors. A good funnel will give you more than one bite at the cherry.

Increase Profitability. Related to point 1, if you can convert more of the traffic that you pay to acquire, you will be more profitable. Once you have a prospective customer into your email funnel it costs very little to then move them through that journey towards making a purchase.

Increase repeat business. Well planned out customer retention funnels will help you to build a loyal following who will continue to buy from you again and again and again. An added upside to this is that assuming your overall offer is excellent, you will starve out your competition.

Beat the Competition. Well-developed sales/marketing/retention funnels are not common in eCommerce, yet. Most of your competitors are not doing this. They are still relying on email blasts and one-off sales offers to draw people back to their site. This can be one your competitive advantages if you nail it.

Know Your Audience

Before you can build highly converting email sales funnels there are a few things that you need to understand and have a good grasp of.

1. Your target market

You need to research your target market and understand what their needs are in relation to your product or offer. The best funnels will deliver value to the customer that is relevant to where they are in their buying cycle. If you don’t understand who your ideal target market is and what they need, your funnels won’t perform well.

If you aren’t yet clear on your target market get started by reading my last post for Easy eCommerce Wins, Save Time and Money. Find Your Target Audience.

2. You need quality traffic

Quality Out = Quality In.

Your funnels will only produce results that correlate to the quality of the traffic you put in. If you send a bunch of low quality/irrelevant traffic or traffic at the wrong temperature (see below) into your funnel, you won’t get results and you will assume that it was the funnel that was the problem.

By quality traffic, I mean traffic that is likely to understand, be interested in and able to take up the offer you are making in your email funnel.

3. Understand your traffic temperature

This is something I consistently see eCommerce store owners miss the mark on. You must understand the “temperature” of your traffic AND your emails must match the temperature of the traffic you put through them.

People commonly represent temperature using a cold, warm and hot scale. You should be familiar with this system. It’s basic but the diagram below will give you an idea of what is meant by this.

While there may well be a range of extra levels we could fit into this diagram you should get the point.

The reason you need to understand your traffic temperature is that if you are speaking to an email list full of cold traffic with a message that is better suited to hot traffic you will not experience good results from your funnel.

The point of this is that if you run a funnel that makes an upfront ask on cold traffic generated through Facebook for a $1000 product your funnel will not perform well. You would be better served to target that funnel at traffic that is either warm or hot.

I really like this diagram from Digital Marketer that illustrates well the sort of offers you should be making to traffic depending on their temperature.

4. Know your personality and USP

Having a unique personality, story and unique selling proposition (USP) that prospects can readily associate and connect with will boost the success of your sales process.

Brands that are generic, lifeless and boring will get exactly the same sort of results. Average and unexciting. Ultimately they won’t be around for long.

Understand what your brand and businesses personality is, what makes you unique and let it pervade every step of your email sales funnels.

Download SIX of the Email Marketing Funnels We Use in Our Businesses

Including Swipe Files!!


 The Key Elements of an eCommerce Email Sales Funnel

There are a few key elements that most successful sales funnels share. Once you understand them and their role you can make them your own to suit your particular circumstances.

  1. Traffic. All sales funnels start with traffic. This could be cold traffic from a Google or Facebook ad or it could be warm or hot traffic from an existing email or customer list.
  2. Bait/Value Offer. This is what draws your prospect into your email list. Often this could be a free or exceptional value offer. For example an e-book or special deal. For the bait to work however it needs to clearly deliver value to the prospect. It needs to be something they can sign up for without really thinking about it too hard. You could offer multiple baits or value offers in a single funnel.
  3. Entry Level Offer. You may or may not have an entry-level offer. You might choose to go straight to your core offer. These two elements combined could also be known as the “front end” of your email sales funnel. The idea here is to get the customer to open their wallet. Once someone starts to spend money with you there is an excellent chance that they will go on to spend larger amounts over time.
  4. Core Offer. Once a prospect becomes your customer it’s time to offer them your core product or service. This is your flagship products, your bread and butter upsell. Once someone has progressed through an bought either your entry-level offer or your core offer you should absolutely keep trying to sell to them.
  5. Upsells. These could take the form of complimentary products to your core offer, or it could be upgraded to a product that the customer has already expressed an interest in. Or if it makes sense with your products, you could offer a deal if the customer buys multiple items to get them to bump their total order value up.
  6. Extra Element – Retargeting. Retargeting should happen in every sales process but I don’t see it as a step as such. Retargeting can happen following each and every step in your sales funnel. It can be used to encourage people through each step of the funnel or it can be used to move prospects and customers between funnels. Make sure you think and plan for how retargeting/remarketing can be used to support any funnel you set up.

Steal a Competitor’s eCommerce Email Sales Funnel

A great way to find out what works in your niche or market (particularly a competitive one) is to research your competitor’s email funnels, pick the best ideas and improve them.

You may be in a niche or category without much happening but it’s still worth a try. If all else fails just pick a few large and successful eCommerce businesses to research from even if they aren’t directly relevant to you.

What you want to do here is basically insert yourself into as many of their email lists as possible and then watch and learn as the emails and offers come rolling in.

This can make your inbox cry. So I suggest setting up a Gmail account that you use specifically for this purpose.

Sign up to as many optins, pop-ups, and free onsite offers as you can on your competitor’s websites.

I would also suggest making a small purchase from them if this is applicable. The reason I say a small purchase is that on one hand, large purchases are expensive but more importantly if you start with a small purchase you will likely see the competitors method for moving you up their value chain to larger purchases.

If you started with buying their top product first you may well miss seeing this process.

Pay close attention to the following from your competitor’s email funnels;

  1. Delivery. How? How long does it take to deliver messages to you, how often are emails delivered and how far apart are they delivered.
  2. Copy. Pay attention to the way popups, landing pages, ads etc are written. Is certain language used? What’s the tone? What’s the style of the copy?
  3. For cold lists, what initial offers are made? What is the journey to being made an offer to purchase a product?
  4. Once you have made a purchase, what upsell is made, how is it made? What is the journey to being offered higher ticket items or return purchases?
  5. What type and format of content are they providing if any in their funnels? Are they providing how to’s, white papers, video content?

Use the knowledge gleaned from studying the above to help inform your own email funnels. You need to be unique but there’s nothing wrong with getting a kickstart in the right direction.

Plan your eCommerce Email Funnels

This kinda goes without saying but you should really spend the time to sit down and plan out each of the email sales funnels that you will have operating at any one time within your business.

I personally like to draw mine up on a big white board and then stand back and have a good think about how each email funnel fits into the big picture.

I think about how each funnel interacts with others or whether they just stand alone.

Planning in this way before you move into implementation and setting up your funnels will help to ensure that what you are doing fits with your overall strategy and that your funnels are congruent with your business.

Email Sales Funnel Tools

Online marketers love their tools, and there are a huge range of tools out there that can help with either building or optimizing your email funnels. If you’re a marketing nerd like me it’s easy to get sucked into many of these shiny objects.

If you are just starting out it’s best to keep things simple.

To build your first funnels you need a way to capture contact details from cold traffic, a way to automatically deliver content/offers and a platform for customers to visit landing pages to accept/purchase your offer.

Broken down this mean at the minimum you need the following (with some good examples)

Pop Up/Optin Forms: OptinMonsterPrivySumoOptiMonk

Email Autoresponder: KlaviyoMailchimpGetResponse

Landing Pages/Shopping Cart: Shopify

A combination of any of the above will be more than enough for you to get started building multiple highly converting sales funnels.

If you are interested in exploring more advanced landing page and funnel development tools in the future I would recommend the following;

ClickFunnels (what I use currently) and LeadPages. Both are excellent but not necessary, to begin with.

How to bring it all together

Every funnel is different so there is no one size all guide to the nuts and bolts “how to” of building your funnel. This will also depend on which tools and platforms you are using.

There are however 6 top tips I would recommend that you follow when it comes to bringing all of the elements together to build your funnel.

  1. Be Congruent. When you are developing your copy for each element of your sales funnel, make sure that your message is congruent in each step of the funnel. This means that if you have a title on your Facebook ad it should match the title on your landing page. Same goes for images. You want to avoid mixing your messages as much as possible.
  2. Setup Split Tests. Testing is essential to developing great sales funnels. Most ad platforms, email autoresponders and landing page software will allow you to split test in some way. Remember to only split test one thing at a time. Don’t run a split test on your ads heading as well as the first two lines of copy, you won’t know what difference each change made.
  3. Use personality. Your customers want to connect with you or your brand. Find ways to connect with your customer throughout your sales funnel. There are so many different ways that you can do this. You can use personal stories, video, a quirky sense of humor, customer testimonials and much more. The more you can draw your prospects and customers into your store’s personality the easier it will be for them to take the desired action.
  4. Use Images and Video. There’s a saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. This isn’t actually correct but pictures and videos do play a crucial role in our sales funnels.Images and video can convey a lot of information in a small space, they draw and retain attention and they will significantly enhance your prospects experience if they are viewing your funnel on mobile (as most do now) over large blocks of text. I like to have a visual element for every 300 words of copy on landing pages or in emails if possible.
  5. Pre-frame cold traffic. There is a bit of an art to this and it will take some practice. The hardest thing to do in a sales funnel is to convert cold traffic, but if you can be successful at this one thing you will be able to truly scale your business to its full potential.One of the secrets of converting cold traffic in a funnel is pre-framing.Pre-framing essentially means that you are warming cold prospects up in the funnel before you attempt to sell them anything. You want cold traffic to have a positive feeling about you and your business before you sell them on anything. Usually, that means delivering multiple points of value to your prospect or helping them with a problem or two before you ask for anything in return.
  6. Identify Hyperactive Buyers with Upsells. In my view, you should almost never end a sales process with the core offer. If your customer picks up your core offer you must then offer them more. There is always a certain proportion of buyer who are described as hyperactive buyers.This means that once they are in the mood to purchase, they will keep doing so immediately if you make them a strong offer. Identifying and maximizing value from these customers can make a massive difference to your profitability.

5 eCommerce Email Funnel Ideas to get you started

Ok, so now that we’ve gone over the theory of the how the what and the why, I want to just through a few ideas at you to get you started with constructing your first funnel.

Have a look at each of the ideas below. I’ve outlined the steps. You will need to have a think about how each one would fit your particular business.

Depending on what you sell, each of these could look a little bit different but the concepts will stay the same.

Lead Magnet

This is a classic that still works. You run an ad or on page optin to a lead magnet in exchange for at least an email address then move the prospect into a sales funnel. This is often used for cold traffic but can be used to re-engage warm traffic.

The key to success with this email funnel is making sure your lead magnet is well researched and addresses a pain point that your prospects actually experience. Not one that you assume they experience.

Warm Traffic but No Purchase

This funnel can be used to re-engage warm traffic that is sitting in your email list or being targeted with remarketing ads. The idea is to get them back onto the path to purchase.

Abandoned Cart

I am constantly surprised by how many eCommerce store owners only follow up abandoned carts with a single email. Wrong. Try something similar to the sequence below and be prepared to answer customer responses.

New Customer Elevation

New customers are excited to be dealing with you. Take advantage of that and get them to convert again and again. This is also the perfect opportunity to move them further into your world by injecting a bit of personality and your brand’s story.

Existing Customer Re-engagement

You’ve most likely got a huge list of previous customers. Try setting up a sales funnel to get them back on board for more purchases. I usually have a funnel set for 30 days, 60 days and 90 days after a customers first purchase if they haven’t purchased again.


Building multiple eCommerce email sales funnels can seem like a lot of work, especially if you are flying solo. Remember though, once you find a great email funnel they largely run on autopilot and you can use them again and again and again.

Start small and build from there, it will take a little bit of time and testing to find the right mix for your funnels. Don’t be discouraged if your first efforts don’t show a great deal of return.

Now more than ever you need well developed and optimized email sales funnels for each step of your customer’s journey.

Our eCommerce industry is growing at a rapid pace, competition is increasing. Your sales process can literally be the one thing that puts you head and shoulders above your competitors. Get started today.

Our Email Marketing for eCommerce course is the best next step you can take today to start building funnels for your business.  Jon, the writer of this post and the course teacher, takes you step by step through the process of building out solid email marketing campaigns for your business.

Have a killer eCommerce email funnel that’s working for you right now? Give us a rundown in the comments space below.

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  • March 29, 2019