How I Learned to Stop Getting Mad and Start Getting the Profits I Deserve

Matthew Stafford Jun 01, 2016

Reading Time: 5 minutes

eCommerce can be a frustrating game. I know, from personal experience.

Yes, it’s true. I wasn’t always the eCommerce wizard I am today. I, too, have experienced the hardships of inconsistent traffic, unreliable revenue, and underwhelming marketing returns. Fortunately for you, I’ve figured out how to solve these problems and more, and I’m ready to lay some wisdom on you.

Don’t get mad. Get a better back end. Once you do, you’ll wonder why you wasted so much energy getting frustrated in the first place.

Why Back End Marketing is Key to Unlocking Your eCommerce Profit Potential

“Back end” refers to everything that happens in your business after you’ve made an initial sale. Despite the fact that back end profitability potentials are exponentially larger than front end, first-time sales, most eCommerce entrepreneurs do a really bad job of fleshing out this part of their business, and many ignore the back end altogether.

That’s why so many eCommerce ventures fail, and why the vast majority of them only yield piddling, sporadic profits.

When you ignore your eCommerce business’s back end, you’re ignoring a tried and tested truism of business: it’s WAY cheaper to make another sale to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new customer. Estimates vary widely across industries and analyses, but conservatively you can expect to pay 5x the acquisition cost for a new customer as opposed to selling to an existing customer—and some experts say it’s more like 30x!

That means your front end sales—your first time sales—cost between five and 30 times as much as your back end sales, and front end sales are often smaller and/or lower margin, too. If your eCommerce business is floundering, the odds are good you’ve put too much focus on your front end.

Making a purchase is a sign of trust. Assuming you follow through with a product and customer service approach that’s consistent with the trust you’ve built, the customers who buy from you one time will be right on the edge of buying from you again and again. The trust is already there, you just need to give them a quick nudge over the edge.

The first leap is always the hardest.

Back end marketing lets you tap into the trust you’ve already built for sale after sale after sale… Give it some careful attention, and the back end of your eCommerce business will quickly become your biggest profit center, delivering many times the returns of your front end investments.

Automated and Broadcast Email Marketing for a Back End that Keeps Giving Back

The best way to start seeing immediate results from your back end? There’s no question: email is the answer.

The numbers don’t lie. Targeted emails see six times the engagement of tweets. 72% of customers prefer promotional content in email form, as opposed to 17% who prefer seeing it in social media feeds. Sales prompted by an email average three times the revenue as orders prompted by social media.

And the stats go on and on.

Email is powerful and delivers a strong ROI, period. With the right set up, that ROI can climb even higher as your ongoing email efforts drops and your automated sequential and triggered campaigns take over.

Automated Emailing

75% of profits from emails are generated by triggered email campaigns, with only 21% driven by non-triggered automated emails.

What’s the difference?

In a non-triggered automated email campaign, you’re sending the same set of emails to a broad set of your customers, in a set sequence and with set intervals. These campaigns can be very useful, and can help you nurture first-time buyers into joining your fold and purchasing more. But because the emails are being sent without any regard for specific customer behavior, they tend to have less of an impact in directly driving sales.

Triggered email campaigns can also be automated, and are an essential part of an effective back end sales funnel. They’re a little more complex to set up, but the results are a lot more powerful, because each email is sent at a precise point in each customer’s buying process.

Say a customer purchases after seeing a special offer. Your triggered campaign kicks into gear, sending them a thank you email that offers additional information and builds the customer’s trust for your brand. Maybe they click through and read more info on your site—that click is recorded, and they get a follow up email a few days later as a result. If they don’t click on that initial thank you email, a week goes by and they get a different follow-up email crafted for that scenario and customer mindset.

A relatively simple back end triggered email campaign.

You can set triggers for specific purchases, long website visits, short website visits, long absences after regular visits, clicks, no clicks, social media engagement—if it’s behavior you can track, it’s behavior you can use to trigger an email.

It might take a bit of trial and error to match the perfect email to each behavioral trigger and point in the sales cycle, but with some practice you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Once you have a working system in place, just sit back and let those emails ring in the sales!

Broadcast Emails

As you might guess from the name, broadcast emails are sent out to a broader segment of your customers—usually everyone you have on your customer email list. Monthly or weekly e-newsletters, announcements of special deals, and other marketing messages meant for your entire audience sent out via email are all examples of broadcast emails.

While these emails won’t be as effective at generating direct sales as triggered emails or even non-triggered automated email sequences, they take minimal effort and are a great way to maintain contact and nurture eCommerce relationships thousands of customers at a time.

As with all your marketing, make sure your broadcast emails deliver value rather than simply encouraging purchases. You’ll see higher open rates, more engagement, and a better return on your investment if you put your customers first.

Targeting and Segmentation

To get the best results from your emails, you need to send targeted emails to specific segments of your customer list.

Triggered emails are a type of segmenting—you’re sending emails to specific segments defined by customer behavior, with the added bonus of sending them at specific times in relation to the triggering behavior.

Other ways to segment your marketing emails include demographics (age, gender, income, education, geographic location, and so on), the date customers opted in to your email list or length of time they’ve been receiving emails, larger purchasing trends (as opposed to single-event triggers for emails), interest groups, and more.

According to email marketing giant MailChimp, the average segmented and targeted email campaign will see more than 10% more unique opens than a non-segmented campaign, a nearly 9% drop in unsubscribes, and a whopping 62.81% increase in click-throughs.

That’s the power of targeting your marketing rather than taking a one-size fits all approach.


One final, simple way to use automated emails to flesh out your eCommerce back end is to set up autoresponders for incoming messages. You’ve probably received an “out of the office” response to an email before—that’s an autoresponder, too, but they can get a whole lot more sophisticated.

You can use autoresponders to answer common questions, provide product information, troubleshoot, and more. Or you can keep it basic and just send a quick response that lets customers know when they can expect to have an answer to their question or solution to their problem: “Thanks for reaching out! Our team is on the case, and you’ll have an answer within 24 hours!”

Even that kind of simple assurance, received right after sending a question, can earn you big customer approval and loyalty points.

Now that you’ve seen a bit of what emails can do for your back end, go out there and set a few up. If you get stuck, we’ve got plenty of resources here to help.


About the author

Matthew Stafford

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