Marketing Automation isn’t just for big companies with big marketing teams and big budgets. By combining WooCommerce and its rich ecosystem of extensions with MailChimp’s robust API and automation features, businesses of any size can benefit from automated workflows that increase engagement, conversion rates, and return customers. Here’s everything I know about Marketing Automation for WooCommerce, so you can put it to work for your online store.
Even with the right tools, setting up a Marketing Automation workflow requires some planning in order to get the results that you want. In this article we’ll go through the process of designing automation workflows and the tools you’ll need to put them into action and take customers from their first visit to their first purchase and beyond using techniques including email list segmentation, automated abandoned cart and purchase follow-up emails, and targeted crosssells/upsells.

Marketing Automation for WooCommerce Step 1: Build Your List

Graphic illustrating the flow of potential customers from social media and search engines to your email list signup landing page.An email list is the lifeblood of your business’s marketing. With social media, your message can go from being at the top of people’s feeds to becoming invisible every time Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or whoever change their advertising policies or feed ranking algorithm.

But with an email list it’s just between you and your subscribers. If you provide value your audience will grow, and that audience will be a better source of pre-qualified leads than any social network.

It’s because of this that I tell all my clients that all of their social media marketing should be aimed at a single thing: adding subscribers to your email list.

5 ways to get promote your email list on Social Media

  1. Come up with an immediate, tangible reward to give to your social media followers who subscribe to your email list. This can be a coupon, a free gift, a reusable discount code, or anything else that they get and can use right away.
  2. Reply to every Follow or Like with a welcome message that includes a link to sign up for your newsletter and info on what they get when they sign up.
  3. Include a link to your signup form in your profile so everyone sees it when they visit your profile page.
  4. Set up limited-time bonuses for joining your email list and promote them on your social media accounts
  5. If you run Facebook ads, set them up so the goal is to visit your list subscription landing page.

The best way to do this is to send people to a dedicated landing page.

A landing page is a special page that has your branding on it, but none of your site’s other navigation links or menus.

The reason that landing pages shouldn’t have those links is that a landing page is a page designed to do one thing and one thing only, and anything else becomes a distraction that will hurt your landing page’s conversion rate. In this case, your landing page is 100% focused on convincing people to join your email list.

When you think about it, your email list is a product that you are selling. You need to make people believe that they will get value in return for sharing their email address—and then, of course, you need to deliver on that value!

Creating Your Email Newsletter Landing Page

The first step in creating your landing page is to sign up for a MailChimp account. MailChimp is free for mailing lists of up to 500 people, and connecting MailChimp to a site running WordPress + WooCommerce is a snap. All you need is a plugin, and there are dozens out there. The one I recommend is MailChimp for WordPress by ibericode. It isn’t from MailChimp themselves but it is reliable, well-supported, and easy to use—and it won’t cost you a thing.

With this plugin you can put a MailChimp signup form onto any page on your site without needing to know any code. You might be tempted to ask for all sorts of information in your signup form, but each extra field you add will reduce the number of signups that you get. Stick with asking visitors for their email address and maybe their first name if you want to personalize your emails. But stop there until those subscribers make a purchase and become your customers.

Now adding people to your email list is great, and if you stop right there you’re doing well. But what if you could remember all of the people who sign up when they come back to your website? Then you can do things like show them special customized content and send them reminder emails if they abandon a shopping cart. With the MailChimp User Sync plugin (also free) you can add people to your mailing list and have them create an account on your online store using one single form.

Asking people to create a password for their new account in addition to providing their email will add some “friction” to the signup process, so you will need to make doubly sure that you are offering something of value in return, be it special members-only pricing, a coupon, limited edition products, or exclusive sales.

Step 2: Keeping Your Subscribers Engaged

Graphic representing the ongoing cycle of an email newsletter.

Once you have some subscribers, it’s time to get down to the work of turning them into customers. As the graphic above shows, this is a continuous, ongoing process. Subscribers aren’t necessarily going to start putting things into their shopping carts after the first email, or the second, or even the third. Building an maintaining an email list takes persistence and a strategy.

Here are a few tips for keeping your subscribers engaged:

  • Email them regularly. A consistent schedule is more important than how often you send.
  • Each email should have a single message that is directly related to buying your products, such as:
    • Early access to new products
    • An upcoming event where you will be selling in person
    • A Sale (for everyone or for subscribers only)
    • Special subscriber-only coupons
    • Subscriber-only products, product editions, or product bundles
  • Include photos of your products, both by themselves and being used/worn by people like your ideal customers.

WooCommerce has support for coupons out of the box, but if you want to set up a referral program, offer members-only discounts, or sell members-only products, you’ll need a plugin. I use and recommend Booster for WooCommerce, which lets you do all of the above and more. It does the work of a half dozen other plugins with just one, which helps keep your site lean and fast.

MailChimp gives you detailed reports on each email you send, including who opened each email and which links they clicked. It’s then an easy process to subdivide your subscribers into Segments based on that behavior, and even based on their past purchases. Sending customized, targeted emails to specific segments is a proven conversion rate booster that used to be only available to big companies, but with tools like these anyone can do it today.

Connecting your WooCommerce Store to MailChimp

To make list segmentation based on purchases possible, your online store will need to be able to send purchase data over to MailChimp. And all you need is—you guessed it—another plugin! MailChimp makes an “official” WooCommerce integration plugin, but I’ve had better luck with the free WooCommerce MailChimp plugin by Saint Systems.

Here’s how it works: every time a customer abandons a shopping cart or makes a purchase, the plugin sends that information to MailChimp. If a customer abandons a cart while they are logged in to your site, MailChimp will be able to look up their email address and send them an email asking if they want to recover their cart. When a customer makes a purchase, you can set up MailChimp to send them one or more follow-up emails automatically, on a schedule. And since MailChimp will know what products the customer bought you can use that information to create detailed segments of your list.

Essential Elements of Effective Abandoned Cart Emails

  • Send your abandoned cart emails in the evening, when your customers will have finished dinner, put the kids in bed, and are probably taking some time to catch up on things from the day like a forgotten shopping cart.
  • Along with the items that were left in the cart, include cross- and up-sells to create opportunities for increasing the order value of the cart.
  • Include links to share the products in the cart on social media so that the visitor can get second opinions from friends, or show off their new purchase.

Step 3: Turning Website Visitors into Buyers

Graphic illustrating how visitors move from your email list onto your online store.Hooray! Your website has visitors! Whether they arrived from your email list, social media, a search engine, or by typing your URL in by themselves, you now have one goal: to turn their visits into sales.

The principles of designing a high-converting online store aren’t all that different than for laying out a high-converting retail store. A physical store will lay out their merchandise to encourage cross- and up-selling, and your online store should too. An advantage that online stores have is that products can be in more than one place at once, so your cross- and up-selling strategy can be finer-grained.

If a visitor is logged in, has been to the site before, or has made a purchase before, you can use plugins like the WooCommerce Recommendation Engine to show customized, targeted cross-sells and up-sells on individual product pages. Even if the visitor has never been to your site before the Recommendation Engine will show products that are frequently bought together to help increase your average transaction value.

dbdc’s Top 7 Tips for a High-Converting Online Store

  1. Make a good first impression with an attractive, unique design that is easy to understand at a glance.
  2. Each page should have one specific job, or else it doesn’t need to be on your site.
  3. Don’t ask people to make any decisions that aren’t absolutely necessary.
  4. Organize the store with a clear strategy and system.
  5. Eliminate any distractions that might get between your visitors, your products, and the checkout.
  6. Make your shipping and returns policies simple and easy to find
  7. Give every product a detailed, keyword-optimized product description and professional quality photos.

The Power of the Wish List

Diagram showing how abandoned cart emails workA lot of what we call “Abandoned Carts” aren’t really abandoned at all—the person who added those items did so because they were saving them for later. With a Wish List you can serve that need and offer some conversion rate boosting features, too.

First and foremost a Wish List gives visitors an incentive to create an account on your site. As I said above, you can use accounts to send abandoned cart emails, segment your email list, and show more relevant products when the visitor comes to your site. Your visitors can create Wish Lists and then share them on social media or via email. This benefits you by getting your products in front of more people, and it benefits your visitors by letting them send gift suggestions or product recommendations to friends and family.

Lots of plugins are out there if you want to add a Wish List to your WooCommerce store. There’s the official WooCommerce Wishlists plugin and WooCommerce Wishlist from the highly-regarded YITH development studio to name two of the most popular. And if you want to let visitors share products without setting up a Wish List feature, Email Cart for WooCommerce lets visitors save their shopping carts and email links to them.

Step 4: Closing the Deal

Diagram showing the checkout workflow for an online store.Now we’re in the home stretch. Your visitor is about to become a customer—all they need to do is check out!

Believe it or not, at this point the purchase still isn’t a done deal. If the checkout process is too long, too confusing, or doesn’t seem trustworthy all you’ll end up with is another abandoned cart.

Once a visitor starts the checkout process, remove all distractions. Just like your Landing Page, take away all of your site links and menus. The one and only thing that your potential customer should be thinking about is completing payment.

Any time the page reloads or there’s a delay in looking up information (like shipping costs), there’s a chance that the visitor will be taken out of the “flow” of checkout. So make sure your pages load as quickly as possible, and show a spinner or a progress bar when the site is working behind the scenes so that the visitor knows that the page isn’t broken.

One thing that will kill any purchase is surprise charges. If you are charging for shipping and handling separately, show those charges as early as possible, ideally at the moment a product is added to the shopping cart. And keep your checkout forms as short and simple as possible—just make sure to give people a chance to sign up for your email list!.

When it comes to the payment page make it obvious which methods of payment you accept—graphical icons for different payment systems or credit card types are best. You should also be transparent about who is processing your payments for you, whether it’s Stripe, Square, PayPal, or someone else. And of course, you’ve got an SSL certificate for you’re whole site, right?

Finally, when the payment has been processed and the sale has been made show a thank you/order confirmation page that spells out exactly what’s going to happen next.

Step 5: After the Purchase

A diagram showing what should happen after a sale is made on an ecommerce website.Once your customer has paid, the next thing they want to know is when they get their stuff. WooCommerce will send them an order confirmation email automatically, but you can also send order notification emails using MailChimp. Using MailChimp lets you design your emails to match the appearance of your website and email newsletter, and offers more opportunities for easy customization.

The next email you will want to send is probably the Shipping Confirmation email. Customers will expect to know who will deliver the product, when it is scheduled to arrive, and the tracking number (if you have one). Again, you can have WooCommerce send this email, send it with MailChimp, or if you use a shipping management service like ShipStation, ShippingEasy, or Shippo, that service can send this email too. Which method you choose will depend on your own order fulfillment workflow.

But wait—we’re still not done!

As the saying goes, the best customer is the one you already have. How do you make sure your customers are happy and planning on coming back? Ask them! With MailChimp you can schedule automatic, personalized follow-up emails to be sent to customers. In those emails you can make sure they’re happy with their purchase, link to FAQs, and show recommended products based on their purchase history. You’ll be able to head off potential customer service issues, reduce return rates, and set yourself up for repeat business. This email is also the perfect place to promote your refer-a-friend program and customer loyalty programs.

Finally, once the follow-up email has been sent it’s time to put your customer back on your email marketing list—maybe this time in a different segment, based on what they bought.

As the shampoo bottle says: lather, rinse, repeat.

Putting it All Together

By now you’ve seen that a marketing automation system that works combines strategy and technology. The goal? More sales. The details will be different for each business. But the combination of WooCommerce, MailChimp, and a few free- or low-cost plugins give any business access to all the tools they need to build the workflow that gives them what they need.

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