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What is email automation: steps, examples, tools + tutorial

Reading Time: 12 minutes

A common misconception about email automation is that it is solely meant to save time by sending bulk emails. Marketers believe that it can save them from the tedious manual work they associate with email marketing.

In reality, the benefits of email automations go beyond mere efficiency. It can streamline communication through triggered, personalized email campaigns.  

Automated email campaigns reach customers at precisely the right moment based on their actions and preferences. Our latest research found that in 2023, automated emails generated 42% of all email orders while accounting for only 2% of emails sent.

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In this article, we’ll show you what email automation is, why it’s beneficial for your business, and how to automate email marketing for outstanding ROI.

Content sections:

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What is email automation?

Email automation is an effective way to communicate with potential customers because it allows you to send emails at specific times. Most email platforms have pre-made automated workflows, which send a sequence of emails over a specified period of time, instead of just a single email.

The biggest value of email automation is the ability to send relevant emails to the right people at the right time.

Automated emails include:

  • Order confirmations
  • Shipping confirmations
  • Birthday greetings
  • Abandoned cart notifications
  • Welcome messages for new subscribers
  • Product abandonment messages
  • Cross-sell and upsell messages

Example: this welcome email from Pipcorn gives a new subscriber a discount. That’s a nice way to encourage making a purchase.

welcome email pipcorn

Benefits of email automation

Automated emailing is a godsend to time-strapped marketers and business owners. Here are several great reasons to automate your emails.

Save time

That’s a no-brainer — you can save time by sending automated emails to many subscribers at once. So, there’s no need to do the same tasks for every individual subscriber. And the best thing is that you can still personalize your content.

Make the most of email marketing

You can create automated email workflows to communicate with as many subscribers as you want, at any time you prefer. This way, you can get sales from the top to the bottom of your funnel even with a one-person marketing team.

Increase customer retention

Email automation is a great way to rejuvenate the bond with subscribers who haven’t opened your emails or bought from you in a while. This is done with automated win-back emails, messages designed to entice passive recipients to re-engage.

Build great relationships with customers

“Hey, we remember you — here’s a discount for an upcoming sale!” 

Businesses have data about their subscribers in CRMs, so they can make automated emails super relevant. Many businesses do that well: automated emails get 300% more clicks than promotional messages.

While social media platforms excel at engagement and brand awareness, they generally lag behind email marketing in direct conversion metrics. The ROI difference alone is not the only metric that proves how email marketing outperforms social media:

  • The clickthrough rate (CTR) for social media platforms is 0.2% – 0.5%. Compare this to the 1.7% for scheduled emails and 5.7% for behavior-based (automated) emails
  • The conversion rate for social media is 0.02% – 0.04% while email is 0.07% for scheduled campaigns and 1.99% for automated messages

Boost performance metrics

Automated emails see an 83.4% higher open rate, a 341.1% increase in click rate, and an astounding 2270% boost in conversion rate compared to scheduled campaigns. Remarkably, one out of every three people who click on an automated email proceeds to make a purchase.

Now, to summarize the benefits: if email marketing is your best bet for growth, then sending automated emails accelerates this process.

How to start automating emails

Automating email sending is easy thanks to email marketing platforms. The idea is simple: create a campaign and set up a trigger (a predefined event) that’ll activate automated sending when the event happens.

Let’s consider a welcome email automation. It’s a campaign where the trigger is an act such as signing up for a newsletter — a must-have email automation for ecommerce stores.

Here’s how to automate email sending with a welcome email automation flow:

1. Install an email marketing tool

To start, you’ll need easy-to-use email automation software (like Omnisend).

2. Set up IP pools (if applicable)

An IP pool is a collection of IP addresses used by multiple senders to distribute email traffic, ensuring high deliverability and maintaining a strong sender reputation.

If you send from a reputable ESP, this step may not be applicable for you. For example, at Omnisend we already maintain a strong focus on email deliverability, with a dedicated team working to keep our deliverability rate between 98-99%.

3. Build and segment an email list

You will need a list of subscribers to send automated emails to — it can be built organically with signup forms. Segmenting your list is crucial for sending targeted, relevant emails. Some key ways to segment include:

  • Behavioral segmentation: Group subscribers based on their actions, such as past purchases, browsing history, email engagement, etc.
  • Demographic segmentation: Divide your list based on age, gender, location, income, and more
  • Psychographic segmentation: Segment by interests, values, attitudes, and lifestyle
  • Occasion-based segmentation: Group subscribers who buy during certain holidays, seasons or events

4. Set up an automation trigger

A trigger is an event or condition that will activate the automated campaign (this includes a newsletter signup, an abandoned cart, a subscriber’s birthday, a lack of engagement for X days, etc.)

5. Create email campaigns 

Design your automated emails with engaging elements:

  • Craft compelling subject lines that entice opens
  • Write clear, concise copy that communicates your message effectively
  • Use eye-catching images and visuals to break up text and draw attention
  • Include prominent calls-to-action (CTAs) that encourage clicks
  • Incorporate your brand logo, colors, and style for consistency and recognition
  • Personalize your emails with the subscriber’s name, recommendations, and other relevant details
  • Optimize for mobile devices, as over 55% of emails are opened on smartphones

6. Monitor and tweak your campaigns

Make sure to regularly review your email performance metrics and make any necessary adjustments to your automations in order to optimize them.

7. Avoid over-automation 

Start by creating one automation and gradually add more as you gain experience.

8. Leverage email automation features

Platforms like Omnisend offer a wide range of powerful features to improve your email automations:

  • Omnichannel workflows: Combine multiple channels like email, SMS, and web push notifications in a single workflow
  • Pre-built workflows: Get up and running quickly with pre-built messages, subject lines, and workflow settings
  • Automation splits: Tailor special offers and incentives for multiple personalized messaging paths within a single workflow
  • A/B split testing: Test different channels, incentives, or subject lines to see what drives the most conversions
  • Built-in message reports: Track sales and engagement data to optimize workflows without leaving the Automation Editor
  • Automation reports: Deep-dive into each workflow’s performance to compare different channels and track customer conversions
  • Advanced reporting: Analyze aggregate workflow revenue and engagement data to see your best performing automations
  • Leverage 3rd party data: Easily build custom workflows using custom events and data from 130+ integrations
  • Conditional content blocks: Add and show certain email content blocks to only selected audience segments
  • Personalized recommendations: Cross-sell with dynamic product recommendations tailored to each customer

Setting up email automations might sound complicated, but using the right tool makes it simple even for beginners. Automate your emails! Start free!

Tutorial on how to automate emails like a PRO

Here’s a quick overview of a welcome email automation setup if you prefer to learn with videos:

As the video shows, the most time-consuming task is to create the content for the automation email. Still, you can do that fairly easily thanks to our drag-and-drop email builder. Most email automation platforms have this feature.

Having learned how to automate sending emails, let’s look at the most popular email automation tools.

Email automation tools

In this section, you’ll find five tools for automated emailing that could be used to sell, nurture, and inform your subscribers.

1. Omnisend — for ecommerce

email automation tool omnisend
  • Shopify App Store: 4.8/5 (5,700+ reviews)
  • G2: 4.6/5 (880+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.7/5 (700+ reviews)

Omnisend is an easy-to-use email automation app for ecommerce stores that’s highly rated across platforms. It allows you to take care of the five automation steps — from building an email list to creating email automation workflows — thanks to a simple interface and a drag-and-drop flow editor.

With Omnisend, you can automate all ecommerce email flows that online stores send to customers:

Many ecommerce stores have achieved major results with Omnisend’s ecommerce email automation. Here are a few examples:


Omnisend has a free-forever plan with unrestricted features and 500 monthly emails.

Paid subscriptions start from $16/mo for the Standard plan and $59/mo for the Pro plan. Automation is available in all plans, so Omnisend is the most affordable and powerful tool for automating emails considering all the features.

Save time with automated emails and boost your revenue

2. HubSpot Email Marketing — for SaaS & large businesses

Hubspot Email Marketing — for SaaS & large businesses

HubSpot is a top marketing automation platform that focuses on customer journey management and conversions, so it’s a good option to automate repetitive marketing tasks. The platform includes a built-in email marketing automation app that collects subscribers’ info from the CRM.

Pricing: HubSpot is a package deal, so you get the CRM + lots of additional marketing features. That’s why the plan with omnichannel automation starts at $899/mo.

3. Salesmate Email Marketing — For SMBs

email automation tool constant contact Salesmate

Salesmate is a powerful yet easy-to-use CRM with email marketing software. It lets you set up automated emails based on certain triggers, such as, when contacts enter a specific stage in the sales pipeline or when deals reach a certain milestone. You can also use Salesmate to segment contacts into groups and send out personalized messages based on their interests. With its drag-and-drop email builder, you can easily create stunning emails and campaigns tailored to your target audience.

Pricing: Salesmate pricing starts at $29/month per user for the Basic Package.

4. Constant Contact — for nonprofits and small businesses

email automation tool constant contact

Constant Contact is a beginner-friendly, complete emailing automation platform. You can build your email list from scratch thanks to website signup forms, manage subscribers easily, and create email flows with drag-and-drop tools. An integration with Facebook and Instagram ads is available in case you need to find clients on social media.

Pricing: Pre-built automations are available in the Standard plan, which starts at $35/mo for up to 500 subscribers. The Premium plan, which starts at $80/mo for 500 subscribers, adds custom automations. The final price is based on the number of contacts.

5. ConvertKit — for content creators

email automation tool ConvertKit

ConvertKit is a powerful email automation tool that focuses on solutions for content publishers like bloggers and course creators. Thanks to advanced targeting features, you’ll be able to send the right content that feels personalized to every subscriber. Premade automation email marketing flows for creators like online course subscriptions are also a great feature.

Pricing: Email automation is available in the Creator and Creator Pro plans that cost $15/mo and $29/mo, respectively. The pricing is for 300 subscribers and goes up as your email list grows.

6. Campaign Monitor — for marketing agencies

email automation tool Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor is a great tool to create automated email flows for marketing agencies. The platform has multiple users, role permissions, branded email templates, and great signup forms. All the essentials like a drag-and-drop builder and reporting are great as well.

Pricing: For $11/mo, you can send email marketing automations to 500 subscribers on the Lite plan, which is limited to 2500 total email sends. The Essentials and Premier plans, which start from $19/mo and $149/mo for 500 subscribers, respectively, offer unlimited email automation flows.

Email automation examples

Here are six automation email examples that real businesses sent to their subscribers.

1. Welcome email

Automation trigger: Subscription to a newsletter

Also called a welcome series, a welcome email is a message sent to greet new subscribers or customers. It’s a great chance to introduce your company and score sales, as 48% of welcome emails get conversions.

“All of our automated emails have proven to be beneficial. Once you set them up and let them run, we’re generating income from them with minimal effort.”

Jason Slattery, Director of Marketing at B-Wear

Here’s an automated email example showing this marketing flow in action from B-Wear, a clothing store. The email gets new subscribers started with a code for a free graphic tee and invites to explore the latest collection (a good idea to encourage buying).

Email automation examples: welcome email from B-Wear

Email automation success story

B-Wear’s welcome email offering a 15% discount helped increase revenue per email by 390%. In total, all of their email automations garnered a 43% conversion rate.

Get the details: B-Wear Email Automation Strategy

2. Abandoned cart recovery email

Automation trigger: Shopping cart abandoned

This email automation workflow is activated when a registered customer adds a product to their shopping cart but leaves without buying. The goal is simple: remind them about the abandoned product and motivate them to complete their order.

WP Standard, a successful Shopify store, uses this automated email to recover sales. It’s short, sweet, and focuses the attention on the product well.

email automation example wp standard

3. Visitor re-engagement email

Automation trigger: Being an unengaged subscriber for X days

Automated re-engagement emails (also called win-back emails) are sent to subscribers who haven’t interacted with their messages within a predetermined period of time. Some subscribers become unengaged at some point, so engaging them is a way to retain them.

H&M has a good re-engagement automation email example. The brand makes the value proposition clear with a large headline, which is an effective way to attract attention.

email automation example h and m

4. Product abandonment email

Automation trigger: Visiting a product page without buying

The product abandonment workflow is sent to registered visitors who viewed products and left without buying. It’s one of the best email automation ideas you could use to offer a second look at products that customers might be interested in.

This example from Rael was sent to a visitor who checked out a face sheet mask kit:

Email automation examples: product abandonment email from Rael

More on browse abandonment automation: How to create browse abandonment emails [+seven examples]

5. Order confirmation email

Automation trigger: Placing an order

This email automation workflow is basically a receipt because it summarizes order details for customers. A typical confirmation includes product info, shipping and billing details, and a link to tracking pages if available.

Crocs gives us a good illustration. Not only does this automated email example summarize the order, but it also gives the recipient links to customer support. This way, the brand shows that a customer can easily get in touch, which builds their confidence.

Email automation examples: order confirmation email from Crocs

6. Product review email

Automation trigger: X days passed after a customer placed an order

The final email in your automation series could be a product review email. This message should be sent when customers already had some time to try your product — a few days to a week after the purchase, for example.

Sundays presents a solid example of a product review email. It’s got a quick intro, a link to the review page, and a product image.

Email automation examples: product review email from Sundays

Email automation: Summary

Email automation offers more than just time-saving bulk emails. It also helps to nurture relationships with tailored, timely messages.

By leveraging automated email campaigns, businesses can engage customers effectively, from welcome messages to abandoned cart reminders. With these tailored experiences, you’ll boost sales in no time.

Unlock the power of email automation and elevate your marketing game effortlessly with Omnisend.

Email Automation FAQs

What is automation in email?

Email automation is the process of sending targeted, personalized emails to your subscribers based on specific triggers or schedules. It allows you to nurture leads, engage customers, and save time by automating repetitive email tasks. While it’s possible to set up basic email automation using the functionality in your email client, third-party plugins like Omnisend provide advanced features and pre-built workflows that make automation much easier and more effective.

How to automate emails in Outlook?

Outlook has some basic email automation features, such as the ability to create rules that automatically sort, forward, or reply to emails based on specific criteria. However, these features are limited compared to dedicated email automation platforms. Third-party plugins like Omnisend integrate with your email service provider and offer a wide range of automation capabilities, including omnichannel workflows, pre-built templates, and advanced segmentation, making it much easier to create and manage automated email campaigns.

How to plan an email automation?

To plan an email automation, start by defining your goals and identifying the key triggers and customer segments you want to target. Then, map out your automation workflow, including the specific messages, timing, and channels you’ll use. While you can create automation workflows from scratch, using email automation tools like Omnisend can save you significant time and effort. Omnisend provides pre-built workflows for common scenarios like welcome series, abandoned carts, and post-purchase follow-ups, as well as drag-and-drop tools for customizing workflows to your specific needs.

How to trigger email automation?

Email automation can be triggered by a variety of events, such as when a subscriber joins your list, makes a purchase, abandons a cart, or interacts with your website. To set up triggered automation, you’ll need to define the specific conditions that will initiate the workflow. With email automation software like Omnisend, you can easily set up triggers based on a wide range of customer behaviors and events, and leverage advanced segmentation to ensure your automated messages are highly targeted and relevant. Omnisend also allows you to combine multiple triggers and conditions in a single workflow, giving you greater flexibility and control over your automation.

Bernard Meyer
Article by
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is the Sr. Director of Communications & Creative at Omnisend, with a passion for good research, helping ecommerce businesses with their marketing automation needs, and beating absolutely everyone in Mario Kart 64.

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