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Email, SMS, and push marketing for ecommerce in 2024

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The challenges that emerged in the latter part of 2022 continued into 2023, with high inflation, an increase in interest rates, and rising costs of living. Unsurprisingly, this led to a negative economic forecast and many businesses had no choice but to tighten their belts in order to keep the lights on.

Similar to the story in 2022, when brands faced stark increases in digital ad costs, owned marketing channels continue to be vital in 2023. Email, SMS, and push messages not only give merchants more control over the costs, but they’re also highly effective: email delivers an ROI of $36 per $1 spent, and Omnisend’s US merchants achieved double that, at $72 per $1 spent.

In our latest analysis, we looked at over 23 billion marketing emails, 175 million SMS, and 266 million web push messages sent by Omnisend merchants in 2023. This article shares the main findings of that analysis, exploring all three channels to help you achieve your goals in 2024.

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As ever, email continues to be the star of the show. Compared to 2022, the open rate increased from 22.9% to 25.1% and click rate from 1.2% to 1.5%. Overall, we saw a 33% increase in promotional campaign emails which led to a 17% increase in orders. 

Brands continue to use more automation for emails too, with a 79% increase over 2022. And for good reason: while around 1 in 20 people who click a link in campaign emails make a purchase, automated emails convert 1 in 3 people. Performance is even stronger for automated Welcome and Cart Abandonment emails, which remarkably convert about 1 in every 2 people who click.

But this shouldn’t suggest that email should be used at the exclusion of other channels. SMS and push messages also continue to prove their worth — adding almost half a million orders for Omnisend merchants in 2023. We’ll take a closer look at the performance of both of these channels a little later, but first, let’s see the full extent of email over the last year.

Game brands came out on top

To consider performance benchmarks, such as average conversion rates, we looked at the numbers for each industry. Overall, the average rates were:

  • Conversion rate: 0.07%
  • Click rate: 1.49%
  • Click-to-conversion rate: 4.61%

The top five performing industries for conversion rate (which tells us the percentage of all recipients who took a desired action) were all more than double the average, whereas last year this was only true of the very top sector:

2023 email conversion rate

However, the industries with the highest conversion rates weren’t always the same industries with the best click rates (the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link after opening an email). Of the top five industries with the highest conversion rates, only one also appeared in the top five industries for click rate: Games.

Once again though, all five sectors surpassed the average — with Gifts & Special Events brands achieving a rate four-times higher:

2023 email click rate

The order of industries changes once again when we look at click-to-conversion (those who clicked a link within an email and went on to take a desired action). The overall click-to-conversion rate across all industries is 4.61%, and the top five industries are:

 2023 email click-to-conversion rate

All five industries saw rates at more than double the average, and the top spot is held by Tobacco/Cannabis Products. While this industry saw a click-to-conversion rate 3.7x higher than the average, it still didn’t make the top five in either the click rate or conversion rate graphs.

What does all of this mean? Only one sector appears in all three categories, and that is Games — and although it tops the conversion rate chart, it appeared fifth in the click rate category. 

What’s important to remember is that each audience will have its own buying habits (for example, tobacco products may be purchased regularly while games might be more likely to be bought for special occasions).

These results also show that achieving a high click rate doesn’t necessarily translate to a high conversion rate. If this is the case for you, consider A/B testing new messaging angles to see if that helps your conversions.

Email’s worst performers

In addition to identifying the best performing industries for email marketing, we’ve also identified those at the opposite end of the table:

Email comparison of industries

As we noted in last year’s report, being a lower performing industry doesn’t mean it’s a bad sector or that you can’t earn money in it. Instead, these rankings likely reflect consumer habits.

For example, these industries experience a high level of comparison shopping, so buyers are very price sensitive. Home & Garden and Holidays & Seasonal both also have seasonal cycles, as well as possibly longer sales cycles, which can affect the performance statistics. 

It also continues to be true that the top five industries with the highest conversion rates all offer personal enjoyment or comfort, including hobbies. By applying this angle to your messaging, regardless of industry, you may be able to increase your performance. 

Automated emails lead the way (again)

The data continues to be clear: if you want to get the most out of your email marketing, you need to use automation. 

Automated emails are those that are automatically triggered after a user action. For example, a welcome email being sent when someone joins your newsletter, or an abandoned cart email being sent to someone who placed an item in their cart but didn’t complete the checkout process.

In 2023, automated emails generated 41% of all email orders while accounting for only 2% of emails sent.

Of all the orders driven by email, automations were responsible for close to half of them. And of those orders, 88% came from welcome, browse abandonment, and cart abandonment emails. 

The good news doesn’t stop there. Automated emails outperform campaign emails in every metric, including:

  • Open rate of 42.1% vs 25.2%
  • Click rate of 5.4% vs 1.5%
  • Conversion rate of 1.9% vs 0.07%

Here’s how the conversion rate of different automations compares against campaign emails:

Lift in conversion rates

This suggests that merchants can increase sales simply by implementing more automated emails, and improving those that they’re already sending. Our findings show that Back-in-stock, Welcome, and Abandoned Cart automations are the most powerful, so start with those and gradually incorporate others into your workflows.

And don’t sleep on transactional emails (such as order and shipping confirmation). These have high open rates because customers are expecting them, and they can be extremely effective for cross-selling and upselling.

SMS and push notifications are secret weapons

If you aren’t using SMS marketing yet, think of it this way: do you know anybody who doesn’t text? 

Probably not. 

The eternal presence of mobile devices and the popularity of text messaging show why this is such an effective channel for marketing. Put simply, consumers are already using these devices, so merchants aren’t trying to change their behavior or use a channel they don’t want to.

We found that in 2022, brands sent almost 100 million SMS. In 2023, they sent an additional 50 million. On top of that, they doubled the amount of SMS used in automations.

That’s right, automations aren’t just for emails — you can add SMS and push notifications to your workflows too. And just as with emails, automated messages outperform campaign messages with a:

  • 67% increase in click rate
  • 26% increase in conversion rate

Automations accounted for 13% of sends, but 26% of all SMS orders. And even though the click rate and conversion rate were both slightly down for campaign messages, SMS still delivered twice as many orders as it did in 2022. This is truly a channel that engages shoppers, and merchants are leaving money on the table if they aren’t using it.

Push messages continued their surge in popularity in 2023, clocking up a 28% increase in sends over 2022. They averaged a 34% open rate, 0.57% click rate, and 0.04% conversion rate.

Once again, automating made a significant difference, yielding a:

  • 71.2% higher open rate
  • 224.7% higher click rate
  • 911.6% higher conversion rate

In total, just 2.9% of push messages were automated, but they generated over 21% of all push-driven orders.

Here’s a sobering finding for any merchant still hesitant about using these channels: 

Ecommerce brands who didn’t use SMS and push messages in 2023 would have lost out on almost 500,000 orders.

Recommendations

The last couple of years have shown that performance from paid ads can fluctuate. This means your costs can increase while results decrease, putting a larger hole in your budget. Performance can improve again, but you can’t predict when it will happen and not all brands have the financial resources to keep investing in a channel delivering lower returns. 

Email, SMS, and push messages continue to prove themselves as a solid foundation for ecommerce merchants. If you want to start using them, or improve your existing usage in 2024, here are our recommendations:

  1. Add SMS and push: consumers have made it clear that they like and respond to both of these channels. Without them, merchants using Omnisend would have missed out on almost half a million orders in 2023!
  2. Use automation: for all three channels, automated messages outperformed campaign messages. Automated emails drove 41% of all email orders despite accounting for just 2% of sends. If you need help getting started, try Omnisend’s pre-built workflow templates.
  3. Grow your lists: by growing your contact list, you’ll constantly have people who are interested in your brand. Not only can you use each channel, you can use all of them in the same workflow to maximize conversions. Plus, you can integrate automation so all new subscribers immediately receive a welcome message (here are some welcome examples to inspire you).
  4. Expand your SMS campaigns: if you’re just using SMS to mirror your emails, you’re not using it to its full potential. These are different channels, so consider sending specific messages via SMS, or even prompting people to check their inbox for a new promotion. You can also use this channel for time-sensitive messages, like flash sales, limited edition products, or last-chance reminders.
  5. Optimize emails for conversion: if your emails aren’t converting, look for ways to enhance them. Can you offer free shipping or share customer reviews? Are your emails easy to read, even on mobile devices? Do you have strong email deliverability?

If you want to make the most of email, SMS, and push messages, Omnisend offers all the tools you need including pre-built automated workflows, 250+ ready-made email templates, audience segments, and 24/7 live customer support on every plan.

Get started with Omnisend today & drive sales on autopilot with pre-built automation workflows
Richard White
Article by
Richard White

Richard is a Content Marketing Manager at Omnisend. An avid writer, he's said to have been born holding a pencil. Fascinated by all things handmade, if he's not reading or writing he can often be found practicing leathercraft.


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