What Are Post-Purchase Emails?

Melanie Balke
June 12, 2023

You may not think about it, but those order confirmation messages in your inbox are valuable digital real estate! These post-purchase messages are lucrative sandboxes for clever marketing professionals, yet they’re often neglected.


Honestly, I think most people just don’t think about them!

Fortunately, you’re reading this blog, and you’re about to get some amazing advice.

I’m here to teach you about the power of a post-purchase series and how you can turn otherwise average email automation into spectacular vessels of entertainment, information, and profit.

Introducing… The Post-Purchase Email!

A hand-written receipt page. Overlaid text reads, "The Basics: What Is a Post-Purchase Email?"

A post-purchase email is one of those “what it says on the box” deals.

It’s an automated email marketing campaign sent after a customer has purchased an item. In addition to run-of-the-mill shopping confirmation emails, this broad category of marketing correspondence can include customer feedback requests, confirmation emails, and loyalty rewards alerts.

Some brands also pair post-purchase emails with similarly themed SMS campaigns.

Why Should My Business Use Post-Purchase Email Campaigns?

A cup of coffee and multiple receipts. "The Benefits: Why Post-Purchase Emails Are Great."

Now, that definition doesn’t explain why we need these emails.

Logically, there are certain types of post-purchase emails that are essential. Order and shipping confirmation emails have become standard facets of modern digital shopping. Where the former informs users that their purchase was successful, the latter gets them excited to receive their items.

But there’s more to the post-purchase email!

Post-Purchase Emails Improve Your Customer Lifetime Value

A modern point-of-sale system. Overlaid text reads, "Earn More: These emails can increase your customer lifetime value."

Consumers expect a post-purchase email flow. They expect to see order confirmation messages and wait for that thrilling shipping confirmation email! Put simply, post-purchase emails are the modern equivalent of a receipt.

If you go to a store and don’t get a receipt, you probably won’t shop there again.

The same is true for a post-purchase email flow.

For new customers, your confirmation emails are a chance to make a stunning first impression. For existing customers, they’re the perfect opportunity to work on customer retention. Either way, your post-purchase email campaign is a chance to showcase your brand and improve your customer lifetime value.

You can even use post-purchase emails to send surveys to loyal customers! That data will help you mold your sales process and streamline your funnel, ensuring that more customers become avid supporters.

High Engagement Means High Visibility

Fortana Dam construction in 1942. Overlaid text reads, "Visibility: Customers open more post-purchase emails than similar campaigns."

Circling back to the standardization of confirmation emails, let’s talk about engagement and open rates!

Post-purchase emails have incredibly high visibility, and many campaigns have an open rate of around 65%!

That’s huge!

Think about it in terms of numbers. If you have 1,000 orders, then at least 650 customers will probably open your post-purchase flow. That’s 650 chances to increase customer lifetime value. 650 chances to lead consumers to their next purchase. 650 chances to make yourself known in a customer’s mind!

With the right email branding and strategy, you can easily turn an otherwise standard experience into a digital marketing opportunity.

That Email Campaign Is Just the Beginning!

An index of plans from 1917. Overlaid text reads, "Grow More: Post-purchase emails can help your business thrive."

Do you catch what I’m pitching?

Well, let me make it clear: I’m talking about the all-important cross-sell!

Let’s keep that figure of 1,000. You now have 650 recipients, and you have a chance to encourage customers to spend more! Even if only half of those customers act, you’ve now made 325 extra sales. All you needed was some strategic planning and the ability to delight customers!

And it doesn’t stop at integrated cross-sell emails.

You can use your post-purchase flow to keep customers engaged and build customer loyalty.

Segment customers and target repeat customers with surveys to collect feedback on your brand. Target first purchase consumers with personalized touches to boost your average order value.

The possibilities are limitless!

But that also means you have a lot of material to work with, and that can easily become overwhelming.

Don’t worry; the lesson isn’t over yet! There’s still plenty of ground to cover, so keep reading to learn even more about post-purchase emails.

Post-Purchase Emails, Laws, and You

A courtroom legal form. Overlad text reads, "The Law: Post-Purchase Emails."

It would be a disservice for me to exclude the legal angle of post-purchase emails!

Most post-purchase emails are considered transactional email marketing. In other words, they’re seen as an essential component of the business-customer relationship. As such, many post-purchase emails are exempt from some legislative measures.

Specifically, the CAN-SPAM Act explicitly exempts some post-purchase email flows from requiring affirmative consent. The legislation even has a handy list of examples, including content such as:

  • Digital receipts
  • Order confirmation emails
  • Recall notices
  • Shipping notification emails
  • Warranty updates

Similarly, the European Union allows brands to send post-purchase emails without explicit consent. However, any information used in these messages must still be protected from malicious attacks.

Note that this is not legal advice! The above information is provided for educational purposes and should not be taken as actionable legal counseling.

What Makes a Good Post-Purchase Email Flow?

A laminated checklist on the control panel of a fighter jet. Overlaid text reads, "What It Takes: The Post-Purchase Email Checklist."

With the basics out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of a post-purchase email.

These messages must be part of a cohesive post-purchase experience. Each entry is a delicate balancing act between promotional content, transactional details, and positive interactions. Think of them as an on-demand customer service team. They’re here to reassure orders that their order is on the way, and any additional content must support that goal.

Do You Know Your Audience?

A liquefied abstract pattern. "The Audience: Think about your sales funnel and where the buyer is."

Your first step as you create post-purchase emails should be identifying your audience.

“But!” you may be saying, “These are confirmation messages! What sort of audience is there? They’re all the same email, right?”

This mindset is as common as it is incorrect.

Your post-purchase email sequences do have a target audience, and proper segmentation can give your content a massive boost! In fact, you have two major audiences: your first-time purchasers and your returning buyers. And the best way to amp up your customer engagement is to cater to those segments.

More precisely, I’m telling you to set up a post-purchase campaign for each audience. Your returning consumers shouldn’t get “welcome to the family” emails, and your newcomers shouldn’t be handed loyalty rewards. Ensuring that each of these funnels has its own sequence also improves the customer experience!

What Information Should You Include?

A drafted press release from the United States government, dated September 1945. Overlad text reads, "Information: Know what a customer is looking for in every post-purchase email."

An online store must also understand the type of information its buyers want to receive in their post-purchase emails.

True, the order confirmation email is a straightforward campaign. You’ll want to include any relevant data on the order, a tracking link, and an estimated delivery date. (Alternatively, you may include those details in a subsequent shipping email.) But what should go into the other emails?

Some brands provide customers with additional product recommendations in their post-purchase emails. Others may eschew the cross-sell email approach to embrace a more informative route. The final decision is yours to make, and your success depends on your knowledge of your audience.

Don’t be afraid to include a customer satisfaction survey! Many brands incentivize these mundane questionnaires by promising discounts on future purchases. You can also encourage direct post-purchase communication by ditching those all-too-common no-reply addresses.

Whatever you choose to do, your ultimate goal is to get your hands on that valuable feedback.

Does Your Ecommerce Business Have Unique Needs?

A vise on a piece of wood. "Your Situation: What unique needs does your brand have?"

Finally, you’ll want to think about how you fit into the world of ecommerce businesses.

How many repeat purchases do you expect from the average consumer? When will that next purchase be? How quickly will customers receive their products?

All of these questions are important, and some of them have unique answers!

Let me elaborate.

Many artisanal businesses have lengthy turnaround times. A customer may place an order in June, yet the expected shipping date is somewhere in October! Now, there’s nothing wrong with this! Most customers would prefer to wait and receive the perfect product. However, you must ensure customers know exactly what is happening with their items.

Firstly, you’ll probably want to include a statement about the expected wait time. This helps you avoid future complaints about missing products.

Then, you’ll need to keep the customer engaged until the product arrives.

While you can fill the void with asinine promotional emails, the results will be far from perfect. Instead, a savvy marketer will find a way to increase customer loyalty and deliver a stellar customer experience with post-purchase emails! Such campaigns also remind customers of their orders, ensuring the excitement doesn’t fade.

The extended post-purchase flow is also common in areas such as dining, hospitality, and luxury goods.

Examples of Post-Purchase Email Marketing

Ripples in a viscous substance. "Examples: Ideas to Inspire You."

I know this has been a long post, but we’re not done yet!

Before I finish, I wanted to show off a few examples of post-purchase emails.

I won’t spend too much time on these; I know your time is valuable. Still, I wanted to highlight how these campaigns can amplify your marketing strategy!

The Classic Order Confirmation Email

A Teespring confirmation email. The header reads, "Love that shirt!" The order number and delivery date are listed below.

This may be an older email, but it’s a great example of keeping things simple.

It’s an easy and upfront way to keep users informed without needing to segment your campaigns. It works for everyone, whether it’s your first or thirtieth repeat purchase! Notice, too, how post-purchase communication is at the forefront of this email.

There’s no scrolling. You see your order confirmation number and estimated delivery date immediately. Remember: The ultimate goal of any confirmation email is information. Sure, a cross-sell is nice, but people are here to know that their order is on the way. Don’t make them search for that information.

Fishing for Feedback

A Target review request.

How about a feedback request?

This design from Target is classy and upfront.

There’s really not much more to say, but I want to highlight one of the smartest design decisions. Check out how the previous purchase is included in the email. This makes it easier for customers to remember what they bought, removing barriers from the review process.

The Thank-You Email

An image-heavy thank-you email from Paravel.

Finally, we have the gracious email.

Now, not everyone uses a thank-you email. Some brands may avoid them entirely, and companies seeing frequent repeat purchases may want to avoid this campaign. However, many other brands can take advantage of these emails.

This is a fairly simple example. It’s a great way to showcase both formal photos and user-generated content. Moreover, its adaptable styling gives you plenty of wiggle room. A few lines of text can transform this into one of many gorgeous review request emails, while some extra informational text can make it a first purchase flow.

Get the Most From Every Subject Line

Overlapping ferns. "Find a Pro: Let Us Handle Your Emails."

That was so much information, right?

At the end of the day, email marketing is hard! All the moving parts need to line up just right, and it takes experience to achieve the perfect balance of content, sales, and connections.

You could try to juggle everything alone, or you could have an on-demand team of experts!

Give me a call, and we’ll sit down for a free strategy session. I’ll listen to your business’ needs and show you how you can improve. Then, we’ll brainstorm the many ways a team of pros from The Email Marketers can help your business grow!

And don’t forget the many other free resources on my blog! There are so many more tips, tricks, and ideas. All you need to do is click an article and read!