Email marketing for small businesses: a full guide to getting started

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 27/05/2024 | Updated • 27/05/2024


Email marketing for small businesses: a full guide to getting started

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 27/05/2024 | Updated • 27/05/2024


Email marketing for small business promises huge potential for growing your customer base. With global email marketing revenue currently estimated to be more than £7,900,000,000. With this figure projected to grow with each passing year, it’s clear that businesses across different industries are finding plenty of value from this marketing channel. If you’ve started a side hustle or you’re an established small business owner wondering how to do email marketing the right way, then you’re in the right place.

In this guide, we’ll explore the mechanics of email marketing, the benefits it can offer you, and how you can approach email marketing in a way that will maximise your chances of success.

What is email marketing for a small business?

Before exploring the practical methods of email marketing for small business, it’s important to get an overview by answering the question “what is email marketing?”

Email marketing is a marketing discipline that focuses on reaching an audience through emails. Small business email marketing campaigns are often tailored to achieve a range of different goals, such as increasing sales, increasing brand awareness and learning about your audience, and more.

Though email marketing is a flexible marketing channel, it can generally be divided into 4 main types:

  • Email newsletters.

  • Transactional emails.

  • Promotional emails.

  • Retention emails.

Email newsletters

Email newsletters are a common way for small businesses to build and maintain customer loyalty for your brand by distributing engaging content.

Though this kind of email marketing can be used to steer recipients towards purchasing your product or hiring your services, the main aim is to engage them with useful content. This can take the form of: 

  • Tutorials and how-to guides.

  • Infographics.

  • Helpful tips and educational content.

  • Relevant news from your industry.

  • Anniversary and birthday recognition. 

If, for example, you’re running a small artist’s supply store, your newsletter might include a tutorial on different shading techniques. If it fits naturally in the content, you might want to include a link to a relevant product like a set of sketching pencils. When you’re able to consistently plan and share engaging content with your audience, you’ll be able to strengthen your brand’s value in the eyes of your audience, increase customer retention among your subscribers, and increase the likelihood of future conversions.

Transactional emails

Transactional emails are usually found a little further along in the buyer journey compared to email newsletters, as they’re used to facilitate a specific transaction between you and the target customer. Some common forms of transactional emails include:

  • Welcome emails, which confirm that the recipient has signed up for an account or subscription-based service, and inform them of other resources offered by your business.

  • Confirmation emails, confirming a purchase, booking, membership, or another kind of conversion.

  • Cart abandonment emails, which invite recipients to complete their purchase once after they’ve added items to their cart.

Transactional emails are useful for keeping your customers informed throughout their customer journey. With a transactional email, you can tell a recipient exactly what they can expect from their relationship with your business, and give them all the information they need on the action they’ve just taken.

Promotional emails

Promotional emails are the first thing many people might think of when they consider the question “what is email marketing?”. Promotional emails are more direct in their intention to push the audience towards a purchase. They’re used to update recipients with information that’s intended to increase your sales. This might include updates on new products being rolled out, for example a beauty brand launching a new lipstick, or promotional discounts like a free product from a  local bakery. Promotional emails can also be used for a combination of these, which can inspire your new and existing audience to action. Other examples of promotional content may include: 

  • In-store event invitations.

  • Referral programs.

  • Seasonal sale announcements.

  • Exclusive discounts only available to subscribers. 

  • Limited-time offers.

If, for example, you’re running a small business as a yoga tutor, and you’ve just decided to bundle several classes into one package at a reduced cost, you can use a promotional email to inform your audience about this new package’s release, and the potential savings they can enjoy by booking it.

Retention emails

Retention emails are sent to your existing customers with the aim of recovering or increasing their engagement and loyalty to your brand. These can be especially useful in cases where customers have lapsed or have become less active than usual.

If you’re running a small online store and you see that a typically active customer hasn’t been making purchases as frequently as usual, you might want to send a retention email informing them about ongoing promotions, asking for review, or both. Provided you’re not sending them too often, retention emails can be a great way to reinvigorate loyalty in customers, or learn more about how your audience views your brand through surveys and other methods of gathering feedback.

Looking to give your customers a positive buying experience?

SumUp card machines make it easy to take a variety of payment methods and provide flexible, user-friendly shopping.

Find your card reader

Why use email marketing for your small business?

Though email marketing is used by businesses of all sizes, it can be particularly useful for small businesses. This is because it provides effective ways to develop your brand in a competitive and saturated market niche, addresses some of the common pain points faced by small businesses, and is highly cost-effective compared to other marketing methods.

Here’s a closer look at why email marketing is important for a small business.

It helps expand the small business customer experience

When you first set up a business and become your own boss, it’s likely that you’re going to have to put a lot of resource into new customer acquisition and building momentum in your sales.

For some merchants, making the flow of new business more consistent is one of the first big challenges they’ll have to overcome. If, for example, you’re running a food truck, you’re going to rely on sporadic foot traffic that will go up and down depending on your location, the nearby competition, and other unpredictable factors like the weather. If you’re able to build a mailing list, you’ll be able to communicate directly with customers and keep them updated about your scheduled locations, new items on your menu, promotions, and other updates that might entice your audience towards your truck. This is just one example of how small, brick-and-mortar businesses can use email marketing to help engage potential and existing customers, and develop a more consistent, healthy flow of business.

It mitigates common challenges

Email marketing can also help to reduce the impact of some common challenges faced by small businesses. As a small merchant, you may have to contend with common pain points such as having a limited small business budget for marketing, trying to claim some market share in a competitive landscape, and gaining and retaining customers. Email marketing can help you tackle these issues by reaching a specific audience with personalised marketing messages to improve brand awareness and encourage repeat business through a marketing method that doesn’t require a high initial investment compared to more expensive paid advertising campaigns. This can be a great way to build momentum in the early days of your business, and form a base relationship with your audience, laying the groundwork needed to grow your business in the future.

It’s very cost-effective

When compared to other forms of marketing such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads and traditional print advertising, email marketing for small business only requires a small initial investment to launch your campaign and start seeing results. With many email marketing tools, you can start out with a small investment that reflects the size of your mailing list, then gradually increase this as more people become subscribers and your available marketing budget grows. Furthermore, the return on investment (ROI) of email marketing tends to be higher compared to other marketing methods, helping to improve the chances that your investment in an email marketing campaign will bring in a healthy level of sales and revenue.

Need to simplify your processes to better understand your cashflow?

SumUp’s business account is designed specifically for small business use and comes with a variety of tools to help you understand your money.

Open your account

How effective is email marketing for small businesses?

Before you delve into how to do email marketing for small business, you may want to look into the quantifiable value you can expect from email marketing. To give you an idea of how effective email marketing is for small businesses, here are some important statistics on email marketing in the UK from the Data and Marketing Association (DMA).

  • The average estimated ROI across a survey of email marketers was £35.41 for every £1 spent.

  • There’s a correlation between businesses that invest a high proportion of their marketing budget into email and a high ROI from their marketing efforts. More than half of businesses classified as high ROI by the DMA invest at least 20% or more of their marketing budget into email marketing, compared to low ROI businesses, which tend to invest 20% or less.

  • 81% of the high ROI respondents to the DMA’s studies answered ‘yes’ to the question “Does your organisation currently have rules on how frequently you email an individual?”

  • Marketers who used a frequency of contact rule also reported a higher ROI from their email marketing on average (£39.12 or every £1 spent, as opposed to £26.32 for every £1 spent.)

How can email marketing help small businesses? 

There are a number of ways in which email marketing can help you grow a small business.  These include its potential to help you gain better visibility among larger brands, start and maintain stronger customer relationships, and its cost-effectiveness when compared to comparable marketing methods, such as direct mail. In this section, we’ll look at some of the key benefits of email marketing for small businesses.

It can help build your brand recognition among larger competitors

With a number of marketing methods, such as traditional print advertising and online PPC ads, the brands that get the most exposure tend to be the ones with a larger budget. With email marketing, however, you can start building a mailing list and running campaigns for a relatively small investment. This means you can achieve the same degree of exposure as some of your larger competitors from the outset, even if you have a smaller marketing budget.

It lets you automate customer journeys through sequencing

In email marketing, sequencing is the ability to automate certain marketing emails being sent to recipients based on actions they take. If you’re running a local cafe and have customers who regularly buy large orders of your baked goods with several different products, you can use this as a trigger to automate a promotional email telling customers they can save money by ordering bulk boxes instead. Email sequencing and automation can help personalise the customer journey and reduce the manual work needed to ensure your campaigns are as effective as possible.

Looking to make your customer journey a positive and frictionless experience?

Payment links are easy to set-up and can be sent across a variety of channels to make payment quick and simple for your customers.

Start sending payment links

It promises a high ROI

Aside from having a low cost of entry, email marketing is also important for small businesses who want to invest their resources carefully due to its potential for a high return on investment (ROI).

Email marketing tends to promise high ROI as you’re marketing to an audience who have already expressed interest in your product or service by signing up to a mailing list. Often, including a compelling call-to-action (CTA) in your emails is all you need to push these interested recipients into action.

For a relatively low initial investment, which might result in a higher volume of sales in return, providing more money for you to re-invest into your marketing or other aspects of your business.

It integrates well with other marketing channels

With a robust email marketing tool, you’ll be able to create branded content in your emails that will integrate well with other online marketing channels and touchpoints. These channels might include paid advertising, social media, and your website content.

Be sure to read on for a list of some of the best email marketing tools for small businesses. Integrating your email campaigns with other marketing channels will help to keep your messaging and branding consistent across every touchpoint and feed into strengthening your customer relationships.

It doesn’t require a lot of marketing expertise to understand

One of the biggest pain points merchants encounter when they start trying to develop a marketing strategy for a small business is the challenge of analysing the impact of their marketing campaigns.

When you’re tending to various different roles as a small business owner, you may find you have limited time to get familiar with different marketing key performance indicator (KPIs) and the variables that can affect them. Most reputable email marketing tools will automatically track the impact of your campaigns once they’re sent out, giving you access to metrics like delivery, open and click-through rates (CTRs), and more. Many of these platforms also come with detailed analytics designed to help you understand what these metrics mean and how you can optimise your emails to improve performance in specific areas.

It provides instant feedback

Email marketing opens a 2-way channel of communication that encourages feedback from your customers. Shortly after launching an email campaign, you can start to gather feedback on performance, not just from direct communication from your audience, but also the CTRs, bounce rates, open rates and other metrics. This allows you to make granular adjustments to your campaign at an earlier stage, rather than having to wait weeks or months to gather enough data on your campaign to make informed improvements.

It helps develop your relationship with customers

Developing closer relationships with your customers is an essential part of developing your small business and maximising your chances of success in niches that are often heavily influenced by larger competitors.

Imagine, for example, that you’re running a hand-crafted gifts shop, selling products both through a brick-and-mortar premises and an e-commerce store. Many people in your target audience may know about a larger competitor with a powerful unique selling point (USP), such as being able to sell similar products at a lower price than you.

A well-executed email campaign can help you develop a closer relationship with your customers through regular, personalised communications. This has the potential to convince your customers to choose your product over your larger competitors, giving you a competitive advantage.

It’s highly scalable

One of the biggest benefits of email marketing for small businesses is its scalability. Email marketing can be used by businesses of all sizes, from sole trader start-ups to larger international corporations.

As a small business, it’s important to focus on marketing methods that are accessible even with a smaller budget, and that can scale in-line with your business' growth in the long term.

Email marketing allows you to start small, targeting a pool of your most loyal and active customers, then gradually increase its scope as your budget and priorities change over time.

It helps you save time and money

Aside from being accessible even for merchants with limited budgets or operating cash flow, email marketing is highly efficient, and requires less time to roll out a campaign compared to other marketing methods. While some marketing disciplines, like content marketing, require a lot of research and planning to have the desired effect, you can carry out effective email marketing campaigns while using templates and automations to minimise the manual work required. This makes it especially useful for small merchants who have limited time to manage their marketing, but still want to make sure their marketing efforts are as effective as possible.

How to do email marketing for small businesses in 6 steps

Now that we’ve looked at some of the key traits and benefits of email marketing, here are the practical steps in how to start email marketing and ensure your first campaign is as successful as possible.

Building an email list

In order to roll out an email marketing campaign, you’ll first need to build a mailing list. There are many ways of building your mailing list, but whichever tactic you choose to focus on, it’s essential that you get your prospects’ consent to retain their email address and send them marketing communications. This will not only help you start and maintain a positive relationship through your mailing list, but ensure that your email marketing activities stay compliant with privacy regulations, which we’ll talk more about in the next section. Some of the ways you can use to build an email list for your small business with the explicit consent of your recipients include:

  • Running contests and promotions and asking people to enter their email address as part of the entry.

  • Create a lead magnet, a free online resource that your audience might want, and ask for their email addresses in return.

  • Create pop-up forms on your website.

  • Promote the benefits of joining your mailing list on your social media platforms.

  • Collecting email addresses via in-person customer satisfaction surveys.

Familiarise yourself with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a piece of legislation dealing with people’s right to privacy when it comes to their personal data. In the context of digital marketing, it deals with the importance of getting informed consent from people who opt-in to your marketing emails. It also covers making it easy for people to opt-out of emails, and keeping evidence of recipient’s preferences as you roll out campaigns. It’s important to research the elements of GDPR that apply to email marketing before you start any UK focussed campaign, and take steps to ensure your email marketing practices are staying in-line with this legislation. The UK iteration of GDPR specifies that organisations should abide by 7 principles when using people’s data:

  • Lawfulness, fairness and transparency - making sure your use of people's data is legal and that you're not hiding the fact that you're retaining people's data).

  • Purpose limitation - only collecting email addresses and other data for legitimate purposes.

  • Data minimisation - only gathering necessary data.

  • Accuracy - keeping data accurate and updating it when necessary.

  • Storage limitation - only keeping data as long as necessary for its intended purpose.

  • Integrity and confidentiality - exercising robust security measures to stop data being leaked or stolen.

  • Accountability - keeping records to show that your small business email marketing is GDPR compliant.

Segment your audience

Segmenting your audience means dividing the people in your mailing list into groups based on common traits they share.

These can be demographic information like:

  • Age 

  • Gender

  • Location 

Or behavioural data such as: 

  • How often they purchase from you. 

  • The average value of their orders.

  • Their interactions with your brand on social media. 

This can inform email marketing decisions that are more likely to result in sales, for example sending more frequent marketing emails to recipients whose demographics fall within your target market definition, and who make frequent purchases.

Create your email content

With your email list built and your audience segmented, the next step is to create compelling email content that will convince your prospects to take the next step in their customer journey. There are countless variables that can go into creating email content, but the main ones to think about when you’re first getting started with email marketing are:

Subject lines

Subject lines should be unique and informed by competitor analysis of other business’ emails in order to stand out from the other emails in your target audience’s inbox.

This means they are personalised to the recipient and should communicate the benefit that the recipient can gain by opening it.

An example subject line for a bakery that checks all of these might be: “Chloe, get 20% off cupcake boxes while this offer lasts 🧁”.


Your email’s CTA will help guide your recipients towards the action you want them to take, such as making a purchase, or signing up to a class. These should be concise and unambiguous, make use of a compelling verb, and communicate the value that the recipient can expect by taking the action.

An example of a CTA for an artist supply e-commerce store might be: “Shop now and get a free filbert paintbrush with your first order.”

Your wider business goals

While email campaigns might have a focus on a new product or promotion, they should also align with your wider marketing and business goals. Before planning and refining your email content, be sure to consider the wider business goals you’re hoping to achieve through email and any other marketing channels. If your goal is to drive sales, you might want to devote more space in the email to advertising products and promotions. If you’re more focused on building brand recognition and customer loyalty, you may want to link out to useful content on your online store and social media channels instead. These kinds of adjustments to your email marketing content will build intersections between your email campaigns and your other marketing channels. Keeping your separate marketing drives feeding into the same overarching goals in your business plan.

Want to expand your business’ presence online?

SumUp’s free online store makes it easy to build a user-friendly online shopping experience with no coding required and zero running costs.

Set up your online store


Email automation uses predefined conditions to trigger actions in your email marketing tool, with the aim of making your campaigns more effective. Common examples might be welcome emails triggered by someone signing up to your email list, or sending product recommendations that complement a previous purchase. You can also set triggers based around a customer’s behaviour, for example sending a certain campaign if a previously active customer hasn’t purchased in a predetermined length of time. Behaviour-based automations that adapt to customer behaviour can also be a useful way to answer difficult questions when you start email marketing, such as “how many marketing emails to send per week?” or “when is the best time to send a marketing email?” Automating your email marketing means you won’t have to carry out repetitive, manual tasks, and can spend more time on your broader email marketing strategy.

Measure and Improve

As you roll out your email marketing campaign, it’s important to pay attention to the data gathered by your email marketing tool, understand what these metrics mean, and plan to make adjustments based on this information. The important email marketing metrics to consider include:

  • Open rate, which shows the proportion of recipients who opened an email.

  • CTR, which shows the proportion of people who clicked a CTA button in an email.

  • Conversion rate, which shows the proportion of recipients who completed a desired action after clicking through from an email, such as making a purchase, completing a sign-up form, or another action.

  • Bounce rate, which shows the proportion of people who clicked through an email to your website, but then left the landing page without performing any other actions.

  • Mailing list growth rate.

  • Unsubscribe rate.

8 do's and don'ts of email marketing

Though email marketing has huge potential for small businesses looking to reach new customers and strengthen their brand, it’s not without its challenges. When you're first looking at how to start email marketing, some business owners may find it challenging to take in the various approaches they see from competitors and other businesses, and know which techniques are the best for them.

Here are 8 do's and don'ts of email marketing to bear in mind as you learn more about email marketing and start to form your strategy.

The dos of email marketing for small businesses

Personalise your content

Generic mass email marketing may have led some businesses to success in the early days of the internet. Today, however, consumers expect a certain level of personalisation that shows you care about the recipients as individuals. This can include elements of your email content like addressing the prospect by name or including suggestions based on their shopping habits. Be sure to segment your mailing list and tailor your email content based on the nuances of these segments to maximise open rates and engagement.

Provide real value No one likes it when their email is full of junk, so make sure your email campaigns are offering genuine value to the end recipient, such as exclusive offers, or useful or entertaining information related to your product or service. Maintaining a high standard of quality through your campaigns will help to maximise open rates and other engagement metrics, while minimising unsubscribe rates.

Keep content varied

The content in your email campaigns should not only be valuable to the audience, but also varied enough that it feels fresh and interesting when it lands in your audience’s inboxes. Though keeping some level of regularity with your email campaigns is important, it’s better to have content that’s less frequent and more varied as opposed to emails that are sent out regularly but are repetitive and lack creativity.

Test constantly

General research into email marketing as a discipline is certainly helpful when you’re first getting started. However, the most useful information is going to be your own original research looking specifically at your emails and their impact on your audience against your KPIs. To get the most out of your email marketing, make sure you’re testing your campaigns frequently, looking at different elements like subject lines, the composition of different elements, CTAs, links and more. This will help you understand what your audience is most likely to respond to, and make more effective strategy decisions for campaigns in the future.

Don'ts of email marketing for small businesses

Segment your audience too generally

Segmentation and personalisation is an increasingly important part of all online marketing disciplines, including email marketing. If your audience segments are too general and you’re sending similar content to large portions of your audience, you could be missing an opportunity to target specific audience sections as effectively as possible. Make sure your segmentation is informed by detailed market research and your own experiences and data to get the most impact from your campaigns.

Settling for poor-quality design

Poor-quality design elements, like a lack of white space or low-quality graphics, can have a negative impact on your brand and how you’re perceived in the eyes of people receiving your emails. Though you don’t need to hire a full-time graphic designer, it’s important to familiarise yourself with both the design tools included in your email marketing tool, and the standard of content currently being produced in your industry. Use misleading or unclear subject lines

As the first contact your recipients will have with your email campaigns, your subject line will set the tone of the content inside and have a big impact on the open rate. While it’s important to use subject lines to convince recipients to click, you should avoid resorting to subject lines that promise content which the actual email doesn’t deliver, or using click-bait titles that mislead the customers into opening it. Forget about consent and compliance

As part of your small business cyber security best practices, your email marketing activities need to adhere to GDPR and other business regulations to ensure your recipients’ online privacy and keep your marketing compliant.

Make sure you’re familiar with how GDPR applies to email marketing and maintain strict policies when managing your mailing list to keep your campaigns compliant.

5 email marketing best practices for small business 

Like any form of marketing, there are certain best practices that can be applied to email marketing which will maximise your chances of success and help you improve your campaigns over time. Here are some of the best practices you should bear in mind whenever you’re engaging in email marketing for small business.

Keep content brief

Many consumers receive a large volume of business emails every day, and many of these emails won’t be open or read. When you’re composing your email content, it’s crucial to consider that it’s just going to be one of many messages your audience sees. To maximise the chances of your content being read and interacted with, try to keep the content brief and to the point. The ideal length of your content will vary depending on your business niche and the profile of your target audience. However, aiming to make it shorter rather than longer will mean your audience has to take less time out of their day to read your content, and improve the rate of engagement.

A good target to start with is 50-125 words to get your main message across, then draft more sparingly for the lower priority content and calls to action.

Make personalisation a priority

Like with other marketing channels, personalisation is becoming increasingly important for the success of email marketing campaigns. Personalisation will help you build a connection with the subscribers in your mailing list, and ensure you’re providing them with the most value possible. One of the most basic ways you can personalise emails is to address your recipients by name in your subject lines and email content. However, this is just one of the ways you can tailor your emails to the recipient and create a personalised experience for your audience. Some of the other ways you can personalise your email campaigns include:

  • Creating and sharing exclusive discount codes on your recipients’ birthdays.

  • Sending product or service recommendations based on your recipient’s previous purchasing behaviour.

  • Showing your appreciation for active customers by celebrating milestones e.g once they’ve made online orders totalling a certain value.

  • Re-engaging customers that used to be active but haven’t been making as many purchases lately.

Keep the most important information and CTA above the fold

Above the fold refers to any content in your email that’s visible without your recipient having to scroll down. Your marketing email is likely to be one of many your target audience are going to receive in any given day. Because of this, it’s important to grab their attention as early as possible, and give them a reason to stay on your email rather than deleting it or moving on to the next message. By summarising the main point of your content and including the email’s CTA above the fold, you’ll make it easy for your audience to understand your email in a short time. This will also increase the likelihood that they’ll click through your email and take an action on your website.

Optimise your content for mobile

Though most email marketing tools will mean you’ll be drafting and editing content on a desktop computer, it’s important to consider how this will appear on mobile devices once it lands in your audience’s inbox. Many consumers will prefer opening emails on their mobile devices. For this reason, it’s important to make sure the content your recipients see on mobile has the same standard of quality as the desktop experience. Before you launch a new email campaign, be sure to preview the email content on as many mobile devices and email providers as possible (Gmail, Apple Mail, Yahoo, AOL and Outlook). Some important things to check when optimising emails for mobile include:

  • Making sure your fonts are readable.

  • All clickable elements are easy to interact with by tapping.

  • That you’re not requiring users to excessively scroll to see any actual content.

A/B test throughout your campaigns

Even if you follow all the advice and best practices for general email marketing closely, it’s unlikely that your email marketing will fulfil its potential unless you’re testing your campaigns often and making adjustments based on your findings.

A/B testing involves sending two variations of an email with specific elements changed to test which of these better serves your marketing goals. This will give you an objective look at how your email marketing is performing with your specific audience, and make it easier to see which kind of optimisations should take priority.

With every A/B test, it’s important to focus on a specific variable to ensure your conclusions are clear and useful. Here are just a few ideas of variables you can test:

  • Subject lines that clearly state the CTA vs subjects that allude to the CTA in a more vague, teasing manner.

  • Using emojis in subject line vs no emojis.

  • Short vs long subject lines.

  • Image-heavy body content vs content with more text.

  • CTA button size, text, and visual design.

8 best email marketing services for small business

When looking for the best email marketing for small business, there’s a number of important  considerations, such as pricing, the features included in the service, and the kind of businesses they’re best suited for. Here’s a round-up of 8 of the best email marketing tools and services for small businesses to help you find the right support for your business. Bear in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive, and there are many more email marketing tools that might be better suited for your aims and ways of working. Before you invest in any one tool, be sure to assess how it will fit into your approach to marketing by researching reviews and testimonials, taking free trials, and comparing features offered by prospective tools. HubSpot

Perfect for: Merchants who want to start small with their email marketing, but have a long-term vision for scaling their marketing and making use of the tool’s other integrated features. Key features: Drag-and-drop email design, email personalisation, A/B testing. Additional features: AI email copy support, CRM and social media integrations. Free trial available? Yes. Starting price: £14 per month.


Perfect for: Partial or full e-commerce merchants who want a business tool that will integrate with their e-commerce platform. Key features: User-friendly email builder, email marketing engagement analytics, integrations with popular e-commerce platforms. Additional features: Campaign manager for multi-channel marketing, subject line generation tool, audience segmentation. Free trial available? Yes. Starting price: £10.99 per month.


Perfect for: Merchants who want a simple and easy-to-learn email marketing tool, or who don’t have a large marketing budget to invest in their tool. Key features: Drag and drop email design platform, audience segmentation, email performance analytics. Additional features: Landing page and sign-up form templates, integrations with Brevo’s other products. Free trial available? Yes. Starting price: £16 per month


Perfect for: Merchants who want to use more features than basic email marketing suites, but don’t anticipate large volumes or want to avoid complex workflows. Key features: Easy email design platform, behaviour-triggered sending options, segmentation and performance analytics. Additional features: e-commerce store integrations and AI-powered optimisation suggestions. Free trial available? Yes Starting price: £13 per month.


Perfect for: Marketing novices who want to make use of simple, easy-to-understand templates, and don’t plan on engaging with complex reports. Key features: Shoppable email builder, segmentation, campaign reports, A/B testing. Additional features: SMS and push notification campaigns. Free trial available? Yes. Starting price: £13 per month.

Campaign Monitor

Perfect for: Merchants who are looking to understand their audience with robust segmentation and personalisation, without paying a high price for more complex or granular analytics tools. Key features: Email templates, personalisation, segmentation tools. Additional features: AI email content generation, SMS marketing features. Free trial available? Yes. Starting price: £9 per month.

Constant Contact

Perfect for: Merchants with a small audience who want to make the most out of personalisation and retention to build customer loyalty. Key features: Drag and drop email builder, automated personalisation options, analytics platform. Additional features: AI copy generation, mailing list building tool, social media integrations. Free trial available? No. Starting price: £10 per month.


Perfect for: Merchants looking for a lot of support in terms of email content design, but who aren’t afraid to learn advanced reporting and analytics tools. Key features: Professional email design templates designed for retail, wellness, and restaurant businesses. Additional features: Predictive customer segmentation. Free trial available? Yes. Starting price: £28 per month.

Tool or Service

Key Features

Additional Features

Free Trial

Starting Price

Perfect for


Drag-and-drop email design, email personalisation, A/B testing

AI email copy support, CRM and social media integrations


£702 per month

Merchants who want to start small with their email marketing, but have a long-term vision for scaling their marketing and making use of the tool’s other integrated features


User-friendly email builder, email marketing engagement analytics, integrations with popular e-commerce platforms

Campaign manager for multi-channel marketing, subject line generation tool, audience segmentation


£10.99 per month

Partial or full e-commerce merchants who want a business tool that will integrate with their e-commerce platform


Drag and drop email design platform, audience segmentation, email performance analytics

Landing page and sign-up form templates, integrations with Brevo’s other products


£16 per month

Merchants who want a simple and easy-to-learn email marketing tool, or who don’t have a large marketing budget to invest in their tool


Easy email design platform, behaviour-triggered sending options, segmentation and performance analytics

e-commerce store integrations and AI-powered optimisation suggestions


£13 per month

Merchants who want to use more features than basic email marketing suites, but don’t anticipate large volumes or want to avoid complex workflows


Shoppable email builder, segmentation, campaign reports, A/B testing

SMS and push notification campaigns


£13 per month

Marketing novices who want to make use of simple, easy-to-understand templates, and don’t plan on engaging with complex reports

Campaign Monitor

Email templates, personalisation, segmentation tools

AI email content generation, SMS marketing features


£9 per month

Merchants who are looking to understand their audience with robust segmentation and personalisation, without paying a high price for more complex or granular analytics tools

Constant Contact

Drag and drop email builder, automated personalisation options, analytics platform

AI copy generation, mailing list building tool, social media integrations


£10 per month

Merchants with a small audience who want to make the most out of personalisation and retention to build customer loyalty


Professional email design templates designed for retail, wellness, and restaurant businesses

Predictive customer segmentation


£28 per month

Merchants looking for a lot of support in terms of email content design, but who aren’t afraid to learn complex reporting and analytics tools

What to look for in email marketing software for your small business?

The tool that works best for you will depend on the requirements of your small business and the goals you’re hoping to achieve. Having said that, there are a number of common features you might want to consider prioritising, which we’ll explore below.

User-friendly email design

To make sure your email marketing is able to perform competitively, you’ll need to create email content that’s professional and visually appealing. As a small merchant, you may not have the budget or desire to hire a graphic designer for all of your email campaigns. However, many email marketing tools contain design platforms that allow you to create high-quality email content without the need for design expertise. Choose an email marketing tool like Klaviyo, GetResponse, Brevo or HubSpot that offer simple drag-and-drop design capabilities and pre-built templates. From here you’ll be able to build and send content that's engaging and fits with your brand.

Segmentation and personalisation 

As we’ve covered in the earlier sections, segmenting your audience and personalising the content to them is an important part of email marketing. This part of your strategy gives your recipients a positive experience and maximises the chances that they’ll respond and convert. Choosing an email marketing tool that has segmentation and personalisation capabilities will make it easier to tailor your content to different sections of your audience, and increase the chances of click-throughs and conversions. With robust analytics, your email marketing suite will also help you monitor how well your personalisation efforts are improving your campaign’s performance, and advise content decisions in the future.

A/B testing tools

A/B testing is an essential practice for continually improving your email marketing. However, doing this manually requires a lot of work to decide on the elements you’re going to test, create distinct pieces of content, and attribute the interactions with your emails accurately. With an email marketing tool that has an A/B testing platform built-in, you’ll be able to use software to run tests isolated to variables like subject lines, body copy, and CTAs with ease. These platforms also highlight the results of your test to show a clear winner, allowing you to take on board findings and feed these into your strategy with ease.

Automation features

Once you’re familiar with your mailing list and the way your audience interacts with your emails, automation tools can be a useful way to reduce your manual marketing operations management work.

Many email marketing suites come with automation tools where you can create a customer journey based on your customer segments and behavioural triggers, which will automatically send further, highly relevant content. Automations can also be used to ensure compliance, for example instantly unsubscribing someone when a prospect clicks a button on your email. This will help keep your campaigns highly relevant and engaging for specific customer segments, and keep recipients moving through the customer journey towards a conversion.

Bonus tip: how to use social media for email marketing?

To make your email marketing even more effective, you can use it in conjunction with social media marketing to expand your reach and send more effective emails.

Some of these methods include:

  • Encouraging your social media followers to share user-generated content which you can then share in emails to help recipients feel like part of a community.

  • Promote contests and giveaways on social media that require signing up to your mailing list to expand your email marketing reach.

  • Use social media to run polls or ask for feedback then apply this in your email marketing, or vice versa.

  • Showcase social proof earned through your social media platforms in your email content.

  • Leverage data from your social media marketing analytics to build new segments for better email targeting.

Disclaimer: The contents of this page are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. For matters requiring legal or financial expertise, it’s recommended to seek guidance from qualified professionals.

Email marketing for small business FAQs

How to do market research for a small business

Learn how to do market research for small business with a project tailored to your target audience and goals.

Read more

How to write a powerful mission statement for your small business

Learn about what mission statements are and how to write an effective mission statement for your business.

Read more

How to develop a successful marketing strategy for small business

Learn how to create an effective marketing strategy for your small business with this complete guide.

Read more

Learn more about marketing