Difference Between Email Flows Vs Campaign Emails And Why You Need Both In Your Email Marketing Mix

Share this post

Email marketing is a vital, game-changing channel within the vast world of online marketing that every single marketer needs to know and do. You have probably heard about campaigns and flows (or automated emails) before, but what are they exactly? They are different things, right?

So, let’s get our teeth right into it by understanding the distinction between flows and campaigns.


Campaigns are one time email sends that you send to a particular list or segment. Campaigns relate to specific occasions such as July 4 or Black Friday or Christmas.


Flows are automated emails that are based on a set triggers and filters. Customers will enter the flow once they meet the conditions or do a behavior in the flow.

Examples of the most popular flows

Order Confirmation flow: This is a ‘Thank You’ email which is sent after checkout

Cart Recovery/Abandon flow: Email sent after items were placed in the shopping cart but the customer did not check out.

Welcome flow: Email sent after a confirmed subscription or purchase.

cart abandonment flow email



Customer Reactivation flow:

Email sent before a subscription expired or to a lapsed customer


Birthday/anniversary flow:

But obvious! Emails sent to a customer on their birthday or anniversary of being a customer or any other custom event.



Some types of campaign emails are:

  • Product launch campaign email


  • Newsletter campaign
  • Promotional campaign
  • Contest campaign

Campaigns usually consist of one email. These are normally the emails you are sending on a regular basis, like promotions and newsletters, but they can be more than one email too. If you are having a product launch, for example, your email marketing strategy will probably include a sequence of emails intended to excite the prospects about the upcoming product. If you want to build excitement and not overwhelm your prospects, you might want to share with them all of the info about the product over time, not all at once. But, all of these emails would have to be sent manually. 

Campaigns can also be scheduled in advance, so you can just set the date and time you want your campaign to be sent and forget about it. No need for you to sit behind the computer all day.

Flows, on the other hand, are automated email chains that are sent by software when triggered by certain actions. Flows send timed and relevant emails to prospects for you. “are sequences of emails being triggered and sent automatically. Basically, flows are using software to send relevant, timed and triggered emails to subscribers or prospects.” 

klaviyo email marketing flow example

The main difference between these two is how they are being sent: Campaigns are being sent/scheduled manually and Flows are triggered by certain actions or behaviours called “triggers”, like if a customer has visited a lot of pages on your website but ended up buying nothing.

Benefits of doing email campaigns

So it’s been said that each email marketing campaign can serve a specific purpose, and prospects will receive them when you set them to. This means that you can put your campaigns to work to get juicy benefits out of them. If you’re doing it right:

1. Click rates will go up 

High click rates are always nice because they mean your customers are engaged with your email marketing campaigns.

If prospects start receiving emails that they can relate to, they’ll become interested in what you have to say, and later they’ll be interested in your products/services. Sounds simple, right? Prospects are more likely to click on the CTA if you’re keeping them engaged. 

2. Revenue will also go up 

If a prospect clicked on the CTA, that means he’s one step closer to actually purchasing something. Keep in mind that “ongoing, personalized communication with engaged customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact”.

Moreover, segmented campaigns can boost revenue up to 800% , so you might want to get going and create your segments already!

3. Campaigns generate 40-50% of a store’s email marketing revenue

For those who usually target and time their campaigns accurately, email contributes more than 40% overall to the total business revenue. Over 30% of said email revenue generally comes from targeted campaigns to specific segments. In our 2020 email marketing report, we mentioned how campaigns contributed 40% of the overall revenue across our clients on an average.

Benefits of using email Flows

Having automated emails in your email marketings strategy is a no-brainer. You’d be literally leaving a huge chunk of your potential sales on the table without a robust set of Flows set up. And the best part? Klaviyo, our ESP of choice, allows you to set up some pretty comprehensive and sophisticated flows. Read more on the Klaviyo features here.

But just to spell them out, here’s the main benefits of having email flows set up.

1. They help you make a bigger impact 

“Companies who send automated emails are 133% more likely to send relevant messages that correspond with a customer’s purchase cycle.”( stat courtesy: Lenskold) This is because email automation segments subscribers into smaller groups, according to their behaviour, activities, interests or demographics. Flows make personalization and segmentation a breeze.

2. They’ll make you more efficient and will increase transactions 

Flows minimize the hard work, since they can send lots of emails for you. Birthday emails? Check. Thank you for your purchase emails? Check. I mean, the list is really really long. Can you imagine having to send these emails every time? Flows can be created once instead and then you’re set. No more manual sending. Flows will automatically convert for you.

What is more, you can encourage subscribers to keep purchasing if you’re using Flows. Transactional emails have up to eight times more open and click rates than any other type of email, so you can take advantage of that by also adding promo codes and/or suggested/frequently bought products to those emails. You can generate six times more revenue this way.

3. They keep leads engaged 

Flows will help you tailor your potential clients’ journey from awareness through conversion because of its targeting and segmenting abilities. If you start sending high-value content into the prospects’ inboxes, you’ll be connecting with them and that will help transform a cold lead into a hot one. And you know, hot leads convert more frequently.

How do flows and campaigns complement each other and help cover the marketing sales funnel

While most ecommerce companies choose to spend a lot of resources in setting up basic and advanced flows, some of them ignore campaigns altogether or don’t give them the love they deserve. Every email marketing strategy should be a good balance of both flows and campaigns.

Not to mention, flows help campaigns do better and vice versa and helps cover the sales funnel from the customer visit to retention. How so? Well, for an example.  The customer comes to your website through a promotional email (Campaign) , clicks on a few items or even adds something to the cart. They abandon the cart and never visit again. Until they get that Cart Abandon reminder email. (Flow.) and finally complete their purchase. This is a case of a flow email picking up what a campaign left off.

Maintaining the balance

Control the number of emails: If you have set up way too many flows, and then you add a lot of promos, newsletters etc, your customers will end up bombarded with emails, resulting in a bad user experience.

Monitor which flows/campaigns work: So, analyze the data of your flows/campaigns to find if there are any which are not bringing any revenue or look for the least significant ones and pause or block them.

Plan for occasions: If it’s that juicy season of BFCM days and you plan to send a lot of promos, newsletter campaigns can be completely paused.

Test your flows/campaigns: One very efficient way to maintain the balance is to split test your campaigns. This will help you to weed out underperforming campaigns. You may even realise that you can replace the campaign with an additional flow.

There’s no doubt that both flows and campaigns can help with:

  • Customer engagement
  • Customer acquisition and
  • Customer retention

Understanding these objectives together with identifying the right audience will determine the type of promotions and ads that you can put out there. 

While campaigns will drive traffic to the e-store, flows have to complement to achieve higher conversions. For example, welcome flows have an astounding average open rate of 82%. Similarly, sending 3 emails for the cart abandon flow has resulted in 69% more conversions than a single email.

Then, there is the need to constantly test and monitor what’s working or not. A/B tests are really helpful to identify elements and trends. And whatever works, automate it to create a flow. 

Finally, the crux for an e-commerce store owner/marketer is that balancing flows and campaigns requires careful diligence, great copy and creative designs, strong CTAs and continuous testing to know what will increase customer engagement. Back it up with great offers and that will automatically increase your conversions and overall revenue.

flows vs campaigns

So the long and short of it, email marketing is crucial to your ecommerce business, or any business really. But having either just automated emails or just campaign emails isn’t enough. You need to have a sophisticated mix of both flow and campaigns in your email marketing strategy.

Sounds complicated? Or need professional help in setting up your email flows and managing regular campaigns? Give us  a shout or book a free call with our experts to guide you in the right direction.

Share this post


Want Your Paid Ad UGC Content to Actually Convert?

Download our free ebook for a fast, actionable guide on briefing UGC content. (Your UGC creator AND your ROI will thank you!)