WocCommerce is an amazing platform for building an eCommerce store, but it’s much less amazing for handling your email marketing. It’s possible to send some emails through WooCommerce… but it’s certainly not recommended.

WooCommerce is (of course) an extension of WordPress, so its emails are sent using WordPress’s system. WordPress has some built-in emails for your site (like password resets and other notifications); WooCommerce adds more emails on top of that (ones with an eCommerce focus, like order receipts); and, some plugins like WooCommerce Memberships or WooCommerce Subscriptions, will add even more emails on top of that.

Some of the emails added to WooCommerce.
An example of the emails added by an extension, in this case WooCommerce Memberships.

And… we don’t recommend that you use WooCommerce’s (and, therefore, WordPress’s) built-in email system to send any of them.

Even though those emails are right there in WooCommerce, we strongly recommend using a dedicated email service provider (ESP) to send them instead. Not only is it necessary if you want to send more advanced emails, it’s vital to ensure your emails reliably make it to your customers, especially as email becomes a more important part of your marketing strategy.

The problems with sending emails through WooCommerce

WooCommerce and WordPress are written in PHP (a scripting language), and the mail function, called wp_mail(), uses PHP to send emails directly from your web server. While that cuts out the email provider as a middleman, so to speak, it opens the process up to some significant issues.

1. Deliverability

Perhaps the biggest negative of sending emails directly through WooCommerce is the potential for serious deliverability problems. Deliverability is primarily based on a handful factors: IP address reputation, domain reputation, email track record, and proper email code. When you send directly through WooCommerce, you can run into problems with all four.

If your website is on a shared server, or your hosting plan doesn’t come with its own dedicated IP address, you’re sharing an IP address with other sites on that server. If any of those sites has abused emailing from that IP (or any sites that used to rely on the shared server abused emailing from that IP), that can affect your deliverability.

IP reputation is no joke. It’s a huge factor in your Sender Score, and deliverability rates fall off a cliff as that score goes down. As you can see from this chart, a sender score between 91 and 100 leads to an average deliverability of 91 percent. If your score drops into the 81 to 90 range, deliverability drops to 71 percent. If your score drops into the 71 to 80 range, now your deliverability is down to 44 percent. 

Sender Score and deliverability connection.
Via: Return Path. (PDF)

Clean and/or dedicated IPs are also no guarantee of top-notch deliverability. The emails you send through WooCommerce are not generated by a known email server—a big red flag for spam. Even after you jump through the hoops of squaring away your domain and IP sending reputation by certifying your DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Email), SPF (Sender Policy Framework), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) records—you’re still sending emails from servers that are unknown to email providers. That raises suspicion, and makes it harder for you to build a positive reputation for your sends. (Sending from a known email IP address, like the ones used by email service providers, makes the process much easier.)

Email service providers work constantly to keep their IP addresses clean, their emails certified and validated, and their reputations with email providers like Google and Microsoft at the highest possible level. The reason spammers gravitate toward WordPress- or self-generated emails is because all of the reputable email service providers will catch them and remove them immediately if they try to abuse the system.

While everything above affects short-term deliverability, there’s also a potential long-term negative effect. Your IP address and domain name, while technically separate entities, are a “package deal” as an email provider assesses the emails you send. If your emails keep winding up in spam (or never even make it that far) as the result of IP issues, that means your domain name’s reputation can also take a hit by proxy. Your email track record can also suffer—since your emails aren’t making it to mailboxes that often, the email clients aren’t becoming familiar with them, which is another strike on deliverability. So even if you move off of a shared server to a clean IP address, you could still encounter lingering problems with your domain reputation and email track record.

The final deliverability problem we’ll discuss here is your email code—including things like valid email HTML markup and headers. There’s no assurance WooCommerce-generated emails will hit the necessary criteria for those—and you’ll probably have to take the time (and/or pay a developer) to dig into the code in order to study and tweak the HTML.

An email service provider takes care of all these issues for you. They “warm up” IP addresses so you’ll see better delivery right out of the gate. There’s a halo effect that comes with associating your domain with those IPs—the strong reputation carries over to your domain. (This is especially valuable if you’re just getting started in email marketing.) Thanks to the email service provider’s strong reputation, your emails are far more likely to make it into subscribers’ mailboxes, which sends the signal to email clients that, yes, your emails belong there. And finally, the email service providers ensure your HTML code and headers are all valid, so those are things you never even have to think about.

(Note: If you’re wondering whether the email problems discussed in this section could be rectified by using a SMTP server to send email rather than PHP, that can help deliverability—but, as we’ll cover later, it won’t solve all of the issues that come with sending emails from within WooCommerce.)

2. Email limits and delays

Web hosting servers are configured to… yes, host websites. They’re not configured to send out large, or even medium, quantities of emails. And when you do attempt to send out emails from your web hosting server, those emails can be delayed—or, in some cases, the sending process can error out and the emails won’t be sent at all. 

If your WordPress installation is sending out a large volume of emails—and a popular WooCommerce site would most likely be sending a steady, heavy volume of emails—that can cause problems for you with your hosting provider. Many impose email limits (and limits on how many emails can be sent simultaneously), so they may respond by throttling your sends even further—or suspending your account for misuse.

Email service providers, in contrast, are built to send high volumes of email with no limits or delays. They can also feature much more sophisticated handling of potential email errors. (For instance, Jilt uses an adaptive delivery engine that tries resending an email for 72 hours if it encounters an overloaded mail server or soft bounce notification. WordPress’s mail server tries once, then stops and the email will never arrive.) 

3. Email limitations

When you’re configuring email in WooCommerce, you’ll notice there are significantly fewer options for what you can do with those emails. Some of the shortfalls include:

  • Templates and design. WooCommerce can handle HTML emails pretty well (much better than WordPress without WooCommerce, which does not)—but you’ll still, most likely, find yourself making compromises on your design and branding. You could  custom code the emails, but you’re busy—you don’t want to spend the time or money to find a way to code custom emails in WooCommerce or have to dig into custom code every time you want to make any changes. So, as a result, you can find yourself sending emails that are inconsistent with your brand, less visually appealing, and less compelling, plus are likely more difficult to update. You’d also need to generate fallback code to ensure your emails render properly across all mailboxes—and to account for semantically correct email HTML, which is different from how you structure website HTML, and is not simple to write or maintain. (ESPs do this for you!)
  • Personalization. When sending emails from WooCommerce, you’re also missing out on advanced email features like targeted product recommendations or dynamic coupon codes. You can’t set the email preview text or use different “from” names or addresses on your different types of emails. If you want your emails to include any upsells or customer details, you’d have to take on some heavy customizations yourself.
  • Segmentation, rules, and email campaign flows. While you can set up a trigger for your emails (e.g., “send three days after a membership expires” or “send a receipt after order completion”), you can’t further customize the sending rules. You can’t send different emails to different customers based on data like previous order size or membership tier. You can’t send a series of emails as opposed to just a one-off. In short, you can’t do most of the targeting and personalization that have become increasingly crucial for successful email marketing.
  • Detailed analytics. One of email marketing’s biggest assets is its measurability. Email metrics—even the most basic ones—are not baked into WooCommerce. Without that data, you can’t measure the effectiveness of your emails, diagnose where they could be improved, or quickly track results.
  • List maintenance. Circling back to deliverability (yet again), dedicated email service providers will help keep your list maintained by removing hard bounces and repeated soft bounces and watching out for spam traps. That will all help your long-term deliverability, and is absent from WooCommerce and WordPress emails.

Earlier in the article, we referenced an alternative to using WordPress’s PHP email function: Using a third-party SMTP service, like Mailgun or SparkPost, to send your emails. While these services won’t really fix issues like design and branding, personalization, or integrating eCommerce data, they can help remedy some of the deliverability problems, and will give you some level of analytics.

If you are going to use WordPress or WooCommerce to send any emails—perhaps a few your email service provider doesn’t send yet, or ones that don’t require advanced branding and analytics like WordPress account password resets—we recommend you use an email delivery service like Mailgun, SparkPost, or Postmark. 

Solutions

For much improved deliverability, a safeguard against email limits and delays, and access to the key features needed for a robust and successful email marketing strategy (like design, personalization, segmentation, and analytics), the solution is a third-party email service provider. 

There are, of course, plenty of email service providers out there that can solve many of the problems we’ve detailed above—but when it comes to the specific needs of WooCommerce users, we’re confident that Jilt is the most robust and comprehensive solution. We’ve worked tirelessly to make sure Jilt solves all of the problems you can encounter when you send directly through WooCommerce—plus, we are always adding more features that help stores find even more success with their email. Specifically, here are the ways Jilt already helps thousands of stores get the most from their email marketing: 

  • Great deliverability. You won’t have to worry about deliverability issues, email limits, or delays. Even if your domain is brand new, Jilt has a top-of-class sending reputation to make sure your emails reach your customers from day one.
  • Native integration to WooCommerce. Automatically sync all of your data between your store and Jilt to take advantage of advanced segmentation, personalized product recommendations, targeting, and more—all within a matter of clicks.
  • Makes advanced emails easy to use. Jilt is an email marketing platform with enterprise-level power and features—but it’s intuitive and easy to use, so you can get up and running in minutes.
  • All-in-one email for eCommerce. Unify all the emails for your store with Jilt, from automations to transactional notices to newsletters and sales announcements.
  • Best practices and strategies baked in. Jilt has pre-built templates, segmentation rules, and email flows for all of the key automated emails eCommerce brands like yours should send.
  • Advanced analytics. Track the key stats for your emails to monitor performance, diagnose areas for improvement, and see the revenue coming to your store through email marketing.
  • Responsive and knowledgeable support. Jilt’s expert support team is always ready to help you out, whether it’s migrating over from another email service, answering any questions that come up, or helping you get the most from your marketing emails.
  • Native integration with WooCommerce Memberships and more. SkyVerge is the development team behind WooCommerce Memberships and Jilt. There’s no better solution for Memberships than Jilt—it’s the only email platform with a full native integration with the extension, allowing for complete data sync, advanced emails, and more. Jilt has a native integration with WooCommerce Subscriptions as well, again making it the best email solution for sites using that plugin.

Ready to start sending marketing emails with enterprise power from your WooCommerce store? Head here to start a free trial of Jilt!

Published by Sam Greenspan

Sam Greenspan is a Content Creator at SkyVerge. He is based out of El Segundo, California, where he has great views of both the Pacific Ocean and Chevron refinery. He's a veteran blogger as well as a board game inventor, t-shirt collector, and guy that random people instinctively stop on the street for help fixing their phones and computers.

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