There is no better way to build a solid customer base than starting an email marketing campaign. Prestashop offers a newsletter subscription module only, so let’s see how to take advantage of it with a (free) third party newsletter service.
How does the Prestashop Newsletter module work?
Quite sadly, the newsletter module that comes packed with Prestashop does not allow you to send out emails. The only thing it does is storing subscriber’s information, so you can later export it to send emails using a third party software for your marketing campaign. Let’s see how to integrate two of the most popular solutions: Mailchimp and SendGrid
First off, let’s get a couple of subscribers
Indeed, it’s useless to send a campaign if no one is going to get your emails. Therefore, the first thing is to have your customers sign up to receive your newsletters. The built in Newsletter module allows you to export customers as well, but I would personally NOT send emails to someone which is not willing to receive them.
Make sure that the Newsletter Block module is actually installed, and visible in the front office:
It can be hooked to whether the left or right columns (footer as well, in Prestashop 1.6!). If you can’t find it, go to modules > modules in the back office, and install or reset the Newsletter Block module. It should appear soon after in the front office.
Luckily, even if your customers don’t spot your Newsletter Block, they will be offered the possibility to subscribe at the time they register a new account:
Whichever the case, after you get some subscribers, it’s time to export them. Please note that due to the limitation of the Prestashop Newsletter Block, you will not be informed about new subscriptions, while you’ll be able to see who signed up for it when registering from the Customers panel in the back office. You can, however, check the newsletter statistics (Stats panel, Newsletter) to know if someone registered. But once more, you won’t be able to see who. Time to export subscribers!
Exporting the newsletter Subscribers list
Head over to Modules in the back office and click on Newsletter. Make sure you read the description and click configure on the one that reads “Description : Generates a .CSV file for mass mailings”.
At this point, as you can read, you have two options: you can export the list of people who subscribed using the Newsletter Block, or Customers who opted in for receiving a Newsletter. We will do both.
Therefore, click on the first “Export .csv file” button and save the output where you prefer. Then, make sure you select Subscribers from the second box and export the customers list as well. Once again, I’d like to stress that you should only send emails to people willing to receive them!
The semicolon problem
Sad to say, the exported csv files are not yet ready to use. The reason being Prestashop exports field separating them with a semicolon, but we need them to be comma separated.
How to cope with it? Do we really have to manually change each semicolon to a comma? Yes and no. My suggestion is to run the exported file/s using a simple text editor with replacement functionalities. Look for “;” and replace it with “,”. Even the simplest Windows Notepad should allow you to replace all instances at once (Edit, Replace, click Replace All).
You can get rid of the first, informational row as well, if you prefer; it won’t be imported anyway.
Using SendGrid or MailChimp for your email marketing campaign
After successfully exporting subscribers, it’s time to choose a service which will be used to create the true email campaign. I’d like to compare two of the most popular one at the time I’m writing: SendGrid and MailChimp. They both offer a free plan to start out; here is a comparison breakdown:
What about SendGrid’s free plan? They have one, of course, which allows you to send up to 200 emails per day.
As you can see, the main difference between the two is how they limit your campaign. While Mailchimp allows you to send unlimited emails, restricting your subscriber’s list size, SendGrid does the opposite (and likes to stress it on their site too! :D).
Which one you will choose highly depends on the volume of your campaign. I personally use Mailchimp (free plan), but again, it’s just a personal choice. Let’s see how to create a campaign with both services!
Importing the list in MailChimp
After signing up to MailChimp, login to your dashboard and click on Lists in the right menu. Before being able to import our subscribers, we must create a list by clicking on Create List and filling in all required details. Of course, skip this if you already have a subscribers list.
Then, click on the list, and then Add subscribers and Import Subscribers.
On the new page, click Upload from a CSV or TXT File and browse to the file you got from Prestashop. You will be presented with something like this (yeah, I had only one entry, me. Lonely, huh?):
NOTE: Name and Last Name are only available on the customer export, not the blocknewsletter one!
There are some things we don’t need. We can obviously click skip on the customer ID; then, if you value it you can keep the date parameter, which Prestashop 1.5.6 wrongly puts under ip_address, and skip the last one, which should actually be the subscription date, but it’s been let empty for some reason. Yes, the export itself is quite buggy. Never mind though, we only care about First Name, Last Name and Email Address. Hit Import. Done! Our customer/s are now part of the list!
Creating a simple campaign with MailChimp
As we now have someone to read about our offers, let’s quickly go through a basic email marketing campaign creation using MailChimp.
Click on Campaigns in the menu, then Create Campaign in the top right, and finally. To be quick, I’ll choose Regular Ol Campaign, which is fine in most cases.
Just go through the campaign creation wizard filling in the required information. For the template, I went for a plain new design (center option, Email Designer) with 1 column.
At the Plain-Text step, I usually use the handy Copy Text from HTML Email button, which saves you the time of having to re-write the whole content for people who can only receive text emails.
One last advice: before sending out your newsletter, make sure you hover on Preview & test, and send an email to yourself or a colleague, just to ensure everything displays as you wish. If it does, you’re good to go!
Importing the list in SendGrid
Let’s now have a look at how SendGrid handles email importing. Once more, login to your dashboard after creating an account (top right corner, Account Overview). Please note that SendGrid might ask you to manually contact them to verify your account, in some cases, before you are actually able to send out email marketing newsletters.
Hit the blue button that reads “Click Here for Marketing Email”, then Create a Recipient List. After giving it a name, choose Upload a List and select the file exported from Prestashop. Make sure you also check the The first row contains headers checkbox if you didn’t erase the first row previously.
Finally, click on Verify & Save. You will probably get an error stating “We are unable to upload the following entries”, because of the first row, but it’s nothing to worry about. The list should have been correctly imported!
Creating a Marketing Email with SendGrid
Let’s now try and create an email campaign with SendGrid. Back to the dashboard, click once more on the Marketing Email button, then Create Marketing Email. Go through all the self-explanatory steps filling in the required information; Make sure you select the correct list of recipients, and pick a design you want to present your newsletter with. Then, before sending out the campaign, it’s always a good idea to test it out; therefore, choose your email address, or a colleague’s, and hit Send Test.
Once everything is tested and working, pick a schedule option. You can choose if you want to send out the campaign immediately, or schedule it.
MailChimp and SendGrid are not the only websites to offer a free email marketing campaign service out there. Once again, which one you pick up highly depends on your subscribers and email sendouts volume. Thanks to the csv export Prestashop offers, you are free to choose the one that better fits your needs and business.