Getting started with flows

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Learn how to get started creating flows in Klaviyo for personalized and automated communications to your customers and subscribers. Flows make it easy to initiate and nurture relationships with your subscribers and customers over the course of their lifecycle. You can automate messages that will help grow your business, without losing any of the personalization and relevancy needed to build strong customer loyalty.

With flows, you can trigger a message, or series of messages, based on when someone joins a list, is added to a segment, or takes any other action — such as making a purchase or abandoning a cart. Any data syncing to your Klaviyo account can be used to trigger and target automated flows. Flows help you send timely communications to recipients via email or SMS and can simply apply certain actions, like updating a specific field on a profile.

In this article, you'll learn more about flows and how triggered messages can fit into your email marketing strategy. 

Which flows to set live first

Four of the most popular flows are also the ones you should set live first. In order, they are: 

  1. A welcome series flow to introduce subscribers to your brand and convert them into first-time customers
  2. An abandoned cart flow to convert would-be customers; this flow is customizable based on items in someone's cart and whether they're already a customer
  3. A post-purchase flow to show appreciation for customers and let them know about related products they might be interested in
  4. A winback flow for customers who purchase but then don't come back to buy again, customizable based on the products they've purchased and how many purchases they've made

Types of flow triggers

Every flow must have a trigger. A flow's trigger is what sets the automated series in motion. There are 5 types of flows:

  • List-Triggered
    People will qualify to enter a list-triggered flow when they are added to a specific list. One example is the welcome series. 
  • Segment-Triggered
    People will qualify to enter a segment-triggered flow when they are added to a specific dynamic segment.
  • Metric-Triggered
    People will qualify to enter a metric-triggered flow when they take a specific action (for example, placing an order). To see all possible metrics that can trigger a flow, check out your account's Metrics within the Analytics tab. 
  • Price Drop-Triggered
    People will qualify if an item they viewed or started checkout with dropped by a set amount or percent.
  • Date Property-Triggered
    People will qualify to enter a date property-triggered flow if they have a specific date-based profile property set (for example, a birthday).

With the release of iOS15, macOS Monterey, iPadOS 15, and WatchOS 8, Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) changed the way that we receive open rate data on your emails by prefetching our tracking pixel. With this change, it’s important to understand that open rates will be inflated.

If you are triggering flows off of opens themselves, we suggest creating a custom report that includes an MPP property to review these affected opens. You can also identify these opens in your individual subscriber segments.

For complete information on MPP opens, visit our iOS 15: How to Prepare for Apple’s Changes guide.

Klaviyo's built-in flows

When you integrate an ecommerce or nonprofit platform with Klaviyo, we will provide different best practice flows for you out-of-the-box.

After configuring your core company details in the Setup Wizard, you can navigate to the Flows tab in your account. Here, you will see any best practice flows we have pre-populated. These flows will contain default templates that provide a suggested layout and example text. Most of these templates will also be configured to pull in relevant dynamic personalized content through your integration.

When you find a flow that you would like to add to your account, click on it to see the preview modal. Here, you'll see:

  • A live preview of what the flow looks like
  • A short description of the flow's goal
  • How the flow is tagged
  • The flow's name (editable)
  • The tag that will be added to the flow (editable)
  • The flow's trigger (editable in some cases)
  • Any necessary prerequisites for using the flow

An example Happy Birthday Email flow in Klaviyo with Name, Tags and Trigger on the left side and trigger blocks on the right side

Once you click Create Flow, you will be brought to the visual flow builder where you can edit and customize the flow to suit your needs.

Even if you don't integrate any third-party tools, you will still get a standard welcome series flow. This flow is triggered when new subscribers are added to a list. When editing this flow, you will need to select the list you would like subscribers to be added to in order to trigger the welcome series.

We highly recommend reviewing, customizing, and previewing all default flow messages before turning your flows live.

Create a new flow

To create a new flow, click the Flows tab in your account's main navigation sidebar and then click the Create Flow button. If you aren't sure where to start, browse the Flow Library for innovative automation ideas spanning the customer lifecycle. 

Using the Flows Library

The library provides flows based on your particular marketing goals, ecommerce integration, and channel (SMS, email, or both). Once you navigate to the Flows tab, you can choose either Create Flow or Browse Ideas to be taken to the library directly.

Browse Ideas and Creat Flow buttons are found in the top right of the Flows tab

Refining your flows search

When you first visit the Flows Library, you will see a toolbar at the top to refine your search and flow needs. From here, you can choose to search by flow through specific keywords or phrases (for example, “Abandoned Cart Flows”).

Searchbar at the top of the Flows Library page which can be used to search for a specific term or phrase

If you want to search for a flow by specific ecommerce integration support, choose your integration from the dropdown menu. This will then only show flows that work with your ecommerce platform.

Integrations dropdown that allows you to select specific integrations to filter for during flow search

You can select more than 1 ecommerce platform if you want to see flows that work across many integrations. However, note that you still need to set up each flow per integration.

By default, the Flows Library will display flows that use multiple channels. However, if you want to search for flows by specific channel needs (for example, just for email), you can choose the applicable icon to the right.

The first message bubble icon will show SMS only flows.
Message bubble icon which can be clicked to filter for SMS only flows

The second envelope icon will show email only flows.

Envelope icon which can be clicked to filter for email only flows

And the third icon will show individual flows that have both SMS and email messages.

Icon depicting both a message bubble and envelope which can be clicked to filter for flows using SMS and email

You can click on any of these icons to further refine your search by specific channel. These refined results will display on the Flows Library homepage and in any goal or essentials-based collection.

Essential flows list

Below the search toolbar in the Flows Library, you will see a tiled list of essential flows. These are the initial flows that Klaviyo deems critical for customer nurturing and overall success.

Tiles of essential flows, using the Shopify integration as an example

Note that your essentials list may differ slightly from what is shown above. Your essential list will automatically remove any flows that you already have set up or any flows that do not work with your current ecommerce integration.

Each flow in the essentials list will show you its category (for example “Post-Purchase Followup”), the specific type of flow within that category (for example an “Order Count Split”), the ecommerce integration that it works with, and the channel that it will send messages to (email, SMS, or both).

Once you have chosen which essential flow you want to set up, simply click the tile to create this flow.

Goals flow list

At the bottom of the Flows Library page, you can also choose to set up your flows by specific marketing goal. In this section, Klaviyo has already organized and categorized flows by their specific marketing purpose.

Tiles displaying different goals which can be flicked to filter for flows with that goal - Prevent lost sales, nurture subscribers, etc


Once you have chosen which goal-based flow you want to set up, simply click the tile to create this flow.

Naming your flow

Whether you choose to create your flow from scratch or from the Flows Library, you'll first need to name your flow. The name of your flow should be easily understood by you and your team — as you start to use Klaviyo more and more, the number of flows can add up quickly. 

Set up your trigger filters and flow filters

You'll then select a trigger for your new flow — you will be able to choose 1 of 4 options outlined above: list, segment, metric, price drop, or date property.

Trigger Setup page with the trigger options you can choose from, either List, Segment, Metric, Price Drop, or Date Property triggers

You will narrow each trigger. For example, if you choose a list-triggered flow, you'll need to choose which specific list will set your flow in motion.

Whenever someone qualifies to enter a flow based on the trigger, we will also first check all trigger and flow filters:

  • Those who fail the trigger and flow filters at this time will be filtered out immediately and will not be scheduled for any components in your series.
  • Everyone who passes the flow's trigger and flow filters will officially enter the flow and be scheduled for messages and splits based on the delay period you've set.
  • Before each step (email, SMS, split, etc.), flow filters will be checked once more to ensure that recipients still meet the criteria of the flow. Trigger filters are not checked again at send time.

When each message is scheduled to send, Klaviyo will apply your flow filters again (e.g., has Placed Order zero times since starting this flow) and skip anyone who fails these filters at send time. This is why you may see people queued up for flow messages — in the Waiting bucket — who you know shouldn't actually get the message based on the flow's filters. If someone qualifies to get the message initially upon entering the flow, this person will appear as waiting for messages in your series. Flow filters will be applied again, however, right before each message sends. Note that the only time this will not apply is if you are using the flow filter has not been in this flow.

You can explore the complete Recipient Activity for a given flow message by clicking on View all Activity in a message's left-hand sidebar. Here, you will also see who was skipped from receiving a message in the Skipped tab. When you click this dropdown, this will reveal a range of different skipped options. When someone no longer qualifies to receive a flow message at send time, we'll skip over them—most often, someone will be skipped because they fail the flow's filters, or because they've since unsubscribed and are suppressed in your account.

Top navigation item for Skipped contacts section with an example of 30 suppressed persons were skipped and 75 users failed flow filters

Back-populating flow recipients

If you create a new flow and want to queue up those who would have been captured by the flow if it had been running previously, you can use our back-populate feature. This feature can be found in the Manage Flow dropdown menu.

Top navigation item for Manage Flow selected and Back-populate Flow Recipients dropdown is selected and highlighted

Add steps to a flow

After you create a new flow, select a trigger, and add any desired trigger and/or flow filters, you are ready to start adding additional components into your flow series.

To add an message into your flow, click on the component in the sidebar and drag it onto the visual canvas. Every "droppable" location for an email or SMS will turn green as you drag it onto the canvas, and a light green drop zone will appear as you get close to a drop point. Once a message is dropped onto the canvas, it can be configured in the left-hand sidebar.

Schedule a step in a flow

An example of a flow series with time delay steps built in between email sends to prevent actions from occurring back to backMessages and other components are scheduled by time delays that are added before them in a flow series. If components are back-to-back, without any time delays, they will all occur simultaneously.

Each time delay creates a waiting period between one component and the next. In this way, emails in a flow series will be scheduled relative to one another. This means that if "Email #1" in a flow is sent 1 day after the trigger event, and you drag in a time delay set to 2 days between the first email and the second, "Email #2" will be sent 3 days after the trigger event. 

You can set a delay to any number of minutes, hours, or days. To send a message immediately after the previous step, you don't need to drag in a time delay at all. When you choose to create a waiting period of X days, each day will be calculated as a 24-hour period. If you choose to wait X days but specify a certain time of day, however, each day will be calculated as a calendar day to avoid prolonged wait periods depending on when a recipient enters your flow. 

For example, if you send "Email #1" at February 1st at 3 p.m. EST and you set a 3 day time delay for "Email #2," "Email #2" will be sent out at February 4th at 3 p.m. EST.

You can also choose, if you like, to set a delay until a specific time of day or delay until only specific days of the week. However, we'll only wait X "calendar days" instead of X "24-hour days" when your time delay includes a specific time of day.

In this example above, say you set the email to send at 3 p.m. EST on the third day specifically. If a subscriber enters your series at 4 p.m. EST. Waiting 1 day (24 hours) would land your recipient at 4 p.m. EST the next day. In order to send at your specified time of 3 p.m. EST, we'd need to wait another 23 hours. This means this subscriber would receive your email almost a full day later than other subscribers entering the flow. What happens instead is that specific subscriber will receive the email at 3 p.m. EST the following day, 23 hours after they triggered the flow. 

After you set a delay, you can always adjust it by clicking on the time delay component. Keep in mind that updating a time delay before a message will not impact any already scheduled messages. The updated timing will only impact newly scheduled messages moving forward.

The flow action status

There are 3 possible statuses for a flow action: draft, manual, or live. You can change the status of a message in the left-hand panel or by bulk updating the status for every action. 

A flow email item with the dropdown open to set the item to draft, manual, or live mode

  • Draft
    This is the default status for a new message and is the status you should use while you're still configuring your content and adjusting settings. When a message is in draft, nobody will be queued up or receive it. If you change a message in a live flow to draft, contacts will move on to the following step and skip the draft message.
  • Manual
    When you are done configuring a new message and are interested in testing it out, you can place it in manual mode. When a message is in manual, it is active in your flow but no manual messages will send automatically. You will need to manually review and send all scheduled messages. When a contact is scheduled as "needs review," they will then move to the next step. If you have live messages later in the sequence, they can still receive these while waiting for approval to receive manual messages.
  • Live
    To "turn on" a message in a flow series, you will want to change the message's status to live. A live message is active in your flow and is sending automatically.

When a flow message is set to manual, you will see all ready-to-review-and-send messages in the Needs Review section within the Analytics snapshot in the left-hand sidebar. By clicking View all Analytics, you will be taken to a report where you can explore all recipient activity for your flow message.

If you switch the status of a message from manual to live, any messages in the Needs Review section will continue to remain there until manually reviewed and handled—these messages will not automatically send when the message's status switches to live.

From the Needs Review section within Recipient Activity, you can choose to Send All or Cancel All, or alternatively click Send Now or Cancel for an individual message. 

If your flow message has a time delay before it, you will also notice individuals queued up in the Waiting section within your message's Recipient Activity. This view shows you who entered your flow and is currently waiting to receive the selected message.

Inside the recipient activity navigation, the queue of all recipients waiting to receive your flow messages are listed

Flow analytics

In order to understand how a flow is performing overall, you will want to view message performance across your whole series. With the Visual Flow Builder, you can show analytics on the visual canvas itself. To do this, once inside the builder for a given flow, click Show Analytics on the top header menu. Then, you'll see all message cards expand to feature a key performance metrics with an adjustable timeframe.

When inside a flow if you click on Show Analytics in the top navigation, you can expose metrics about that given flow

For each action, when selected, you can also view a 30-day snapshot in the sidebar and click in to view robust analytics around that action step in your series.

Additional resources

Learn more about flows: 

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