Getting started with flows

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Learn how to use flows, also known as automations or drip campaigns, in Klaviyo for personalized and automated communications to your customers, and learn how to set your first flow live.

A flow is a sequence of automated actions, which can include email and SMS messages, that is triggered when a person performs a specific action — such as when someone joins a list, is added to a segment, makes a purchase or abandons their cart. Any data syncing to your Klaviyo account can be used to trigger and target automated flows.

For example, a welcome series flow is triggered when someone subscribes to your newsletter. After triggering the flow, they can be sent multiple pre-configured messages over time that introduce them to your brand. Flows can include time delays between actions and multiple paths that split based on different criteria for further customization.

There are multiple types of flows you can create in Klaviyo. In this tutorial, we will first cover which flows to set live when you get started with Klaviyo.

We will then walk through setting your first flow live by: 

  • Choosing a pre-built flow from the library
  • Understanding and setting up your trigger filters and flow filters
  • Adding steps to a flow
  • Scheduling steps in a flow
  • Setting the flow action status

Finally, we will walk through how to review your flow results by:

  • Reviewing your recipient activity
  • Understanding and reviewing your flow analytics

Before you begin

If you haven't already, make sure that you have completed the Setup Wizard and are ready to use your Klaviyo account.

In addition, we recommend that ‌you read through our guide to segments and information on lists to ensure that your lists and segments are set up and ready.

Which flows to set live first

When you first set up your Klaviyo account, there are some impactful flows you will likely want to create and set live first in order to welcome subscribers to your brand and communicate with customers about their transactions. In this section, you will learn about which flows to prioritize in order to get your business started right away.

Default flows

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 for you.

These flows will contain default templates that provide a suggested layout and example text. Most of these templates will be configured to pull in content through your integration, including dynamic data that can be used to personalize your emails for your audience.

Even if you don't integrate any third-party tools, such as your ecommerce store, you will still get a standard welcome series flow. This flow triggers 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 to ensure that they align with your brand.

Suggested flows to create first

The most impactful flows are also the ones you should set live first. In order, they are: 

  1. Welcome series: a welcome series flow introduces subscribers to your brand and converts them into first-time customers. 
  2. Abandoned cart: an abandoned cart flow converts would-be customers; this flow is customizable based on items in someone's cart and whether they're already a customer.
  3. Post-purchase: a post-purchase flow shows appreciation for customers and lets them know about related products they might be interested in.
  4. Winback: a winback flow re-engages customers who purchased in the past, but haven’t bought again in a while. This flow is customizable based on the products they've purchased and how many purchases they've made.

For some flows, you may include both email and SMS messages. However, for a welcome series, we recommend having separate flows for email and SMS, since subscribers can opt into email and SMS separately and each welcome series flow can only be entered once. See the additional resources at the end of the guide for more information.

Choose a pre-built flow from the library

  1. 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 flow ideas that span the customer lifecycle.
    Browse Ideas and Create Flow buttons are found in the top right of the Flows tab
    The library provides flows based on your particular marketing goals, ecommerce integration, and messaging 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.

  2. When you 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
  3. If you want to search for a flow related to a specific ecommerce integration, choose the 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
  4. By default, the Flows Library will display flows that use multiple channels. Click on any of these icons to further refine your search by specific channel.

    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
    These refined results will display on the Flows Library homepage and in any goal or essentials-based collection.

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

  6. Whether you choose to create your flow from scratch or from the Flows Library, you'll 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 and clear naming conventions will help you stay organized.

Understand and choose your trigger and flow filters

You'll then select a trigger for your new flow — a flow's trigger is what sets the automated series in motion. 

You will be able to choose one of four options outlined below: list, segment, metric, price drop, or date property.

  • 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 segment, which is a dynamic grouping of profiles that meet certain criteria.
  • 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. 
  • 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).
  • Price drop-triggered: People will qualify if an item they viewed or started checkout with dropped by a set amount or percent.

How triggers and flow filters qualify subscribers

Whenever someone takes an action that would trigger a flow, Klaviyo will first check all trigger and flow filters to determine if they qualify to continue through the flow.

Klaviyo determines the following when someone triggers a flow:

  • Those who do not meet the trigger and flow filters upon triggering the flow will be filtered out immediately and will not be scheduled for any of the following components.
  • Everyone who qualifies for the flow's trigger and flow filters will officially enter the flow and be scheduled for the subsequent components based on the delay period you've set.
  • Before each component (email, SMS, split, etc.), flow filters will be re-checked to ensure that recipients still meet the criteria of the flow. 

Note that 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. We will walkthrough how to review this Recipient Activity (e.g., if something is Waiting, Skipped, etc.) in the Reviewing the Recipient Activity section later in this tutorial.

Set up your trigger

Click on the trigger that you want to use to create your flow.
Trigger Setup page with the trigger options you can choose from, either List, Segment, Metric, Price Drop, or Date Property triggers

Note that you will need to refine 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.

Add steps to a flow

After you select a trigger and add any desired trigger or flow filters, you're ready to add additional components into your flow.

Understanding flow components

Flow components come in 3 types:

  • Action: an action component performs a specific task such as sending out a message or updating information on a profile. An action has a status that can be changed from live, manual, or draft. This is covered later in the tutorial.
  • Timing: A time delay can be added before an action in order to schedule the action relative to the trigger or another action. A time delay must have a live or manual status action immediately after it in order to function.
  • Logic: Conditional and trigger splits can be used to branch your flow into multiple paths based on specific criteria. A conditional split can branch based on information related to the person currently in the flow whereas a trigger split can branch based on information related to the event that triggered the flow.

Drag and drop a flow component

  1. To add a step into your flow, such as a message, 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.

  2. Once a message is dropped onto the canvas, you can configure it in the left-hand sidebar.

    Learn more about Smart Sending and UTM Tracking.
    An example of a flow series with time delay steps built in between email sends to prevent actions from occurring back to back

Schedule a step in a flow

People move through flow steps sequentially, starting at the trigger and moving downwards. When you have multiple actions, especially messages, it is important to add time delays between each action so that they do not all occur at once. For example, adding a 24 hour (or longer) delay between your first email and your second email in a welcome series flow will give someone enough time to receive and read the first email before receiving another.

Understanding time delays

Messages and other flow components are scheduled by time delays. You need to specify how much time there should be between each step in a flow. If components are back-to-back, with no 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 one day after the trigger event, and you drag in a time delay set to two days between the first email and the second, "Email #2" will be sent three 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 three day time delay for "Email #2," "Email #2" will be sent out at February 4th at 3 p.m. EST.

You can also choose 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.

Set up a time delay

If you would like a time delay before the next step in your flow, drag in the ‌time delay component from the left sidebar. The example below shows multiple time delays included in the flow.

Example of a flow with a 1 day time delay before the first email and a 2 day time delay before the second email

Note that 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.

Time delays can also be set to wait until a specific time of day or a specific day of the week which will change the behavior of how the time delay schedules each recipient. For more detailed information on time delays, please see our article on How to add a time delay to a flow.

Set the flow action status

Now that your flow is ready with its triggers, filters, and potential time delays, you are ready to set it live.

Understanding flow statuses

There are three possible statuses for an entire flow or individual flow actions: draft, manual, or live.

  • 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 scheduled to receive it. If you change a message in a live flow to draft, it will be skipped in the sequence.

  • Manual: when you’re done configuring a new message but want to test it out before turning it live, you can set it to manual status. When a message is in manual, it’s active in your flow but no messages will be sent 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.

    Note that when a flow message is set to manual, you will see all scheduled messages in the Needs Review section within the Analytics snapshot in the left-hand sidebar.

  • 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 sent automatically.

Update the status of individual actions

You can update the status of individual actions by clicking on the status button in the lower left-hand corner of each flow action, as shown below.

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

Update the status of all actions in bulk

To change the status of all your flow actions at once:

  1. Click the Update Action Statuses button in the top right of the flow builder.
    Update Action Statuses button can be found in the top right corner of the flow builder
  2. From here, choose the status you want to set the whole flow to. If you choose Live, the entire flow will be immediately set to live.
    In the Update All Action Statuses modal, you can select Draft, Manual, or Live

Understanding and reviewing your flow analytics

In order to understand how a flow is performing overall, you will want to view message performance across your whole series. You can show analytics on the visual canvas itself.

  1. 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 show performance metrics with an adjustable timeframe. For each action, you can also view a 30-day snapshot in the sidebar and click in to view analytics around that action step in your series.
    When inside a flow if you click on Show Analytics in the top navigation, you can expose metrics about that given flow
  2. When you click View all Analytics, you will be brought to a report where you can explore all recipient activity for your flow message.
    Note 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.
  3. 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.
    Inside the recipient activity navigation, the queue of all recipients waiting to receive your flow messages are listed

  4. 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.

To dive deeper into flow analytics, review our guide to understanding flow analytics.

Outcome

Now that you’ve created your first flow in Klaviyo, you can continue to explore new flows to nurture and engage your customer base throughout their lifecycle with your brand.

Additional resources

Check out our Klaviyo Academy course on automating the customer journey with flows.

Get started on your first flows:

Learn about more advanced flow features:

If you are having trouble getting your flow to send, look into these resources:

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