Taking Triggered Email To The Next Level

For an average sender, triggered campaigns make up a low percentage of overall email volume, typically less than 5%. But don’t let the low percentage throw you. In a well-conceived and well-managed program, that 5% can be responsible for 20% or more of your email marketing revenue. In most organizations, these “low-volume, high ROI” triggers […]

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Crocs Abandoned Shopping Cart

For an average sender, triggered campaigns make up a low percentage of overall email volume, typically less than 5%.

But don’t let the low percentage throw you. In a well-conceived and well-managed program, that 5% can be responsible for 20% or more of your email marketing revenue.

In most organizations, these “low-volume, high ROI” triggers take standard forms — welcome messages, order confirmations, rating and reviews requests, abandoned shopping cart notifications, etc.

But by dedicating some time and resources to incrementally raising the level of sophistication of your triggered campaigns, significantly upping your overall email revenue is a realistic outcome, and something of an easy win.

Welcome Series

The initial welcome email, sent after a subscriber first signs up, will have the highest average open rate of any campaign you send.

Just as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the welcome email is the most important campaign in your email program. It sets the tone for the entire company/subscriber relationship, in addition to delivering the incentive for which the subscriber opted in.

At the outset of the relationship, you have a lot of messaging to put in front of the consumer — some that you need to provide, but a great deal more that you simply want to provide.

It is difficult, however, to deliver all of that content in a single email and have it resonate. So, keeping in mind that this is your honeymoon phase with your subscriber, consider growing your messaging from a single touch to a series. There are multiple benefits to doing so:

  1. You deliver the incentive promised upon sign up.
  2. You communicate the benefits and value of your newly established email relationship.
  3. You have the chance to progressively profile the subscriber to deliver more relevant content in the future.
  4. You seize the opportunity to introduce the subscriber to other ways to interact with your brand, such as Facebook, YouTube, online chat, etc.

Trying to accomplish all of that in a single message would be overwhelming for the recipient and therefore unwise for you.

Distributing those goals across a series allows you to tailor messaging to each one and even find ways to revisit and reinforce that messaging in a secondary touch.

The cadence of this opening series is vitally important. You don’t want to overwhelm the subscriber, especially if they may also begin receiving promotional emails from your brand mixed with the welcome series.

To make sure you get it right, it may make sense to throttle your messaging or even to suppress subscribers from promotional emails during the period following their onboarding. Even better, instead of making the campaigns mutually exclusive, leverage dynamic content to include the current promotional content within the welcome emails.

The following are two initial emails from Steve Madden, welcoming the subscriber and asking for additional information to send more relevant content in the future.

Steve Madden Welcome 1

Steve Madden Welcome 2

Post-Purchase Series

If any email were going to battle it out with your Welcome message for highest average open rate, it would be the order confirmation message.

This email, sent immediately after placing an order, is anticipated by the subscriber and is often under-optimized by the retailer.

While the primary message must remain transactional, upselling and cross-selling opportunities should supplement the order details. Are there accessories that complement their purchase? Let your recipient see them. Do you have “sister” brands? Introduce them. If there is any brand messaging that is critical for the customer to read, this is where it should be included.

Consider the following excerpt from the top portion of Nebraska Furniture Mart’s order confirmation email.

Nebraska Furniture Mart Order Confirmation (excerpt)

In the first paragraph the company invites the customer to take a survey about their online shopping experience. In doing so, the company is continuing the conversation and further increasing engagement with their customer in an email that often lacks any call-to-action.

By placing this request in an email destined to have a high open rate, the company is apt to see a higher response rate than if it had been included in a more traditional promotional email. (Please note: Nebraska Furniture Mart is a client where I work, Digital Evolution Group, and the entire order confirmation email is not displayed here).

The same “series” tactic you saw with Welcomes applies here. Your order confirmation email should be the first in a series of post-purchase emails encompassing things like shipping notifications, a request that the customer rate and review the product(s) purchased, and even a simple thank you.

Each of these emails should include brand messaging as well as cross-sell offers based on the products purchased. And again, think of your send cadence. If the customer chose to opt-in for emails during the checkout process, consider how the welcome emails are integrated with the post-purchase emails, or at least how the timing of each email is handled to prevent over-mailing to a new subscriber.

The following Shipping Notification example is from Banana Republic, where the company is promoting other brands in the family in the right column of the transactional email. In addition, a friendly message at the end lets the customer know that the return policy has recently changed.

Banana Republic Shipping Notification

Following is an example of a Ratings and Review email from Zappos. The call-to-action “Yes, I want to help!” is less explicit in asking for a review and conveys more of a social feel, imploring people to help the community of customers on the site. The email also does a great job of leveraging the brand’s voice by asking the subscriber to opt-in to the newsletter towards the end of the email.

Zappos Ratings and Reviews Email

At the tail end of that series, we’ve seen significant success for retailers implementing a bounce-back offer, which encourages the customer to return for a second purchase within a certain timeframe.

Reminding the recipient of your existing relationship by tailoring the message to reference their previous purchase ups your open and click-through rate, and providing an incentive offer to make a second, related purchase make them feel like you know them — and relevancy is always a successful tactic.

For one of our clients, data analysis showed that if a customer made a second purchase, they were more likely to make consecutive purchases. Furthermore, our analysis showed that after the first purchase, the average order value for each following purchase increased.

Therefore, the email campaigns nurturing a second purchase were vital to creating brand loyalists, as well as achieving the highest lifetime value of each customer.

Abandoned Shopping Cart Series

Of course, before your customers can receive the post-purchase emails they must make a purchase, and abandoned carts are quite common in ecommerce. Site visitors leave for any number of reasons, but an email trigger reminding them to come back is often the nudge they need to complete the order — and it’s a cost-effective nudge, to boot.

Consider, again, a two-part series for this email campaign with the first message being sent within 24 hours of abandonment.

Content should be carefully considered. It may not be necessary to include an offer in the first email — the customer was already interested enough in the item at the original price to put it in their shopping cart, and there could be any number of reasons why they didn’t complete the purchase.

Starting with a price incentive is taking money out of your pocket. Delivering a customer service message to offer help, reiterate customer satisfaction and including return policy information can give the customer the confidence they need to complete the order. And as with any campaign, personalization, dynamic content, subject lines and creative should also be tested to result in the most optimized campaign.

Here is an example from Crocs (full disclosure: Crocs is a client where I work, Digital Evolution Group)

Crocs Abandoned Shopping Cart

If the visitor still does not convert, only then should you send a second email that includes an offer or incentive with a sense of urgency.

Typically, the email with the offer will far outperform the email without an offer. If management resists including an offer, then propose a test to identify any lift one might bring and then simply show the lost and forecasted revenue that will come with the increase in orders compared to the email’s performance without a discount.

Crocs Abandoned Shopping Cart - Email 2

Set It And Forget It

The best part about triggered campaigns is their ability to run on auto-pilot and generate revenue over a significant stretch of time.

Even though there is typically an investment in the initial setup and optimization of each email, triggered emails, once automated, generate the highest performance metrics, including ROI, of all emails sent.

Most brands have taken the step to create emails in the standard triggered categories, but it may be time to revisit your triggered programs to expand their coverage and deepen their sophistication, creating more engaged subscribers and most importantly, more revenue from email.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Cara Olson
Cara Olson is Director of Digital Direct/eCRM at DEG, a full-service digital consultancy based in Kansas City. Leveraging her 14 years of experience and thought leadership in digital direct marketing, she and her team lead email and SMS strategy, integrations, and campaign execution for flagship brands like Crocs, Helzberg Diamonds, MathWorks, Cabela's, Life is Good, and TITLE Boxing. In her spare time she runs half marathons, cheers on her beloved Royals, and drinks copious amounts of coffee while trying to exhaust her eight year-old daughter, five year-old boy, and one year-old golden retriever.

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