We’re used to getting transaction confirmation emails like those sent by Amazon. Recently, Loren McDonald advised attendees of a Conversion Academy webinar to extend beyond the purchase to include pre-purchase, post-purchase and relationship touch points. The result? More opportunities to engage prospects and customers, something Loren’s seen firsthand as the vice president of Industry Relations at Silverpop, a leading email service provider. Here are some of the key pointers he gave in his presentation and a check list of what to do in order to extend the transactional email activity you currently carry out.

Transactional emails are automated and trigger-based, driven directly by user behavior, profile or demographics. Depending on how aggressively you adopt it, the extended scope might include transactional emails related to:

  • Pre-transaction emails: browse abandonment and cart abandonment
  • Purchase event emails: order confirmation, order status, shipping notice, shipping confirmation, trip preparation
  • Post-purchase emails: satisfaction survey, review request, review notification, recommendation, replenishment, repurchase, upgrades
  • Relationship emails: bounce back, account reminder, loyalty programs, account status, purchase anniversary

For example, a post-purchase email could notify customers of stock shortages, reminding a customer who bought an item in the past that you’re about to sell out of it. This kind of transactional email not only generates revenue but actually enhances the relationship with, and adds value for, that customer.

Another post-purchase email might 1) thank the customer for posting a product review and/or 2) include product recommendations based on previous purchases. While this level of sophistication might seem difficult to achieve, most ecommerce sites are already using the web analytics, reviews and recommendation engines needed to do these transactional emails. The sites simply need to leverage their existing technologies, using established APIs and dynamic content, to generate the new emails.

Purchase review emails can actually lead to significant incremental revenue. One Silverpop client reports that 14 percent of the people that click on the “review” link actually make another purchase. For that client, purchase reviews hold the second highest conversion rate next to their abandoned cart program. Follow-up, review notification transactional emails—thanking the customer for the review and offering a discount or other incentive on the next purchase—encourage 12 percent of the people who click on them to make another purchase.

When it comes to this new breed of transactional email, the keys to success include the following checklist of items: 

  1. Leverage existing technology. As mentioned above, this technology already powers your website, so it can also be tied into these new transactional email opportunities.
  2. Time the emails appropriately. For instance, you might wait a month to email a review request to a book customer but only wait a week to send it to a toner cartridge customer.
  3. Design for all devices. In particular, make sure your emails work in a mobile environment, in preview panes, with image blocking on, etc.
  4. Create compelling content. Beyond making recommendations, superior content leverages customers’ non-purchase behavior, uses the right tone and makes compelling offers.
  5. Test, test, test. Test everything, from timing to layout to offers, copy style, and the level of personalization.

In any case, these automated, trigger-based transactional emails can supplement more traditional, broadcast email campaigns to increase online conversion rates and revenue, which is what we really care about.

Author: Charles Nicholls, Founder and CSO of SeeWhy, Inc.