Top 10 Triggered E-mail Programs to Build Relevance

  |  April 2, 2009   |  Comments

Examples of trigger-based e-mail programs and the benefits they deliver for clients.

How do you reach out to your most engaged e-mail subscribers in a relevant way? Segmentation works, but often a faster, easier way is to develop a set of triggered marketing programs. These "lights-out" automated programs work while you sleep. You can reach out to your customers when they most want to hear from you -- when they're actively engaged.

Here are my top 10 examples of trigger-based e-mail programs and the benefits they deliver for clients:

Welcome E-mail Program

Purpose: Welcome your customers and send them a series of timed e-mails designed to introduce your product, service, brand, or company and confirm subscriber details before adding them to your basic message stream. A "favorites" or "top 10 products" can be a huge revenue driver. These messages warm up your new subscribers while not overwhelming them with general messages.

Benefit: A marketer who replaced a basic text welcome e-mail with a more comprehensive HTML welcome e-mail program saw conversions increase 200 percent and obtained a 10 times lift in revenue per e-mail for its perfume and skin-care lines.

Cart-Abandonment Program

Purpose: An e-mail message sent within three days after online shoppers abandon their carts can encourage them to return and complete the transaction, and thus deter them from shopping at your competition. Link to the purchase page and show the abandoned items, along with some cross-selling suggestions.

Benefit: One pet-supply marketer saw conversions increase 171 percent, margin increase 30 percent, and e-mail CTRs (define) grow 852 percent.

Transactional Messages

Purpose: You may send these high-relevance e-mails already, and while the main message confirms the transaction, you can also suggest related purchases, invite customers to sign up for your e-mail program, or submit a product review. Caveat: Keep promotional copy (one-third of the e-mail content) to the side of or below the confirmation copy (two-thirds of the e-mail content) to adhere to U.S. CAN-SPAM commercial e-mail regulations.

Benefit: Incremental revenue from transactional messages now drives 15 percent of the total e-mail program revenue for one retailer.

Referral Program from Net Promoters

Purpose: Satisfied customers can help you build word-of-mouth business by referring your company to their friends. First, survey recent buyers about their purchases and the buyer experience. Then ask those who rate you highly to send referrals to friends, and thank them with a special offer if they do.

Benefit: An online florist generated tens of thousands of referrals from net promoters who rated the company an 8.5 or above on a 10-point scale.

Win-Back Campaign

Purpose: "We miss you!" e-mails target buyers who haven't purchased from you in a set amount of time, often related to your purchase cycle. Send lapsed subscribers a special offer, such as free shipping, to encourage them to return. This program can also help reactivate inactive subscribers.

Benefit: A skin-care-products marketer recouped its investment in this program within the first month. These e-mails generated a 67 percent open rate, a 55 percent CTR, and a conversion rate of 11.5 percent.

Pre-Trip Countdown/Post-Trip Relationship

Purpose: Build on travel purchases by providing destination and travel information before the trip, perhaps incorporating relationships with travel partners (hotels, attractions, etc.). Then, follow up with a satisfaction survey or return-trip invitation or incentive after the trip date.

Benefit: A resort company that initiated this program saw several million dollars worth of incremental revenue over a single season in increased on-site activities and rebooking vacations for the following year.

Browse Program

Purpose: One of the best ways to know what your customers are interested in is to review their browsing behavior on your Web site. Capturing this "in market" interest with your Web analytics tool and using it to drive automated e-mail programs is one of the best e-mail moneymakers.

Benefit: A sports apparel company's browse e-mail program generates 10 times the revenue per e-mail of their batch newsletter e-mails.

Special-Occasion Reminder Program

Purpose: These are triggered by dates your subscribers list in their profiles for events such as birthdays or anniversaries. At a set time before the date, send out a reminder e-mail with appropriate product recommendations or incentives, and personalize with copy and images that reflect the event.

Benefit: A jewelry retailer sends out a customized birthday message featuring the current month's birthstone. These campaigns generate two times more revenue per e-mail.

In-Stock Notifications

Purpose: Retain user interest in out-of-stock items with this e-mail program. Marketers should include a sign-up link on the product detail page when an item is out of stock. A triggered message goes out to all users when the item comes back in stock.

Benefit: A specialty retailer was able to convert over 30 percent of requesters to purchase after the items came back in stock.

Automated Refill-Reminder Service

Purpose: This e-mail program tracks the usual product-consumption cycle and sends timely reminders to stock up. It can also build on past purchases by recommending similar styles and upsell by introducing premium versions of the same products, or similar products other customers bought.

Benefit: An apparel company launched a replenishment program on 30 styles based on order history, return data, inventory levels, and product ranking. The result was a program with CTRs two to three times better than general newsletter e-mails and conversion rates 10 percent better than targeted efforts.

Wrapping Up

This is my top 10 list of triggered-e-mail programs that have delivered measurable benefits for marketers, but there are dozens more out there. I'd welcome hearing about programs that worked for you.

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Ed Henrich

Ed Henrich is vice president of professional services for Responsys, leading the company's creative, campaign development, strategy, and analytics teams to produce award-winning and profitable client e-mail marketing programs. Ed is a pioneer in the e-mail marketing industry, having joined Post Communications (now Yesmail) in 1997 when it was a five-person startup. For eight years, he was the company's vice president of client services, then president. Before that, Ed was a venture capitalist at Internet Capital Group and a senior consultant with McKinsey & Company. A former Fulbright Scholar to Australia in Control Systems Engineering, Ed holds a PhD and an MS from UCLA and a BS from Drexel University. Follow him at his blog, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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