5 Automated Message Don'ts

  |  December 30, 2013   |  Comments

Whether you are just launching automated messages or you have had them in place for years, you need to make sure you are avoiding these five common mistakes.

Automated messages work in the background with minimal maintenance, enhance the customer experience, and generate a lot of sales. That trifecta should command enough respect from marketers to make sure they are functioning properly, however, triggered messages are frequently ignored once they are up-and-running. Whether you are just launching automated messages or you have had them in place for years, you need to make sure you are avoiding these five common mistakes.

Don't Leave the Loop Open

Buying, abandoning, browsing…many automated messages are triggered based on actions taken by customers. Most of these actions will be repeated as your customer travels through the customer lifecycle and back again. This means that your automated messages could be triggered multiple times. There are scenarios where receiving multiple messages would be OK, such as a customer who only abandons her cart twice a year. However, there are two reasons you need to include rules in your triggering logic to account for repeated triggers.

  • Gimme more! If your automated messages contain discounts, customers can become trained to receive the discount. They will know that they will receive a discount if they abandon their cart and wait a day. This could start to impact your margin. Evaluate the frequency of actions such as abandonment and include rules to not repeat these messages until the clock resets.
  • Make it stop! The second reason is that you could start to annoy your subscribers. There are multiple large retailers triggering messages each time I click on an email. I've stopped clicking to avoid receiving another email from them. Limit the frequency of emails, such as a browse-based message, or consolidate products that have been viewed into one email.

Don't Lose Track of Time

Pop quiz: How long after abandonment do you deploy your abandoned cart reminder emails? I'll say with certainty that even if you know the answer, you probably can't tell me if that timing is optimal. We found that abandoned cart reminder timing ranges from 45 minutes to nearly three days. Revisit the timing of all of your automated messages. Test a smaller amount of time for your abandoned cart messages. If your week-long birthday promotion begins on the subscriber's birthday, try shifting it to end on the big day. The timing that generates the best sales may shift throughout the year. Test frequently to anticipate any seasonal trends.

Don't Be a Robot

Automated messages are by nature personal and relevant. They are based on profile data like a birthday or by an action taken by a customer. Knowing that, avoid calling your subscriber "Valued Customer" even if you don't know her name. You can use dynamic content to use a non-specific greeting or remove the salutation altogether. Using these robotic greetings will only add to any Big Brother vibe felt by the recipient.

Don't Forget Mobile Devices

Sure, your order and shipping confirmation emails have been running for years. They are HTML-rich, contain some promotional content, and looked fantastic the last time you tested them…in 2010! Well, a lot has changed. Consumers are reading your automated messages on many devices. In fact, one subscriber may read one message on multiple devices. You need to make sure the automated messages render and function properly for today's multi-device consumer. One recommendation is to display the full tracking number in shipping confirmations. Most mobile devices will detect the tracking number syntax and make the number clickable so mobile customers can directly click through and track their order.

Don't Be a Grinch

Many companies will more than double their email frequency during the holiday season. Site traffic will fly off the charts. All of this leads to many opportunities for subscriber actions to trigger automated messages that will add to your pile of holiday revenue. You must evaluate how your holiday communication plan and automated messages will fit together. If you plan to send two emails per day, realize you will have subscribers who could potentially also receive an abandoned cart reminder, a birthday email, and a product-browsed email in one day. Coordinating these messages to play well together will provide a positive customer service experience and drive sales. Importantly, this logic should also apply to any period during the year when you increase your mailing frequency.

Automated messaging has become easier for marketers to launch, monitor, and modify. The days of involving multiple partners and your technology team are disappearing. It is up to you to make sure your triggered messages are providing a service to your subscribers - not an annoyance - in order to maximize sales opportunities.

Email Bomb image on home page via Shutterstock.

Editor's Note: As 2013 comes to a close, we're pleased to share our top email columns of the year. This article was originally published January 15, 2013.


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Jim Davidson

As an expert in email, mobile, and social strategies, Jim brings 15 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's director of research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports, and contributes to the Bronto Blog.

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