Triggered Email Messages: Keys to Success

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Monetate Agility Summit about one of my favorite things: triggered email messages.

And I’m not the only one who likes them. According to a December 2012 MarketingSherpa survey, 39 percent of marketers cited them as a way to improve email relevance and engagement. That was more than a year ago and triggers were the most mentioned tactic. Based on what I’m seeing with our clients, the number is much higher today.

There are a number of reasons to like triggered email messages:

They are sent (or “triggered”) based on an action taken by the recipient

  • This tends to make them highly relevant
  • And the fact that they are highly relevant means they are likely to get higher than average open and click rates
  • See the chart below – according to Epsilon, triggered emails have open rates nearly 60 percent higher than non-triggered messages. And the click-through rate on triggered messages is nearly 130 percent higher than on business-as-usual messages. 

You create the email message once – but use it over and over again

  • Your one-time effort on copywriting, design, and programming can generate revenue for you for months or even years going forward, with little to no additional effort
  • The “evergreen” nature of triggered messages added to the fact that they are “new” to each recipient – even if you’ve been sending them for months – make them very attractive 


But here’s the rub: Triggered email message really just refers to the technology used to deploy it. What makes a triggered email successful – or not successful – is the strategy behind the trigger and the content of the message. Just automating the send of any old email is not necessarily going to boost your bottom line.

There are many ways different types of triggered email messages that you can implement (see the MarketingSherpa chart below). Welcome messages and thanking people for signing up for your email program, are among the most common. Cart-abandonment messages have also come on strong in the past year (although only 9 percent of marketers reported using them in December 2012).


But determining which types of triggered messages your organization should deploy takes a little more thought.

The chart below is from an actual client project – it’s a process I often use with clients when we’re looking at adding triggered messages to their marketing mix.


You start by listing all the triggered messages you’re currently sending – then you brainstorm on other events or activities where a triggered message might make sense. Once you have your list, it’s time to start evaluating the potential of each.

In the example above, I’ve used five criteria:

  • Engagement Level: How involved with the brand will the person be when the email is triggered?
  • Revenue Potential: What is the expected average order value?
  • Size of Audience: How many people do we estimate will receive this trigger each month?
  • Ability to Trigger the Offer: How easy or difficult would be it to set-up the email to trigger off this action?
  • Purchase Intent: Will the person be in a “buying” frame of mind when the email is triggered?

In this example we scored everything on a scale of one to three, didn’t weight any element, and then totaled the score for each trigger idea (maximum score: 15). You might use fewer, more, or different criteria – and you might decide to weight certain elements over others. That’s fine.

The key is to do some type of strategic analysis to help you prioritize which triggers to spend time on first – and to help you develop an effective message map for the emails, so that you drive the reader to take the action you want them to take.

Do try this with your organization – and let me know how it goes!

Until next time,

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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