Marketing Articles

Why You Should Optimize Transactional Emails

by Erin McKeeby
Published on 13 February 2017

HEAD-Why-you-should-optimize-transactional-emailsAs marketers, we often wish for the perfect opportunity to make an appearance in our customer's online journey. The truth, however, is that we already have access to these golden moments, and they're right under our noses!

Creating a new account, placing an order, expectantly waiting for its delivery- these milestones are usually accompanied by a transactional email from your brand. It's these transactional emails that are often overlooked as opportunities to reach customers via your email marketing strategy. Let's review why and how you can get the most from these humble emails.

How do transactional emails differ from marketing emails?

Still not sure what sets transactional emails apart from their marketing-focused counterparts? This quick overview will give you the highlights, and we'll dig into a few main differences below.

send-in-blue-chart

What's the purpose of a transactional message?

Transactional emails are triggered by an action that a user or customer makes on your website or with your brand. These messages are always sent in response to a recent interaction.

How do recipients engage with transactional emails?

Modern consumers are trained to expect transactional-style emails. As a result, they consistently receive open rates that far exceed most marketing campaigns, normally in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 percent more than average.

Who's managing these key emails?

The responsibility for managing transactional emails is often delegated to an IT department or website developer with little or no input from the marketing team. Even worse, these messages are rarely refreshed with new themes or seasonal content.

Considering their impactful timing and desirable content, time invested in optimizing transactional emails is time well spent.

Leveraging transactional emails to achieve marketing goals

Transactional emails often highlight key moments in a customer's journey with your brand. In some cases, they are the very first message a client receives from you.

While transactional messages must always serve their intended purpose, they can and should support your marketing strategy. Well-executed transactional emails reinforce your brand identity, deepen customer relationships, increase repeat purchases, and incentivize sharing.

Start by optimizing these key messages to earn some quick wins:

Welcome emails

Trigger: Sent when a user subscribes to your mailing list, creates an account on your website, or joins your service.

Key Optimizations:

  • Design the email using colors, fonts, and styles consistent with your brand and website.
  • Use images strategically to support your message, not distract from it.
  • Point the recipient to the next key action they should take to stay engaged with your brand (ie. login to their account, watch a video tutorial, or complete their profile).
  • Include a "bonus" that provides value and complements this stage of their experience with your brand (ie. an invitation to an exclusive webinar, a link to an entertaining video, or a coupon code).

Marketing Wins: Increase brand recognition and deepen customer engagement

Do This:

Example of a great welcome email

DON'T do this:

Example of Zara's welcome email

Notification emails

Trigger: Sent to inform the recipient about a key event, such as a shipment or other activity within their account.

Key Optimizations:

  • Keep the design's focus on the notification itself, but make sure that the design is consistent with your brand. The email should immediately look familiar, even if they've never received this type of message from you.
  • Guide the recipient to take any necessary action (ie. view package status or login to their account).
  • Add one extra piece of useful content that demonstrates your brand's value (ie. link to a helpful blog post or introduce a member of your team).

Marketing Wins: Increase brand recognition and deepen customer engagement

Do this:

Screenshot of Trello newsletter

DON'T do this:

Example of what not to do with a notification email

Confirmation emails

Trigger: Sent to confirm an action that a user has completed on their account.

Key Optimizations:

  • Ensure that the email is mobile-friendly so that users can interact with it from any device.
  • Provide an overview of options for contacting you and receiving assistance, such as customer care or self-help resources available relating to the action completed (ie. a purchase).
  • Take the opportunity to cross-sell by including other related items that may interest the customer.
  • Offer incentives for sharing their purchase via social media or for referring new customers to you via other channels.

Marketing Wins: Encourage repeat purchases and new customer referrals

Do this:screenshot of dollar shave club newsletter

DON'T do this:

Screenshot of rifle paper co. newsletter

Order satisfaction surveys and review requests

Trigger: Sent after a purchase has been completed

Key Optimizations:

  • Reinforce why your brand is seeking feedback about the order, and how their feedback will be used to improve their experience.
  • Get creative and design your call-to-action to incite clicks. For example, in addition to using a standard CTA button, try including an image of a rating scale that entices the user to "tap" or click on the rating they'd like to give (ie. 4 out of 5 stars).
  • Offer additional value to the recipient in exchange for their feedback. Consider incentives that invite the recipient to re-engage with your brand, but remember that rewards independent of your service (like Amazon gift cards) may generate the highest response rates.

Marketing Wins: Deepen customer loyalty and encourage new customer referrals

Do this:

REI email newsletter DON'T do this:

Example of a poor review newsletter

Ready to get started?

Here's a checklist to help you reclaim the power in your transactional emails:

  • Create an inventory of all emails that are automatically generated by user activities. Request a list from your technical team, or recreate the steps in your customer journey to trigger the emails directly.
  • Select an email marketing tool that offers:
    • An SMTP service integrated into the same dashboard as your email marketing campaigns and newsletters.
    • A drag and drop editor that allows you to create your own transactional email templates with marketing panache.
    • Real-time reporting to monitor the performance of your transactional emails.
    • Prioritize which optimizations will be most impactful for your customers, and get busy!

Start your email marketing journey with an email marketing software.

About the author: Erin is a seasoned marketer who is passionate about creating "wow"-worthy customer experiences. As General Manager for SendinBlue in the U.S., she regularly shares her experience relating to email marketing, automation, customer engagement and brand-building.


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