Gain Some Traction With Your Transactional Emails

Kellie Boggs, Senior Marketing Strategist

Author Bio

With over nine years of experience in developing and growing email and cross-channel marketing programs to drive revenue, Kellie Boggs brings a track record of success in building multi-channel campaigns across a variety of industries. By working one-on-one with clients to understand their business model and goals, she provides strategic marketing guidance to increase revenue. Boggs offers experience in providing clients with industry best practices, message design, campaign optimization, list growth tactics, segmentation strategies and detailed analyses of marketing campaigns. She truly enjoys helping clients build their customer base, grow their email channel and increase revenue! In her spare time, Boggs enjoys chasing her toddler around and the motherhood adventure. She also enjoys attending NC State sporting events with her family.
Transactional emails continue to be a top revenue driver and also represent an opportunity to strengthen brand loyalty. Are you making the most of them?

Before we jump into best practices, let’s quickly review some details about transactional emails. The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 defines transactional messages as communication that facilitates or confirms, such as shipping notices, order confirmations, account/membership information, warranty or recall details, safety and security information about a product or service, or out of stock notifications. Basically, if the purpose of the message is to facilitate, complete, or confirm a previously agreed upon transaction, it is considered transactional. If it’s an advertisement for a commercial product or service, it’s considered promotional or commercial.

Just because the primary objective of your message is transactional doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid all promotion. Remember, customers expect to receive these emails, so this gives you a great chance to continue engaging with them to develop that customer loyalty and hopefully encourage future sales.

While there is no official rule dictating what portion of the message must be transactional, the 80/20 rule has been the rule of thumb for marketers. 80% of the message should be transactional, leaving 20% for promotion of your brand and products or services.

Now let’s discuss 3 quick tips on how to improve your transactional messages to increase revenue:

Put the Necessary Information First

A detailed description of what happened should be front and center in a transactional message. I don’t mean just a generic “Thanks for your order. Your items will ship soon.” Instead, include the order number, what the customers bought, the prices they paid, any special instructions, payment status, out-of-stock notices or shipping locations. Also, be sure to include your company logo, customer support contact information (including toll-free phone numbers and mailing addresses), and a link for recipients to opt in to other communications.

No more than 20% of your message should be devoted to promotional content, and I recommend adding this content to the bottom or side of the message. Check out this great example from Philosophy:

Philosophy Example

The shipping confirmation, more than any other transactional message, is the most often opened and read message of any email sent by a marketer. It also tends to be opened multiple times and is something a buyer will usually hold onto for a while, so these messages are a great place to start when optimizing transactional messages.

Leverage Data to Create Compelling Content

Transactional emails no longer need to be plain text emails that can be skimmed and then ignored. Instead, they can be cross-sell and up-sell campaigns in their own right. But it’s crucial these messages be dynamically personal and relevant to the recipient if you hope to see some real results from them.

Check out this great example from FootSmart. In their shipping confirmation, they added the promotional content to the right of the message and recommended other products that might interest me based on my recent purchase.

FootSmart Example

Real-Time Delivery

Marketers today need to deliver more messages to their audiences even faster. The speed and power of the Internet has created a culture in which consumers want instant confirmation and up-to-date information. I am definitely guilty of this. When I place an order online, I expect a confirmation right away. Customers also want to know the instant their order status changes. So, ask yourself: are my transactional emails being triggered and sent at the precise moment they need to be? If not, there’s room for improvement.

As with any automated campaigns, it’s important not to just set up your transactional emails and then forget about them. Continue to monitor the delivery and performance of your messages, updating them as needed to ensure you’re getting the best results.

Are your transactional messages the best they can be? Have you implemented any of the tips above and seen better results? If so, I would love to hear about it! Feel free to comment below.


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