Explaining Transactional Emails, And How To Optimize Them

Transactional emails are emails that are sent to a recipient when an action (or transaction) is performed. For example, a follow up email, a purchase confirmation email, a forgotten password email or a notification email.

These emails are not sent in bulk but are instead sent to one person as a result of an action triggered by the user, letting said user know that their transactions have been processed properly. Transactional emails (often referred to as triggered emails) are not typically managed by marketing teams however; research has shown that their open rates can be up to three times higher than emails sent by the marketing departments. Therefore, there are potentially many powerful opportunities for marketers to leverage when it comes to transactional emails to cross-sell various offerings and even strengthen their brand.

Why Are Transactional Emails So Well Received?

Because customers expect them, they are welcomed. The recipient of the transactional email has performed a particular action, and as a result they’ll expect to hear that it’s been processed or carried out correctly.

Because the value of these messages is potentially so high, it is vital that the team in charge of sending them ensure that they are delivered, received and read.

A Cross-Selling Machine:

We’re constantly cross sold to offline, sometimes without even knowing it. McDonald’s are perhaps the frontrunners when it comes to this sales tactic.

How many times have you been asked ‘would you like fries with that?’ or ‘supersize for 30p?’ when ordering on of their ‘meals’? They employ cross-selling policies constantly in an effort to increase their bottom line and improve the customer experience.

So Why Should Email Be Any Different?

The McDonald’s example is cross-selling in its most basic and crude form, but not enough of us employ even these simple actions within our transactional e-mails.

This is particularly worrying when you note that well targeted transactional emails with relevant offers can (according to research) generate as much as $500,000 annually in additional revenue.

However, marketers should be careful so as not to get carried away. By their very nature, transactional emails should be primarily transactional. To edge on the side of caution, marketers should adopt an 80/20 rule when adding cross-selling and promotional content to transactional emails and these offers should be in context. Transactional emails should be harnessed to push associated offerings and not to up-sell entirely unrelated products and/or services to the original transaction and/or purchase.

Need More Convincing?

Transactional emails aren’t just an opportunity to cross-sell, they also help to:

  • Improve customer confidence by demonstrating to the sender that the business cares for its customers
  • Reduce the workload of other customer service channels. Transactional emails help customers to know that their action is being handled and therefore they are less likely to drain the resources of colleagues who might otherwise receive calls and/or emails questioning the process of their ‘transaction’.
  • Transactional emails are also another opportunity to reinforce the value of your brand
  • And the one you’ve been waiting for, increase revenue. As mentioned above, transactional or triggered emails take the weight off other customer service channels and free up those resources to work on other more pressing projects.

However, as great as all of the above might sound, in order for transactional emails to be effective, they must actually reach the intended audience.

More often than not, individuals leave this job to their web server and as a result, some transactional emails don’t even make it past the spam filters. What a waste!

With That In Mind, Here Is A Checklist For Email Deliverability Optimization:

  • Firstly, employ a trustworthy email service provider (ahem, over here!)
  • Secondly, avoid words within your subject lines that might trigger a spam filter. Some words on their own can cause serious spam implications, or words in conjunction with others can score highly.
  • Ensure that you monitor and quash hard bounces (hard bounces are undeliverable emails due to a permanent error).
  • Use a custom from address. The ‘from address’ of your email campaign is the sender’s address displayed in your recipient’s inbox. Our fully configured for authentication, confirming to the ISPS that you are who you say you are.
  • Handle soft bounces (these are undeliverable emails due to a temporary error such as a full inbox or an Out of Office reply). Depending on your frequency of send, 3 consecutive soft bounces could be enough to classify a contact as a hard bounce.

Once I’m In The Inbox, How Can I Make Sure They Get Read?

  1. So, you’ve made it into the inbox. What now? The next hurdle is to ensure that our transactional emails are actually getting read. Here are a few tips to maximise your chances on that front:As mentioned above, make it clear who the email is from. You should also use the subject line to clearly communicate the action that a recipient took to receive your message. Gumtree do this well in this example:
gumtree
  1.  Make reading easy. Design your email so that the main message can be digested with just a quick glance. People don’t want to have to wait or search for necessary information. HTML emails are easier to read than plain text alternatives because they can be formatted to highlight the emails main message(s). Please ignore the age old myth that that emails that are composed in plain text receive better open rates than HTML’s!
  2.  Ensure that you track the progress and performance of your transactional emails with the same enthusiasm that you would a marketing email. As with commercial and/or marketing messages, deliverability, bounces and clicks should be tracked and measured so that they can be worked on and (hopefully) improved.

So, Anything Else?

Marketers should see transactional emails as being part of their whole sales strategy as well as the customer life-cycle. To make the whole process just that little bit easier, senders should ensure that they are using an ESP (email service provider) that integrates seamlessly within their CRM (Customer relationship management) tool so that emails easily can be tracked and used for both salespeople and customer support.

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