Behavioral e-mail breaks boundaries, taboos

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But there's a growing trend to leverage trigger emails based on website visitors' behavior. It's a revolution that challenges the way that we've marketed since direct mail first made it onto the scene and raises concerns at the same time about privacy.

The difference of course is that your communication becomes truly relevant to the recipient. Now your email communication is part of the customer dialog and in context of what they were trying to do. Just as a shop assistant in a store will offer to help a customer considering a purchase, your email can now serve the same purpose and help close the sale.

This is sometimes termed ‘behavioral email' and is growing fast as a technique because the results offer significant lift over traditional ‘batch and blast' techniques. In the case of shopping cart abandonment, up to 50 percent of those emailed will convert, putting the campaign ROI off the charts.

The techniques are a bit different from batch email because each email is triggered directly by customer's behavior. As a consequence, these campaigns run continuously, with emails being triggered in real time as each customer exhibits behavior which matches your triggering criteria.

The round-trip time from a customer exhibiting triggering behavior on your website to receiving an email should be under a minute. Why so fast? Well, we've known for a long time that relevance directly impacts campaign performance, and the relevance of your message drops exponentially in the minutes following a significant event on your website.

You may, of course, choose to introduce some artificial delay of a couple of minutes to avoid spooking the customer, and this should achieve the maximum response rate. There is some evidence though, that customers are more accepting of transactional e-mails than they used to be, so this may not be a factor in the future. What is clear is that the response rate is directly impacted by delays in contacting the customer. A delay of only 24 hours is 3 times less effective than a real time one; and a 72-hour delay is 7 times less effective.

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