Fundamentals of marketing via transactional e-mails

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Recent studies suggest that a majority of companies are not using transactional e-mails in their marketing, but instead are testing the viability of the model. Using transactional e-mails to cross sell and to offer benefits when the open rates are known to be high is a perfect way to get your message across, create loyalty and make the customer aware of other things you have to offer.

Many ways exist to use these opportunities, but some fundamentals will help you drive first-purchase conversion and increase repeat purchases.

The first fundamental is to introduce relevant offers. Cross selling a complementary product in order-confirmation e-mails is one example. This could include a special sale price and a link to the splash page. It's a friendly reminder that not only is the customer's current order on the way, but other unique products are available as well. Reminding customers who have abandoned baskets to complete their transaction is another example, and this could include an offer to help, a percentage off the items in the basket or free shipping with that order.

A second effective method is to create promotions or triggers tied to a specific customer behavior. Leveraging a similar format and tone both in the e-mail and the subject line at a time relevant to a particular customer can create a similar open-rate benefit. Examples of created events/triggers (in addition to required password reminder/order/shipping confirmation e-mails) are expiring customers' baskets, a one-year anniversary and backordered items back in stock.

Third, pay attention to deliverability as much as with standard marketing e-mails. Not only are these e-mails a great marketing tool, but they are critical for customer satisfaction and retention. This could mean partnering with an outside e-mail service provider to deliver these e-mails or, at minimum, understanding deliverability by seeding your list.

Finally, though text versus HTML is much debated, images provide a vehicle to showcase products and draw attention to offers. It also allows the information to be structured in an efficient way, including positioning your logo and offers to create a strong call to action while the primary purpose of the e-mail is kept intact.

Take advantage of the opportunities presented in transactional e-mails. It's a perfect way to deliver value and relevant messages to the customers you've already worked so hard to secure.

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