Five Factors to Optimize the Marketing Potential of Transactional E-Mails

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There's been a lot of hype around the potential of transactional e-mail to deliver marketing messages -- and it's well founded. Nothing is more potent than delivering a cross- and upsell message that's tightly tied and perfectly timed to consumer behavior.
With spam filters wreaking havoc for e-mail marketers, the convergence of marketing and transactional e-mails isn't surprising. Unlike bulk marketing e-mail, transactional messages stand a better chance of reaching the inbox and being opened since they contain valuable consumer information that is desired and expected.
Yet, realizing this potential takes more than slapping a pretty face (HTML) on your plain text transactional e-mails. It also takes more than balancing your transactional and marketing content, satisfying CAN-SPAM requirements and applying other best practice tips. 
The core challenge comes down to whether you have the right infrastructure to generate transactional e-mail with the right marketing message in the first place. 
To that end, here are five factors you'll want to consider:
Integration.  Your first priority should be to ensure that your e-mail infrastructure is tightly integrated with your backend business processes and data sources. 
By doing so, you'll be able to effectively trigger e-mails, customize messages to customer preferences and behaviors and ensure a consistent customer experience across multiple touch points.
Without such integration, you simply won't be able to leverage the marketing opportunity that transactional e-mail affords you.
Relevancy.  Having achieved the right level of integration, you'll then need to have a dynamic content engine to actually assemble and generate relevant messages.
This is especially critical for transactional e-mails, since customers have the expectation that you know them. Sending them a generic marketing message is not only a wasted opportunity. It could relegate your transactional e-mail to the same fate as your bulk marketing e-mail - the junk folder.             
Immediacy.  Transactional e-mails are business-critical communications that require expedited delivery. Any delay can erode profits through an increase in customer service calls.
Consequently, you need to ensure that your marketing messages can be automatically inserted into your transactional e-mails and sent promptly and securely to your customers. 
Anything less and you run the risk of negating the advantages provided by marketing-orientated transactional e-mails and potentially diminishing the value of your brand.
Reporting.  Sending out customer e-mails without any insight into their deliverability or open and click rates is akin to flying blind.
Accurate, detailed and real-time reporting is essential to properly manage your transactional and marketing activities. Without such information, you give up the opportunity to default to alternate channels in delivering your important transactional messages or to capitalize on the most successful marketing messages associated with them.
Flexibility.  In order to be successful with your marketing efforts, you need the flexibility to test different creative approaches and quickly adjust your templates and content blocks accordingly. If you're locked into a rigid process, or one that's costly to change, you'll be powerless to take advantage of new learnings.
Taking advantage of transactional e-mail is more than just adding offers and graphics. You have to do it right, and that's only possible with an e-mail infrastructure that can accommodate the factors discussed above.
If your current e-mail infrastructure comes up short, you'll need to select a new solution that can deliver on all five fronts while accommodating future growth.
With the right solution in place, you can quickly realize the marketing potential of transactional emails.  It's really not that complicated, but you do have to think before you transact.

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