Four steps to a behavior triggered e-mail program

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A number of organizations have found that behavioral triggered e-mails help build customer loyalty, boost ROI and streamline marketing tasks. These automatically triggered e-mails can thwart shopping cart abandonment and improve customer relations, but it's important to avoid overusing the tactic, which might annoy existing customers.

Get started – If you don't already have a behavior triggered e-mail program in place, start small. “Start with something simple like a Happy Birthday e-mail, which doesn't require syncing with external resources or help from IT,” says Loren McDonald, VP of industry relations at Silverpop. The next step would be to get more sophisticated and sync Web-browsing data and add an abandoned shopping cart trigger.

Consider costs – While triggered e-mails don't necessarily cost any more to send than other e-mails, they do require initial upfront costs. Marketers should be prepared to integrate Web browsing data or purchase data from their e-commerce platform into their e-mail system. Also, it might be necessary to upgrade your e-mail program to include a transactional e-mail tool. The good news is that the volume of this type of e-mails is, in general, lower than general e-mail due to the specialized nature.

Best practices – Marketers should make sure that the triggered e-mails are relevant to consumers and focus on the customer conversations that matter to the customer. “There are some actions that merit a follow up, and others that don't. So a marketer may have scads of data, and be able to follow up on all of it with a trigger, but that doesn't mean they should,” says Shar VanBoskirk, VP/principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Better to think about what is the natural question a customer is asking with their behavior, and how might a trigger answer that question or build off of the question.”

Challenges – Triggered e-mails are worth the investment, but can involve more steps than a simple e-mail newsletter program. Marketers must understand that they will be syncing data from multiple sources and may have to get on board with an internal IT department. “The challenge is the workload of setting it up and the technology that is involved,” says Carolyn Nye, marketing manager at S&S Worldwide. “But once it is up and running, customers appreciate the service.”

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