Nuts & Bolts: Transactional E-mail Messages as a Power Tool
Marketers who ignore the power of transactional e-mails are neglecting a valuable conversion tool, according to Brad Sanders, co-founder and managing director of Post Future, a division of marketing services provider Harte-Hanks. Transactional e-mails, defined as those messages sent as a direct result of a customer transaction, are considered permission-based, hence exempted from the opt-in/opt-out requirements of the Can Spam Act.
“The primary use of the transactional e-mail is to further the transaction,” Sanders explains. “The targeted response is relevant and welcome, and offers marketers the opportunity to upsell or cross sell, even while finalizing the initial sale.”
Sanders illustrates it this way: If a customer buys a printer from your company, he’s expecting an e-mail confirmation or “Thanks for your order” message. Transactional e-mail messaging is using that opportunity to offer a free extended warranty or perhaps a discount on ink cartridges.
“When done tastefully and thoughtfully, it’s a tremendous value for your customer,” he says. “It’s the continuation of the marketing cycle.”
However, Sanders cautions marketers to pay attention to the timing and cadence of follow-up messages. An order confirmation should be sent immediately, and a shipping order should follow when the item is shipped. Both communications offer opportunities for transactional messaging, but customers shouldn’t be bombarded with e-mails just because they bought a product. Too many e-mails too quickly can turn off a new customer just as quickly.
Sanders suggests that successful transactional messages either add unexpected value to the original sale or offer additional information helpful in using the product. FAQs, tips for assembling or maintaining the product, and invitations to call the help center all are useful elements in transactional e-mails.
The response to transactional e-mails, Sanders claims, can be dramatic.
“I’ve seen anywhere from a 30 percent to a 300 percent uplift,” he says. “Conversion rates on transactional messages tend to be higher as well. The key to a successful transactional e-mail is timing, targeting and personalization.”
There is a window of time after the initial sale when the customer is expecting to receive messages from the marketer. By taking advantage of this honeymoon period by adding value to the sale, marketers greatly increase the chances of turning a one-time sale into a long-term relationship.