Understanding Trigger-Based and Scheduled Emails

by Jetlore

Email Marketing

Trigger-based emails became very popular in e-commerce over the last few years. They have become an essential part of customer lifecycle management. Email triggers like purchase confirmation emails and shopping cart abandonment emails have been adopted by almost every single online retailer. Several logical questions arise for email marketers and customer relationship marketing (CRM) directors. How should triggered emails interplay with regularly scheduled emails? What type of user behavior should trigger such emails? Which behaviors should be incorporated and leveraged as part of the merchandise featured in the regularly scheduled emails?

Types of Email Triggers

A number of triggers have become standards in email marketing. The most common used by retailers include purchase confirmation emails, shopping cart abandonment emails, customer lifecycle management triggers ("we miss you" emails, birthday emails, etc.), and triggers based on user's click/search activity online. Understanding the effectiveness of these triggers is key in developing an email marketing strategy.

Purchase and shipping confirmation emails

Of all the trigger based emails, confirmation emails are easily the most necessary. Without some sort of acknowledgement of purchase, customers can easily become confused and upset. Moreover, purchase confirmation is generally a perfect opportunity for cross-selling products. Purchase and shipping confirmation emails have higher open and click-through rates (47% and 20+% respectively). Proper product suggestions in confirmation emails greatly increase the opportunity to upsell customers.

Shopping cart abandonment emails

Abandonment emails can be very effective for increasing conversion and eliminating potential lost sales opportunities. Abandonment emails are typically implemented in conjunction with a product recommendation engine to suggest similar products to the item user put in the shopping cart. However, the frequency and volume of these emails need to be closely monitored as it can be easy to abuse this correspondence. More than 2-3 emails for the same shopping cart item or sending abandonment emails for an extended period beyond initial interest (2-3 weeks) can become a nuisance. If a user does not respond to these emails within the first two weeks, they have likely moved on and either decided not to buy an item or bought this item somewhere else. Retailers who keep sending these emails 6 months after the user left the item in the shopping cart risk customers unsubscribing from emails and can irritate customers to the point of refusing to shop with you entirely.

Customer lifecycle management triggers

As previously discussed, it's a very good practice to keep customer engagement through customer lifecycle management. Probably the most common triggers are welcome emails sent out on new customer signups. Birthdays, customer inactivity, app downloads, and purchases are other examples of triggers that can result in lifecycle emails. Lifecycle management systems usually do not tailor to individual transactions, but rather work to keep customers active throughout the year extending their lifetime value.

Triggers based on user's browsing/search activity online

These triggers will send an email to the user after the user finishes a browsing session online or activated in response to search queries user issues on site. Although these triggers may seem effective in the short term (like any new emails, they initially generate incremental revenue), these email triggers end up frustrating the customers and result in churn in the long run. They add up to the email inbox clutter but most importantly make customer uncomfortably conscious of her own behavior: now the customer may not want to come and browse knowing that she is going to get a slew of emails after this. We suggest that online retailers do not implement this practice. 

Interplay with regularly scheduled email

The most important thing to realize is that email triggers do not work in isolation from your regularly scheduled newsletters and campaigns. Specifically, you should consider the total number of emails your customers receive on a daily basis and avoid sending more than one email per day. Creating too many triggers will almost always produce too many emails.

Newsletters provide an effective way to expose relevant merchandise without generating too many emails. User behavior from browsing sessions, like individual product clicks or search activity, should be incorporated as part of the merchandise targeting in your email newsletters instead of generating individual triggered emails. Similarly, the abandoned item recommendations should be incorporated as part of the merchandise targeting in the email newsletters after 2-3 triggered abandonment emails. In the same vein, after the purchase is made, specific cross-sell product opportunities should be exploited in the email newsletters without sending more triggered emails beyond the purchase or shipping confirmation emails.

The Jetlore system was designed to work with all these signals without abusing the triggers in a way that is appealing to potential customers. We understand that consumers don't want to receive too many triggered emails. Moreover, certain email triggers, like the ones in response to user click/search activity online, can come off as too invasive and may leave customers uncomfortably conscious of their behavior.  As a result, Jetlore's system incorporates all of these signals as part of the merchandise targeting in the newsletters.

Jetlore's system incorporates all of these signals

Customers are used to receiving regularly scheduled email newsletters from retailers. Featuring merchandise is the perfect way to target specific items towards customers based on their recent activity online and/or based on prior purchases exploiting potential cross-selling opportunities. Jetlore incorporates clicks, search queries, historical purchases, integrating real-time inventory trends, seasonal purchases, and “hot” items going on sale. Customers love seeing relevant merchandise in newsletters and, most importantly, it improves customer engagement, email conversions, and extends customer lifetime value.

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