Transactional email, while not always as sexy as marketing email, is still an extremely important component in your mailing strategy and it deserves your attention: transactional emails get 4-8x more opens and clicks than bulk mailings. Plus, transactional emails can be part of the first impression a new prospect/buyer has of your brand, so you need to make it count.
In this blog I will break down the power transactional email wields and what you can do to optimize your efforts. But first, let’s get a quick reminder of how marketing and transactional email differ.
Marketing email vs. transactional email
Marketing emails contain content intended for a commercial purpose. Think of marketing emails as messages involving coupons codes, webinar invites, marketing guides, discounts, etc. They are emails that are sent to an opted-in (hopefully, eeek) list that are timed and sent strategically as a part of your overall sales and marketing strategy.
Transactional emails differ as they are not part of a “bulk” send like a marketing email. Rather, transactional emails, aka triggered emails, are sent to an individual based on some action. Think of a person buying a gift from Amazon or canceling their cable service. After said action, a transactional email will be triggered and sent their way.
It’s important to note, transactional emails are triggered by more than just ecommerce. These emails come in all different shapes and sizes. A website visitor can trigger a transactional email by simply sending a question to your support address if you have the rules in place to send an automated message saying their request is being processed.
In some cases, the actions of another user generate a transactional email. For instance, when you "endorse" a friend's skills on LinkedIn, they'll get an email notifying them. Check out all of these transactional emails generated by LinkedIn below.
Often times, transactional emails are sent through an SMTP relay or programmatically through an API.
Now that we understand how it differs from marketing email campaigns, let’s discuss how to optimize this mailing.
Write a clear and concise subject line
A top-tier transactional email will tell you (not sell you) what’s in the email, as clarity trumps cleverness when it comes to your opener. This means your subject line should clearly communicate the purpose of the email and who it is from.
For example, if someone made a purchase, a best practice would be to dynamically insert the name of the company or product in the subject line. In the example below, the subject line lets the recipient immediately understands why they are receiving this email.
Another way to ensure your email is opened and not trashed is by saying “thank you.” Studies have found there is a 35% decrease in clicks if you don’t say “Thank You” in the subject line for order confirmation emails.
Never underestimate how far a simple “thank you” can take you.
Choose a recognizable “from” name and address
Use a from address that is easily identifiable, encourages recipients to communicate with you, and lets them know who they're responding to. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org lets them know exactly which department they can get in touch with. An ambiguous from address, like email@example.com, looks like it might be an address that's not monitored for incoming mail and doesn’t specify what branch of the company sent it.
Another tip is that your from address/name should welcome a response from the customer. If your from address is firstname.lastname@example.org that’s no good. Take a tip from a local Denver restaurant when formulating your from address in the example below. Who the email is from is clear, and it invites a reply.
Incorporate social media buttons
Let your recipient know what other channels they can find you on. Not only does this help expedite the customer service process if they want to reach you on other channels, it also helps grow your audience on these digital platforms.
In the example below, MapMyRun does a seamless job of incorporating their email and social channels in a highly engaging way. While I’m not a proponent of sharing gym selfies, the stats in the email below are worthy of a share to your friends near and far.
Design with mobile in mind
Once your email has been opened, how your emails renders is critical, especially for mobile users. As many as 70 percent of smartphone users say that they will delete emails immediately if they do not render properly on their device.
The best mobile experiences in email are created with the use of responsive or fluid hybrid templates. If your email service provider does not already offer these types of templates, there are many available online both for free and for a minimal fee. If you code your own emails or have an email developer, there are responsive email design tutorials online, too.
Once you have customized and optimized a template that should look good across clients, platforms and devices, test it to make sure that it does.
Personalize for greater success
Since this email is triggered by a certain action an individual took, it darn well better be speaking to that individual! Leveraging merge tags to pull in their first name is the first step towards personalization. However, if you really want to take the relevancy of the email to the next level, leverage dynamic content to personalize these transactional emails. According to the Experian, personalized emails were shown to lift transaction rates and revenue six times higher than non-personalized emails.
Nordstrom’s email below does an incredible job at personalizing the email. Every element of the email is tailored to the individual.
According to a marketing insights study we ran in 2015, 53% of email marketers and designers plan on utilizing dynamic content in 2016 to increase email personalization. So, even if you haven’t jumped on the dynamic bandwagon yet, it’s not too late!
Ask for feedback
Consumers consider customer reviews 12 times more trustworthy than manufacturer descriptions. That is why it it’s advantageous to send a follow-up transactional email after a purchase. Research shows that it’s best to send a product review email 2-3 weeks after the transaction. Also, it doesn’t hurt to use the word “Review” in the subject line as that can boost opens by 28%.
Zappos takes advantage of this tactic in the email below, plus they sneak in a cross-sell with the CTA that says “View Entire Collection.” Very smart!
Don’t be afraid to upsell
Did you know that transactional emails are considered to be the most important by email recipients and they can boost revenue by 33%? One fantastic way you can make this 33% increase in revenue happen is by upselling in these emails.
There's nothing wrong with promoting your products or services in a transactional email, just make sure that the pertinent information takes center stage. The rule of thumb is that a transactional email should be 80% informational and 20% promotional. GoDaddy hits the sweet spot in balancing those two components in the email below.
How do you optimize transactional emails to boost your bottom line?
If we missed any awesome ways to make your transactional emails more effective, share your tactics in the comments section below!