Transactional emails usually have the highest open and click-through rates. Here’s a roadmap on how to use them to drive revenue and improve customer loyalty
Ignoring transactional emails is easy when you are deep in the trenches whipping up beautiful email flows and campaigns.
If you are a Shopify brand, you might use the transactional email templates it provides and customize them using brand colours and logos.
And for a brand just starting out, that’s okay: you will send out emails that look like this, but that’s okay because you have bigger fish to fry.
But once sales start rolling in, you need to make transactional emails a part of your customer acquisition and retention stack.
Because check out these open rates all the way at the bottom for order confirmation and shipping confirmation (a whopping 61.1% and 63.9% compared to 22.9% for campaigns)
Before I dive in, let's address the transactional vs. promotional setup issue.
USING THE SAME PROVIDER FOR TRANSACTIONAL AND PROMOTIONAL EMAILS: PROs AND CONs
If you are using something like Klaviyo for your promotional emails, should you also send out transactional emails?
Both decisions have pros and cons, but if you were to ask me, I would always prefer to separate the transactional from the promotional setup.
- Any issues with domain reputation or deliverability triggered by high spam or unsubscribe rates from promotional emails will not affect transactional emails, which are more business-critical.
- As stores get bigger, transactional email volumes can outstrip promotional email volumes. Having both emails on the same service, like Klaviyo, can increase costs significantly.
However, there are some costs with this approach:
- You will have to manage two different sets of services, and that can increase overhead costs.
- You must integrate the transactional email service with the main email platform to update customer activity data in respective profiles.
These costs are acceptable, especially when measured against a two-tier setup's business continuity and redundancy benefits.
Here are some pre-requisites that I keep in mind when choosing a transactional email service:
- Deliverability: The service provider should focus on speed and deliverability. When customers place an order, the order confirmation email should appear in their inboxes almost immediately.
- Out-of-the-box integrations: Your transactional email provider should integrate with your e-commerce platform, any SMS service you use, and your core email marketing platform.
- Personalization: It should be easy for you to personalize the emails with dynamic content (order details, shipping data) and preferably have drag-and-drop design templates.
- Support: More than costs, customer support is extremely vital for a transactional email vendor. Because these emails are business-critical, you want to be able to fix them ASAP if something breaks.
Some vendors I have used in the past for eCommerce include Sendinblue (now called Brevo), Postmark, and Sendgrid (check out this blog post for more details and pros/cons).
Hot Tip: instead of customizing your email inside your transactional email vendor, you can use a drag-and-drop email editor like Stripo to set up the emails and then export them through built-in integrations. I have used this editor, and their customer service is superb (I am not an affiliate, I just like the product).
Making The Most Out Of Your Transactional Emails
Let's get to the meat of this post and highlight the strategies you can use to boost revenue and increase customer retention.
1. Drive Traffic From Transactional Emails To Your Website
Transactional emails like shipping confirmation or out-for-delivery emails almost always get clicked on: a customer wants to know the status of the delivery.
This click usually takes customers over to a shipment tracker page hosted on your shipping vendor's website.
This is captive traffic which you are losing out on.
Instead, you want an order tracking page that lives on your site. This page could look like this (the image is from a paid Shopify plugin)
However, if you are operating on a budget, you can create a simple order tracking page on your Shopify site for free and send traffic there by following this tutorial.
This tactic will improve traffic and time on your site's page, giving your SEO a fillip. Additionally, you can customise the order tracking page and engage, educate, or give customers a one-time offer.
2. Upsell And Cross-sell On Your Transactional Emails
Should you add a personalized recommendation feed to your order confirmation or returns processed emails?
You should be fine if you don't overdo the selling.
Here's an example of how MeUndies uses the order tracking email to offer a 20% referral discount.
Notice how the offer is tucked at the very bottom and doesn't elbow out the order confirmation details?
You can also offer a discount against the next order right in the transaction email like this:
Here's Huckberry using returns processed email to showcase their best-selling items. Again, the recommended product feed is discreet and not in your face.
Adding a recommended feed to your return confirmation email is even more important if you don't refund the customer but give them credit against future purchases, which they can use immediately.
3. Add Quizzes, Polls, Review Requests, etc. To Your Transactional Emails
All e-commerce transactional emails needn't be monetized directly by recommending related products or offering discounts.
You can monetize them indirectly by featuring elements like:
- NPS ratings
(This particular example is an AMP email which might not be feasible for every brand, but you get a general idea).
You can also encourage users to ask questions or review FAQs.
Every email (whether transactional or promotional) should encourage users to ask questions.
The vast majority won't, but if they do, it lets you humanise your brand and get feedback from your customers on your products and your sales funnel.
Depending on how you structure incentives (giving people who completed a quiz or a review request a discount) can improve the response rate.
4. Drive Gamification In Transactional Emails
I know, I know: gamification is one of those buzzwords people throw around to sound smart without being specific or what exactly they mean.
In the context of eCommerce, gamification can be as simple as awarding points to the user based on the purchase amount and nudging them to advance to the next tier where more offers can be unlocked.
This order confirmation email shows how Gap encouraged a customer to refer a friend and avail of a $10 gift card.
But what if you don't want to get into the hassles of putting in place a points system but still want to incorporate gamification elements?
Use your transactional emails like order confirmation or delivery completed emails to prompt customers to:
- Add products over a specific $$ to be eligible for a free gift
- Avail of a buy one get one free offer
- Sign up for a subscription and get more discounts on every order.
5. Encourage social sharing on Instagram etc
You don't always have to push for a sale through transactional emails.
Many customers might not want to pester their friends for a $10 discount on a $300 dress. However, fewer customers will say no to posting about their latest purchases on social media.
The right time to ask people to share on social is when they have just had a positive experience (order confirmed, product delivered, etc.).
You can also prompt people to use a particular hashtag so that you can track your success rate (this particular example is a campaign, not a transactional email, but you get the idea).
Notes On Using Transactional Emails To Improve Customer Experience
When you are using transactional emails to improve customer experience (and drive sales), you need to be hyper-aware of your customer's motivations and the job that the customer seeks to do with these emails.
Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Transactional emails can't be sales-heavy like promotional emails. You cannot overwhelm order confirmation, return/refund requests, or out-for-delivery emails with discounts and upsells.
- Only ask for something (a sale, a follow request) if the customer has a positive experience. It would be dumb and insulting if you were to ask for a sale in an email informing the customer that the order has been delayed.
- Don't forget to segment and personalise the emails you send out, especially in the context of recommended products.
For these reasons, it's essential to pick a transactional email vendor with deep integrations with your eCommerce platform and can access customer activity data.
Want me to audit your transaction emails so that they are making you more money? Send me an email at email@example.com