Email Receipts, Confirmations, Tracking Numbers – and Marketing

With consumers’ inboxes perpetually filled with clutter, marketers are challenged to find new ways to break through with valuable, targeted messages that their customers actually want to open. The secret could lie in a largely untapped vehicle: transactional emails.

The historical open rates of transactional emails hover around 70 percent because they are, by nature, highly relevant. These messages usually pertain to a recent customer action and contain important information such as a printable receipt, order confirmation and details, tracking number or estimated time of delivery.

Traditionally, transactional emails were executed by IT or back-office transactional systems. As a result, their “just the facts” content represented a huge missed opportunity for companies to better market their products and open up valuable dialogue with consumers.

Today, many marketers are in a better position to enhance the messaging and appearance of transactional emails, as new technology enables them to manage branding and offer management while the transactional sending infrastructure is handled by IT. For example, marketers can offer cross-sell and up-sell opportunities within transactional emails for a specific purchase, such as including a follow-up offer for headphones within the shipping confirmation for the recent purchase of an MP3 player.

Yet with 67 percent of consumers now open to receiving marketing messages in transactional emails, according to database marketing agency Merkle, and nearly three-quarters of the U.S. email market not including offers or ads in their transactional messages, according to data from JupiterResearch, marketers have only scratched the surface. Additionally, with the amount of transactional emails received by consumers expected to double from 2007 to 2012, as found by JupiterResearch, there is no question that marketers can stand to benefit by taking more control over this key part of the dialogue between a company and its customers.

Barriers to Effective Transactional Email

The potential for additional revenue generation through transactional email is significant — a recent JupiterResearch model found that if marketers can convert just one percent of its transaction orders into additional sales, their companies stand to receive an additional US$250,000 in revenue annually, on average. In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, marketers must optimize the offers within their transactional emails by looking beyond the latest transaction and incorporating customer behavior and interaction data from across communications channels, whether it is from past email, Web, direct mail, mobile or the call center.

While a company may have detailed information on its customers across a variety of channels, too often this information is siloed in different systems, databases and sometimes vendor software, making it difficult to use uniformly across channels to improve consistency of customer communications or improve relevancy of transactional messages. Take, for example, a credit card company issuing a variety of offers regarding rewards points or interest rates. While a customer may have already declined a specific offer from a call center representative, that customer may still be receiving emails or direct mail pieces repeating the same offer. This can obviously cause frustration for customers and negatively impact their experience with the brand. In order to more effectively leverage transactional emails to enhance customer loyalty, companies must be able to centrally manage eligibility and decisioning rules across channels, while capturing preferences and past customer experiences.

Cross-Channel Marketing as a Key to Transactional Email Success

A key enabler for incorporating transactional emails into the cross-channel marketing mix is having a single marketing view of customer and prospect data using a centralized marketing data mart within a marketing platform. By incorporating transactional emails as another communications channel within one marketing system of record for customer and prospect data, organizations can target and segment profiles, keep a detailed track of all past cross-channel marketing interactions, personalize and automate marketing efforts across multiple channels, and accurately measure audience response and effectiveness.

In the case of the credit card company above, this single view of the customer would have allowed for optimized offer management within transactional emails, in which customers would have received personalized offers based on eligibility rules according to their preferences and qualifications indicated across marketing channels, instead of receiving the same rejected offer twice. By breaking down silos and incorporating transactional emails as part of the marketing mix, the chance of conversion on offers in transactional emails can be greatly increased, resulting in more revenue.

Transactional Emails Can Make or Break the Closed-Loop Customer Experience

With the customer experience in mind, let’s revisit the example of a cross-sell offer for headphones in the confirmation email of an MP3 player purchase. By utilizing a marketing platform that incorporates customer data from across marketing channels, the e-retailer can set up rules to determine if that customer had viewed a specific model of headphones through its Web site, or if they had clicked through to a link in their regular marketing emails regarding any other products, to determine what type of product the customer may be interested in purchasing next. Instead of merely including an offer for a product that is functionally related to the purchased product, the e-retailer can instead use cross-channel customer data to provide an offer for a product that the customer has already expressed interest in and thus increase the chance for a conversion.

The potential of transactional emails is quickly evolving with availability of new processes and technologies that make it easier for marketing departments to take control over their delivery and design. Incorporating transactional emails into a cross-channel marketing platform can directly improve click-through rates and sales, but more importantly, it is vital to ensuring a completely closed-loop customer experience in which customer’s preferences and needs, regardless of the channel through which they are indicated, are influencing each customer interaction.

Stephan Dietrich is president of enterprise marketing software provider Neolane.

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