Unleashing the Potential of Transactional E-mail Messages

Jan 08, 2007 10:47 PM  By

Since the late nineties, marketers have been working hard to create more effective and efficient customer relationships through e-mail.

Today most are focused on optimizing their e-mail marketing efforts. But many don’t realize that they are missing out on important opportunities for additional sales and relationship building through transactional e-mail messages. Moreover, they may even be undermining well-executed e-mail marketing strategies by allowing these highly anticipated and widely read messages to come out of separate corporate IT or e-commerce systems.

This uncoordinated and largely unmanaged stream of messages causes marketers to lose visibility into key touch points in a consumer’s lifecycle. Thus, all the advantages of a carefully planned e-mail marketing strategy go out the window.

So how can marketers avoid missing out on these key touch points in a budding customer relationship? Find the right partner to integrate transactional messaging into the marketing platform, use the right tools, and focus on applying the following best practices to customize, track, and optimize transactional messages. By adhering to these guidelines for the purpose of fully harnessing the potential of transactional e-mails, marketers can strengthen customer loyalty, add value to their organizations, and boost sales.

A transactional message is an e-mail message; the primary purpose of which is to facilitate, complete, or confirm a commercial transaction that the recipient has previously agreed to enter into with the sender.

Transactional messages include:

  • Warrantee, recall, safety, or security information;
  • Customer service notices;
  • Subscription/membership status or account information;
  • •Information related to employment relationship or benefits; or
  • Confirmation of delivery of goods or services, such as updates or upgrades.

Transactional messaging best practices:

Enhance messages with HTML. Despite the high open rate and recipient attention, many transactional messages are unbranded, unappealing, inconsistent with other marketing, and devoid of relevant imagery. By enhancing and customizing these important communications with graphics, links and formatting techniques, marketers can increase the amount of information, interaction, and revenue from a customer. Furthermore, the opportunity for increased brand recognition should not be overlooked.

Focus on relevance by including dynamic content. Without the ability to merge in dynamic content, messages lack relevance and contribute little to building an ongoing dialog with customers. Consumers are far more likely to respond favorably to messages that include information pertaining to their preferences, behaviors, or past purchases. By including dynamic content, marketers can add text and imagery to make the message relevant to the recipient. An excellent example of this would be to include an image of the product they have just purchased in their order confirmation or warranty recall.

Improve deliverability. Because transactional messages typically do not leverage e-mail marketing best practices, companies lose sight of making sure the e-mails get through to the inbox. By including a link at the top of every transactional e-mail, marketers can encourage the recipient to “whitelist” the from address to ensure message delivery.

Track, measure, and gain additional customer insight. Conventional transactional messaging systems lack the ability to track and measure deliverability, open, click, or conversion rates. They also do not allow opportunities to learn more about the customer and the shopping experience through surveys, polls or immediate follow-up. By treating transactional messages the same way they treat promotional messages, however, marketers can acquire a complete view of the customer lifecycle to convert one-way communications into a measurable and profitable dialog.

Increase acquisition opportunities. Corporate IT and/or e-commerce departments do not typically have their eye out for marketing opportunities. Adding an opt-in field to encourage recipients who have given their e-mail address for transactional purposes to also sign up for promotional mailings, will improve e-mail list growth. Be sure to state the benefits of why they’d want to do this.

Encourage dialog. We live in an experience-based economy, and yet when a consumer receives transactional messages they often come with do-not-reply messages that prohibit the customer from further interacting with the company. Ideally such transactional messages should allow customers to respond to the company through e-mail, thereby reinforcing value in the brand and building loyalty.

Enable consumers to manage their preferences. Gaining attention in the inbox is getting harder and harder as consumers receive more and more e-mail messages. The only solution is to let customers choose how, when, and what they want from an e-mail relationship. Every message should contain a clear, free and easy-to-use method to manage the frequency (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly), format (e.g., text or HTML), topics (e.g., sales notifications, newsletters, etc.) or to opt-out altogether.

Arthur Sweetser is senior vice president, marketing and professional services for e-Dialog, an e-mail service provider based in Lexington, MA.