Prerequisites for Leveraging Transactional E-mail

Feb 20, 2007 9:00 PM  By

While transactional e-mail offers the highest open and clickthrough rates of any type of e-mail, Harte-Hanks in 2005 said that most companies continue to send plain-text e-mail with no branding or dynamic cross-sell offers.

But a white paper by Redwood City, CA-based e-mail marketer StrongMail, “Best Practices in E-mail Deliverability: Put the Action in Transactional E-mail,” shows how multichannel merchants can develop transactional e-mail to gain a competitive advantage through superior customer engagement.

Realizing the potential of transactional e-mail takes more than swapping out plain text for HTML. It also takes more than balancing your transactional and marketing content, satisfying Can-Spam requirements, and applying other best practices. The core challenge comes down to whether you have the right infrastructure to generate transactional e-mail with the right marketing message in the first place.

When evaluating the various transactional e-mail solutions available, you’ll want to be sure that they adequately address the following five areas:

  1. Integration. Your first priority should be to ensure that your e-mail infrastructure is tightly integrated with your back-end business processes and data sources. By doing so, you’ll be able to effectively trigger e-mails, customize messages to customer preferences and behaviors, and ensure a consistent customer experience across multiple touch points. Without such integration, you simply won’t be able to leverage the marketing opportunity that transactional e-mail affords you.
  2. Dynamic content. Having achieved the right level of integration, you’ll next need to have a dynamic content engine to assemble and generate relevant messages. This is especially critical for transactional e-mail, since customers have the expectation that you know them. Sending them a generic marketing message is not only a wasted opportunity, but it could relegate your transactional e-mail to the same fate as your bulk marketing e-mail: the junk folder.
  3. Real-time delivery. A transactional e-mail is often a business-critical communication that requires expedited delivery. Any delay can erode profits through an increase in customer service calls. Consequently, you need to ensure that your marketing messages can be automatically inserted into your transactional e-mail and sent promptly and securely to your customers. Anything less and you run the risk of negating the advantages provided by marketing-enabled transactional e-mail and potentially diminishing the value of your brand.
  4. Visibility. Sending out transactional e-mail without any visibility into its deliverability or open and click rates is akin to flying blind. Accurate, detailed real-time reporting is essential. Without such information, you give up the opportunity to default to alternate channels in delivering your important transactional messages or to capitalize on the most-successful marketing messages associated with them. The reporting should also provide accurate bounce management data that you can easily act upon to improve deliverability and maintain clean lists.
  5. Flexibility. To be successful with your marketing efforts, you need the flexibility to test creative approaches and quickly adjust your templates accordingly. If you’re locked into a rigid process or one that’s costly to change, you’ll be powerless to take advantage of new learnings. Scalability is also important to ensure that you have the flexibility to meet future needs.