Choosing the right behavioral email service for your business

behavioral_email_provider

Nowadays, most ESPs claim to run some form of behavioral/event-triggered email service. For any company looking to invest in this type of activity, finding the right provider for your business can be a challenge.

To make an informed decision you need to first decide exactly what it is you need, and secondly understand if the provider you’re talking to can meet these requirements.

This article is going to be split in parts, but is essentially one overall guide aimed at helping you choose the right service for your business when looking at behavioral email.

We start with this article geared towards helping you understand and decide the type of program needed for your business; after that we will focus on the level of service needed and the questions you should be asking a potential provider. Both to ensure they can meet the initial email marketing requirements and on-going needs of your business.

Knowing what to ask any potential provider is critical for you to choose the right provider. However, in order to do that, first ensure you are 100% clear on what it is you want.

What are you after? Behavioral email, Remarketing or Operational & transactional triggers?

There is often confusion between actual behavioral email and other simpler forms of triggered email. A detailed description can be found in this white paper from 2 years ago that I think still holds weight; but in simple terms:

  • An operational or transaction email responds to
    an action with a general communication;
  • Remarketing targets users based on actions to a past email communication;
  • A true behavioral email responds to an action (online, offline or email) incorporating information specific to the action made.

Operational or transactional email is great if all you want is automated confirmation. Remarketing is a good way of targeting already engaged users, but is severely limited in volume as you are only targeting a small percentage already receiving emails.

A behavioral email provider will be able to cover both options, but also provide you with the opportunity to create bespoke templates to target users in a specific way. I think this is best illustrated by using examples:

Transactional trigger example – Registration sign up

Someone arrives on the site and see’s that if they sign up for emails, they will receive offers early. After signing up, an email is sent to them confirming registration. In a more advanced version, they will also get a series of follow up emails, as part of a welcome program. Some simple personalisation is used based on what they have listed during the sign up process.

Remarketing example – Basket drop out after arriving from an email

An email is sent to the base talking about the new offers you have running and 10% of the base clicks on the email. A further 20% of these add something to their basket, but do not continue on to purchase. This 20% is targeted with a message about abandonment.

If it is a more advanced set up, you will have collected (having set these in advance) other information about their visit that can be included within the email campaign to optimise (e.g. details of the basket, images of the products). The key thing with this style (remarketing) is that it is limited to those that respond to a previous email. It is not about the total activity on the site.

Pure behavioral email example – A returning user comes back to the site and does not purchase

A user has come to the site (from any media) and looked at some new offers but they did not go on to buy. In fact they didn’t add anything to the basket. However, they are a returning user, having been to the site previously.

A pure behavioral email campaign will recognise their activity and send an email to them. Encouraging them back to the site, based around both the information understood from their most recent visit, but also all other historical information about them. So make sure you know if you are planning for this kind of email marketing upfront, before even choosing an email marketing provider. The following is a case study from the travel sector that illustrates what’s possible.

Monarch achieves more than 6,000 bookings in 2 months with behavioral email
Monarch has thousands of users that are actively searching on the website. The challenge was to targeting them with targeting messaging at the best time and not sending them generic weekly campaign emails.Behavioral email program:
Airport and holiday destinations were tracked and stored against individual, alongside all other historical information known about the users.Templates were built to be triggered at 3 different intervals (one after the initial website interaction, one a few days after if no interaction and booking occurred and one final one a week after the initial interaction).These templates used the information collected to personalise the emails so they were about the destination and holidays that the user had shown interest in, right through to showing specific alternatives that were known to similarly interest these people.Results: The campaign drove an ROI on 17,257%, achieving over 6% conversions a day.

So what sort of businesses need each of the above options?

Campaign types Business Type
Transactional triggers Less sophisticated businesses, no current trigger based capabilities, limited ability to place proper tagging on the website. Potentially also businesses with very small budget where they cannot afford the other options but have a cheap bolt on within something like their CMS
Remarketing Businesses that don’t have the ability to place more tags on the website. Ultimately remarketing works like behavioral email, but captures considerably less data (in tests up to 70%) so is really only where businesses cannot afford (for very legitimate technology or cost reasons) to put extra tags on the site
Pure behavioral email Most revenue generating online businesses that have a developed email communication strategy. This is not biased by business size, because some smaller companies are far better and flexible at exploiting the benefits of behavioral email

 

It is costs, not size that matters

Please note, a true behavioral email provider should be able to do all of the above scenarios! One other very important thing to remember is that behavioral email can be a tactic for businesses large and small, the level of traffic you have coming to your site should not affect your decision.

Only the cost of the provider to ensure you can achieve a sensible ROI matters – some of the best companies I have worked with in this field are smaller businesses that can exploit the varied nature of the subject.

Dig out the best behavioral email provider for your business

Being clear on the level of service you need and the types of triggered program you want to run, will make it much easier to dig out the best provider for your business. Next time we will go through the types of questions you should be asking a provider to ensure they supply the service you need to grow your business.

About Garry Lee


Over the last 10 years I have developed an account management team that offers the service led approach in the web analytics industry at RedEye. I am now responsible for the P&L of the analytics, usability & optimisation and behavioural email sections of the business, managing all costs and revenues, as well as the teams responsible for delivering the service to our clients. Dedicating my time to take the data available and developing new ways improve the understanding of online marketing. You can follow garry here on Twitter.

  • Kelly Lorenz

    Hi, 

    Sorry but you are using the term “transactional emails” incorrectly at worst and incomplete at best. Transactional emails are receipts, account details, shipping notifications, etc — essentially messages the customer MUST receive and cannot opt out of. 

    Transactional triggers are not a low-end need, they are a must for every marketer, especially those operating an e-commerce business. 

    -Kelly Lorenz

  • http://twitter.com/GarryLee316 Garry Lee

    Hi Kelly, 

    I understand what you mean, I was really referring to them in the sense of how they are used outside of those core actions, because generally those are driven from the clients on back end rather than user a vendor, but I take you point that’s not clear and that the pure transactional ones are of course essential for any functioning e-commerce site