With more and more emails being sent, companies are now looking for ways to remain relevant to their customers, while increasing ROI through clever cross-sell and up-sell campaigns.
There is one email type that will satisfy these needs, it is powerful in driving results, but is so often forgotten – the transactional email message.
You need the right email marketing company
Not only is transacional email often overlooked, when appointing an email marketing company (ESP) the requirements around transactional messages are also not explored. It’s important to understand the transactional message landscape and the technical abilities needed to send these messages out successfully.
What exactly is a transactional email?
Transactional emails can be triggered based on a customer’s action with a company. Triggered transactional messages include dropped basket messages, purchase/order confirmation emails and email receipts. Contract notifications are sent automatically, based on a contract agreement. They include email delivery of bills, statements, invoices upgrade notices and policies.
Transactional messages play a vital role in a company’s communication strategy. Simply put, these are the emails customers are expecting and therefore they often yield a much higher open rate. This means these emails are a great channel for relevant cross-sell and up-sell messages.
Understanding all customer communication touch points
Transactional messages are often overlooked because they’re either automated from a company’s website, or managed by an entirely different department that isn’t involved in any marketing efforts. Unlike email marketing messages, these messages aren’t given any branding treatment. Also many valuable marketing opportunities of transactional email are lost. I often see that contract notifications have not seen a branding guideline or a marketer since they were launched!
Unfortunately it isn’t as easy as one would think to get a clear picture of all messages leaving the organisation. Which then begs the question: How do you take control of these messages? The first step is to understand each business area and how it interacts with your customer.
Transactional emails are sent via different departments
Emails are being sent out from so many different departments. Not only are they not complying to the company’s standards, but there are so many missed marketing opportunities. For example, are messages going out to customers asking them about their experience with the call centre? Are these messages based on the email guidelines, do they use the right tone and is there any room for improvement?
When the billing department sends out an email bill or statement are these sent according to branding guidelines set out for email? Is the layout as it should be and are there any cross-selling opportunities that can be included?
Marrying the transactional message with the ESP
Once you’ve gained an understanding of the customer communication touch-points and decided on how and where to include marketing, you need to assess whether your current email sending capabilities will cater for the complex data queries that are required to manage these types of messages.
Is your current email marketing system meeting the requirements?
- Deliverability: What email delivery rates are being achieved on transactional emails (this percentage should be in the upper 90s)? Is the SMTP gateway monitored for blacklisting? Are you signed up to feedback loops and conducting inbox placement tests?
- Reporting: Many of these messages aren’t tracked at all (triggered directly from a web-site and sent in text). Does the system allow for tracking and email reporting that is applied to all email marketing messages?
- Best practice: Transactional messages are often badly designed and not properly tested in all environments (in cases where HTML is used). An understanding of email marketing to achieve the required marketing goals is a must.
- Response management: Is there anyone monitoring responses? Many transactional emails have a standard ‘do not reply’ policy. But these are no different to email marketing messages – they’re the start of a conversation. Customers reply – you need to respond.
- Dealing with complex data rules: If you’re going to add relevant marketing to these messages, can the current system cater for the data rules required to achieve the goals?
Six questions to ask when moving to a new email service provider
If your current system is falling short of these transactional email services and you’re looking to move to an email service provider, here are 6 fact-gathering points to help you make the decision:
- How does your ESP deal with complex data rules? This is imperative, as transactional messages are triggered with personalised customer information and also need to include appropriate cross-sell messages based on the ’core’ message content.
- Do they have the ability to send time-critical messages? Many of these messages are triggered based on an action and require the email to be delivered within minutes of the action being taken.
- Does your Email service provider meet SLA requirements and what is their contingency plan like? Server up-time is an important factor, as messages are time critical. How often is down-time experienced, what are the disaster recovery options and business continuity processes that are put in place?
- Is your ESP able to provide encrypted document delivery? Should you be sending sensitive information, the ability to encrypt documents sent with sensitive information (details of a policy, statements or bills for into this category) is where you can really start to unlock the full potential of email.
- How does your ESP guard against phishing? Many of these emails are notifications that pull customers back to a portal to view an order / statement / invoice. Are measures put in place to guard against phishing (such as user authentication within the email)?
- Can your ESP accept multiple data feeds? This is important when the data for these emails come from multiple sources and the email needs to be built from these varying data types.
Of course, it’s easy for an email marketing company to merely state that they are able to provide the service. Dig into their experience in this area and chat to their customers already receiving this service. These messages are too important to ignore and certainly too important to be implemented badly.
All messages are a reflection of the company and brand, so take the time to find the right email partner and provide your customers with the best possible experience – at every customer touch point.