Transactional Emails 2.0: Think Beyond The Purchase

We marketers tend to think about the transactional email in its most literal sense, relating to a specific transaction as defined by the CAN-SPAM Act and by conventional wisdom.  

But transactional emails can become a potent force in your email program when you broaden your vision and look for ways they can enrich your customer relationships, from pre- to post-transaction and beyond. 

These triggered messages, based on abandonment, recent purchase and CRM data, enable additional touch points that provide further value to customers and additional revenue and customer data for your company.   

Four Categories of Purchase-Related Email Message 

Following are 19 examples of purchase-related emails organized into four categories: 

1. Pre-transaction 

Incorporating data from Web analytics and ecommerce software can help you identify customers who break off browse or purchase sessions. Note: These are customers or prospects already enrolled in your email programs.

  • Browse abandonment: Personalized with images and details of a Web site category, page or product the shopper viewed but didn't result in a purchase.
  • Cart abandonment: Multi-stage recovery email program, with the first email sent within minutes after shopper places items in a cart but doesn't complete the process.

2. Purchase Process

These support the purchase process itself and are intended to increase customer confidence in the ordering process.

  • Order confirmation: Confirms the order was received and provides details of the order, shipping method, expected arrival date and customer-support contact information.
  • Order status: Essential when some or all of the items in an order are out of stock (OOS) or when OOS items become available.
  • Shipping notice: Lists package pick-up date, shipment tracking number, range of expected arrival dates and customer-service contact information for you and shipper.
  • Post-shipment confirmation: Asks if items were received on time and in proper condition. Restates order details and customer-support/troubleshooting contact information.
  • Trip/Stay preparation: Confirms trip details (flight/check-in times, destinations, special requests/advisories, contact information) and includes helpful information including weather forecasts, maps, attractions with booking information and links, etc.

Additionally, some or all of the above may contain cross-sell and product recommendations that are driven by the specific purchase.

3. Post-purchase

These post-purchase process emails are focused on the customer experience and additional purchase opportunities once the product has been received, trip taken, etc.

  • Purchase/Trip Satisfaction Survey: Email requesting the customer complete a survey measuring satisfaction with the product, trip/stay, order/download process and shipping or delivery, plus customer-support or troubleshooting contact information.
  • Review/recommend: Invites buyer to review the purchased product(s) and/or share the purchase with their social network connections.
  • Product recommendations: Upsell/cross-sell messages such as "Since you bought this, you might like this," or "People that bought this, also bought this."
  • Repurchase deadline: Invites repurchase of products about to be closed out, discontinued or nearly out of stock.
  • Replenishment: Invites repurchase of consumable products (e.g., printer cartridges, pet food, baby supplies, etc.).
  • New version/Upgrades: Invites customer to upgrade to newer version, replace old/outdated products or purchase related products and accessories.

4. Relationship/loyalty/account status

While not focused on a specific purchase, these messages are sent to people who have purchased, created accounts, downloaded or requested information, joined loyalty programs or otherwise engaged with you.

  • Account reminder: Email notice sent a week or so ahead of a deadline (payment, renewal, etc.).
  • Invitation to join loyalty/preferred customer programs: Benefit-focused message sent to customers who didn't join loyalty/preferred-customer programs or register for an account.
  • Member-status statement: Reports membership status and progress toward achieving higher status or qualification for rewards/discounts; should link to subscriber's account log-in and show points, purchases, miles, etc., at a glance.
  • Bounceback: Offers incentive to bring recent buyer back to repurchase; can feature upsell/cross-sell items.
  • Purchase anniversary: Notes anniversary of first purchase and invites to repurchase, with or without incentive.
  • Additional channels: Invites customer to sign up to receive direct mail catalogs, receive communications via SMS or Twitter, become Facebook fans or shop in nearby retail outlets.

This list is just a starting point. Your unique business and customer-relationship model can foster even more special pre- and post-purchase messages.

If you've been successful with these or other "beyond the purchase" messages, share them in the comments section.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

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2 comments about "Transactional Emails 2.0: Think Beyond The Purchase ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , July 15, 2010 at 6:20 p.m.

    2 words to remember that is not mentioned above - Shipping Charges. People abandon shopping carts when they find they haven't spent enough money to qualify for free shipping or see the charges when they get to totals. This is also another reason after the order goes through, additional purchases are not made, It doesn't matter about anything else no matter how important the follow through is for the next shopping trip experience.

  2. Ian Pollard , July 19, 2010 at 5:25 a.m.

    "Cart abandonment: [...] the first email sent within minutes after shopper places items in a cart but doesn't complete the process."

    That might just win award for the Most Annoying Marketing Idea of 2010. Just because the technology enables us marketers to do this stuff doesn't mean we should. Put yourself in the shopper's shoes and consider how such an email might be greeted. Waaay too pushy, even for a low-class ecommerce outlet.