Transactional email, the recent Bigfoot Interactive offering that allows recipients to purchase products directly from email, appears to be a success.
"There was a much higher conversion rate, about 3 to 1," says Mike Sheinfield, a spokesman for Zagat Survey, the New York restaurant guide publisher that was Bigfoot's first transactional email customer.
Transactional email, developed by Radical Communications, Marina del Ray, CA, includes a shopping cart function that facilitates e-commerce. It is delivered with Java applet technology, the same technology used in Radical mail, which was introduced over a year ago to bring plug-in free rich media to email.
Zagat tested transactional mail against standard html email and got a much higher response from it, although Sheinfield admits some recipients "were afraid to open it, because they didn't know what it was." But the higher conversion rate more than made up for it. "There was more revenue from it, despite the fact that a lower percentage opened it," he says.
Zagat's email campaign was in early December, with the company using it to sell ZagatPacks, guidebooks to restaurants in major cities, for up to 40% off. The email was targeted to guide book cities, with half the recipients receiving transactional email and half html. Sheinfield said emails were sent to in house and outside lists, but he declined to say how many were sent.
He likes the fact that sales can be made directly from the email. "If this makes it more convenient and comfortable for consumers to purchase, so much the better," he says. "You don't have to click through or save the email. If you want to purchase, it's right there."
He says the email prompts impulse purchases, likening it to point of purchase displays in a supermarket.
He also says transactional email provides more information about the customer than standard html. "We can tell when they open it, how long they keep it open and if they pass it along. It helps us format our mail and the site."
Kate Leahy, marketing manager at Bigfoot in New York, claims transactional email will "transform the way people buy online. It will be a tool people use to purchase a product quickly online, without going to a Web site."
Jay Stevens, director of marketing at Radical Communications, says the technology will "shorten the distance from impression to conversion," which will speed up the selling process and stem the attrition rate, which is so high now.
Stevens says Radical Communications will offer the technology to its other partners, including Click Action and Yes Mail, which are Bigfoot's competitors. But for now, Bigfoot is the only one that has it.
The main drawback is that not everyone can receive transactional and other rich media email, including AOL subscribers. Stevens estimates that 40 to 45 percent of email recipients can receive it. Radical Communications creates default messages for those that can't receive it as