The Follow-Through: How to Send Stunning Order Confirmation Messages

So, one of your online shoppers has bitten the bullet and made a purchase from your Web site (maybe even motivated by your fabulous email creative). While it may be celebration time, your work isn't quite done yet. When gorgeously executed, order and shipping confirmation messages can seal the deal with your customers, making them even more pleased with their recent purchases and perhaps even securing their lifelong loyalty. Take advantage of this great post-purchase opportunity to strengthen their relationship with your brand and encourage repeat shopping by following the tried-and-true techniques below. (Note that we've blocked out personal info in the examples -- those black boxes aren't creative elements!).

Keep the subject line clear and simple. Most of your subscribers' inboxes probably fill up every day, so make sure that your email stands out as specifically concerning their order. Your subject line doesn't need to be fancy; when it comes to transactional messaging, clarity is king. Consider keeping the order number handy and up-front for subscribers who scan their inboxes while on the phone to your customer service reps. Some brands whose subject lines nail it (and whose lovely emails you will see in the sections below) include the Apple Store's "Shipment Notification W68676604," Philosophy's, "your order #21378132 has shipped," and Williams-Sonoma's, "Order Confirmation #092857855452."



Emphasize the order number and customer service info. Even if you include the order number in your subject line, make sure it's front and center in your body as well, along with easy ways to reach your store. Appledoes an awesome job by making the order number stand out in the header, including a prominent "Track Shipment" button and FAQs with help links.

Keep a consistent, branded header and navigation. Your shoppers probably thought your marketing emails and/or website looked nice, so keep up the good work after the sell. Including a consistent, good-looking branded header and navigation (like this one from REI) reinforces your customers' experience with your brand. Plus, those nav bars are famously successful at getting recipients to jump back into shopping. While you'll probably want to keep some "SHOP" links there, you might consider switching out some of your typical nav items for items specifically related to the transaction to keep it relevant, such as links to "CUSTOMER SERVICE" and "MY ACCOUNT."

Keep your copy short, to-the-point and grateful. When a shopper has just made a purchase, a note of thanks is in order, but keep it brief; subscribers mostly just want to see their info. PBteen gets it right with a short and sweet thank-you message up top.

Cross-promote items and categories based on purchase. You already know that these recipients are likely to make online purchases -- you just need to entice them to click by showing them the goods. It's important to make sure the bulk of your message is transactional rather than promotional (the 80/20 rule is a good one -- no more than 20% of your messages should be devoted to promotion), and standard guidelines also state that promotional items need to stay to the right and to the bottom of the primary transactional message. That said, order and shipping confirmation messages are a great place to display products that might interest these specific shoppers. If possible, dynamically populate your message with items related to the item purchased, like Williams-Sonoma does. If this isn't technologically possible for your brand now, consider showing popular items like gift cards or promoting other brands in your family, as in this Old Navy email.

Encourage subscribers to sign up for your promotional messages. While there's a good chance that your online shoppers have already joined your email list, your order and shipping confirmation messages are great places to make sure. Having just placed an order, recipients likely want the scoop on your future offerings. Philosophy takes this idea a step further by offering a free gift with its email signup.

Keep the brains, but don't sacrifice the beauty. Make sure that your transactional messages are neat and sleek and up to the standards your customers have come to expect from your website and other emails. Shoppers want to feel like their email comes from a store that cares about their purchase and isn't just designed by a database system output script or something. Your design elements can also help guide subscribers' eyes through the info and get them stoked about their purchase. Crate and Barrel hits all the important points while keeping its email looking good -- with color blocks and evergreen imagery that ensures it can use this template all year round.

Consider other ways to make the transaction special. Some brands court shoppers by sending them extra thank-you messages in addition to the standard order or shipping notification. Victoria's Secret charms its customers with just a simple thanks, and Barnes & Noble's makes sure that its Nook purchasers know how to make the most of their new device. Once you've hit the important points with your order and shipping notifications, it might be worth considering ways to make shoppers feel extra-special.

While your promotional campaigns should always look beautiful, don't pass up the opportunity to dazzle subscribers with your shipping and order confirmation messages, too. After all, we hope that customers will be receiving many of these... over and over again.

1 comment about "The Follow-Through: How to Send Stunning Order Confirmation Messages".
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  1. Lisa Thorell from Off the Grid Public Relations, April 20, 2010 at 10:53 a.m.

    Really insightful piece- full of great nuggets. (Now if only this article had embedded the example images inline - it would be ever so much more compelling- and easier to read!)

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