Triggered Messages: A Retail Email Checklist

I'm a fan of triggered email messages for what they can add to a basic broadcast email program: namely, high-value messages, deeper engagement and significant revenue. Based on my interactions and work with clients, I've created a checklist of triggered email messages for retail/ecommerce email marketers. Some can also be modified for B2B scenarios.

This list isn't a comprehensive catalog of all email triggers. But it should help you see where triggered emails can complement a broadcast email program or upgrade what you're already sending. 

1. Welcome: This starts the subscriber relationship off right. It sets expectations and can generate an immediate sale.

Advanced: Move from a single welcome email to an onboarding program that uses subscriber Web behavior and preferences to deliver a series of emails with messaging targeted specifically to each individual’s interests.

2. Update preferences: This email can be part of an onboarding or re-engagement program or a standard message programmed to launch a certain number of days after opt-in. Its purpose is to gather more demographic, product and channel preferences used for better targeting.



3. Browse abandonment: This email goes to customers who browse product pages but leave without buying. Incorporate the items they viewed along with a link to more product info or your call center or online customer support.

4. Cart abandonment: Besides the regular reminder, you can also let customers know when their cart is about to expire or alert them to low stock or price changes.

5. Happy Birthday: Beyond sending a birthday message, add a reminder if the subscriber hasn't opened, clicked or acted on your birthday message, especially if you batch birthday emails on the first day of the month. 

6. Order confirmation/shipping notice: These essential transactional messages include confirmations, shipping status, out-of-stock updates and product or service alerts.

Marketing should own and optimize these high-value messages with proper branding and cross-selling or upselling opportunities to create a good customer experience and follow-on revenue.

7. Post-purchase survey: Separate from the transactional phase, this message measures customer satisfaction and alerts you to possible problems with your ordering or fulfillment processes.

8. Bounceback: This message goes out soon after your customer purchases. It uses incentives and cross-selling, upselling or social selling to bring customers who had good experiences back for another purchase.

9. Post a review/Your review is posted: Customers rely on product reviews. To get more customers to post them, send one email to invite the customer to post a product review and then another when the review goes live.

10. Product recommendations: Leverage your recommendation engine to generate messages with cross-selling or upselling suggestions based on previous purchases.

11. Replenishment: These emails make it easy for customers to reorder consumable items such as diapers, specialized filters, vitamins, wines, etc. The timing depends on the product lifecycle. Use them to cross-sell or upsell also.

12. Reengagement: Don’t wait six or 12 months and send a “win-back” message. Rather, put inactive subscribers into a series of “activation” emails after, say, three to four months of no activity. Message types can include a survey, preference-center updates, “get more from your emails,” heavy incentives, new product information, etc.

13. Subscribe to catalog: If you offer a catalog, use this email to increase your direct mail subscribers.

14. “Get the most from your email subscription”: This email might trigger a few months after opt-in with the objective of reminding subscribers how to change their email address, update preferences, provide feedback, opt in to additional email streams, and how to engage with your brand on social networks, etc.

15. Site registration/loyalty programs: This message goes out to those customers not in your loyalty program with an offer to sign up, and centers on the benefits of joining (special treatment, express checkout, etc.).

16. Purchase anniversary: These typically are triggered one year after the first purchase. Some retailers include product info and link to the exact product(s) purchased to make it easy to reorder.

Not every email I've listed above will work for every marketer, but this group could help you envision where triggered emails could fit into your program.

Did I miss any triggered messages that are working for you right now? Please let me know in the comments.

Until next time, take it up a notch! 

2 comments about "Triggered Messages: A Retail Email Checklist".
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  1. Cynthia Edwards from Razorfish, April 5, 2012 at 1:23 p.m.

    Excellent article. I just a statistic today from the Email Experience Council that states, "New metrics show triggered message open rates 96% higher than 'business as usual' messages."

    Marketers will do well to pay heed.

  2. Jade Mangahis from Epsilon, April 6, 2012 at 2:33 p.m.

    As Cynthia pointed out, our recent email benchmarks highlight triggered messages and how their performance is significantly stronger than "business as usual" across industry categories. Great tips to take advantage of these strong performing messages!

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