Using Email To Get the Next Sale, And Beyond

Email marketing is great for driving first purchases, but it's perhaps an even more awesome marketing channel to get those all-important second, third and fourth sales that turn one-time buyers into loyal repeat customers.

Unlike typical post-purchase emails, such as shipping confirmations or product review requests, "reorder" messages focus on generating the next purchase by using cross-sell, up-sell, recommendation and purchase anniversary messaging.

Recommendation/Cross Sell, Reorders and Purchase Anniversaries

Each of these emails has a specific purpose, but they all share four key features:

  • They're automated and based on your customer's previous purchase behavior.
  • They encourage your customer to purchase the same or similar products again.
  • While lower volume than sending to your entire database, their high relevance and automated approach typically deliver much higher ROI and revenue per email than broadcast messages.
  • Done well, your customers find them convenient and of high value.



1. Cross Sell/Recommendations: Cross-sell and up-sell messages fall into two general categories: Those using data-driven recommendations, those populated with pre-determined products or services.

For data-driven recommendations, companies typically use their ecommerce or personalization software or recommendation engines such as Baynote or Certona. Recommended products can either be secondary messages inserted in transactional and other post-purchase messages, or be the entire focus of an email.

Someone who buys a tablet computer, for example, might receive emails with recommended accessories such as premium earbuds, screen protectors, cases or keyboards.

These recommendations can stem from what other products were purchased by people who bought the same device; related top-selling items; "go-together" products; or simply products purchased by like-minded customers.

The second cross-sell or up-sell approach creates pre-determined email nurture programs designed to transition a customer from one type of product purchase to another. These selections are often based on strategic initiatives to move customers to more profitable or beneficial variations on, or alternatives to, a product or service.

These messages are generally delivered as a progressive series of emails that each focus on specific value propositions, benefits and calls to actions/offers. Education, rather than pure promotion, is often a key focus.

2. Reorders/Replenishment: These emails promote products that will wear out (shoes, batteries) or run out (vitamins, make-up). Timing is key on these emails. Tracking both cross-customer and individual average purchase reorder time frames will help you time these emails appropriately.

By dynamically populating messages with product images and information and providing an obvious link back to the product page, you make it easy to reorder.

Additionally, you can send reorder emails based on when the item reaches a certain inventory threshold or gets discontinued, or when you release a new or updated version.

Replenishment emails trigger according to the purchase date for consumable products, such as food, beverages, cosmetics, diapers and the like. If a skin-care cream should be used up in 60 days, you could trigger an automated email a few weeks before, asking the customer to purchase the product again.

For example, one company uses replenishment reminders on products that have a defined usage time frame, such as 56 days. Each email pairs the product photo with copy that reinforces both the product benefits and advantages of reordering before it runs out, along with a reorder CTA.

These emails generate nearly a 10% conversion rate and revenue per email about four times that of their typical broadcast message.

3. Purchase anniversary: This email commemorates either the first time your customer bought from you or the one-year anniversary on a specific product with either an offer to repurchase or a general incentive to bring the customer back to your site.

Here are two takes on the purchase-anniversary email:

  • One company commemorates the one-year anniversary of the first purchase with a percent-off discount. Email copy also promotes other features on the company website, along with a link to the preference center.
  • A shoe retailer combines a one-year purchase anniversary and reorder emails in a personalized message that notes the customer can still purchase the shoes in the same color and size. The email also links to other past purchases that can in turn drive reorders.

There are other variations of these emails, but they all are based on the initial purchase, are automated, make it easy to buy the same or related product again, and usually generate great results.

What post-purchase reorder emails do you deploy? Please share your favorite in the comments below.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

2 comments about "Using Email To Get the Next Sale, And Beyond ".
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  1. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, January 10, 2013 at 5:48 p.m.

    I love the anniversary email Loren. I have been advocating this to the tyre (tire) industry for years. Tyres need rotating, wheels need balancing but many companies continue to pay large dollars for new advertising campaigns when they have a drawer filled with customers. How easy is it automate a series of emails which state: "It's been 3 months since..." "It's been 6 months since..." etc.

    Kurt Johansen

  2. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, January 10, 2013 at 6:10 p.m.

    Thanks Kurt. Ya, I love the anniversary emails - they are similar to birthday emails obviously. But have the added relevance of reflecting a past purchase, and potentially making it real easy to reorder it - or at least buy another product, possibly at a discount/with free shipping. Your tire examples are kind of re-order/cross sell/reminder/anniversary messages all wrapped into one!

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