Automated Email Program Success: A Phased Approach

Many of the retail/ecommerce companies I meet with are enjoying great success with their broadcast and manually segmented email-marketing programs. Even better, they want to take their programs to the next level by adding automated email programs to generate significant revenue on top of their broadcast email revenue.

However, many of these marketers get stuck in the email hamster wheel: They're churning out more and more broadcast emails but launching only a few automated programs.

The biggest stumbling block for many marketers is not knowing which program or programs to tackle first. Or, if they do decide where to start, they think they can't launch the new program until it's in its best-practices final development.

Take a Phased Approach

This perfectionist attitude derails more programs than it launches. I recommend instead taking a phased approach, which begins with a basic framework and uses goals and benchmarks to progress toward a more sophisticated program.



This approach has multiple benefits over trying to launch a complete new program:

•   Speed: The goal is to get an email program (probably a single automated email) up and running in one to two months at most. The longer you put off the launch, the more money you leave on the table.

•   Resources: A simple approach might require fewer resources. You might not even need additional budgets or integrations with third-party vendors.

•   Content: You can probably tweak some existing content and make it work in a very short time.

•   Simplicity: Creating a single, static email might take a few hours. Developing a series of dynamic emails with integrations and complex business rules can take months.

•   Testing and Learning: You can launch using a content, offer or timing approach consistent with best practices, but continual testing of variables will determine the best approach for your company.

•   Integrations and Data Flows. A simple Phase 1 launch approach can uncover some issues or challenges with data integrations or how the data is triggering the emails. Better to get these data issues corrected or reconfigured while the program is still simple.

How to Phase In a New Automated Email Program

There's no single "best" way to launch a new email program with a phased approach. So much depends on your department size, budget, management support, other responsibilities besides email, etc.

I've created a basic template that would work with a typical automated email program, illustrated with a shopping cart recovery program:

1. Create a base-level single email with static content.  Send a general email reminding customers to come back and complete their purchase, including a link to the cart page, within 24 hours.

2. Create additional emails that turn the single email into a series.  Schedule reminder emails to go out at set times, such as two days and five days after the initial reminder email, each with service-oriented copy and a progressive approach to any offers, if used. Add photos and descriptions of the abandoned product(s) to each email.

3. Move the initial email to real-time delivery. Instead of batching reminder emails 18-24 hours after abandonment, send the first message within minutes.

4. Add dynamic content, such as recommendations or top sellers. Personalize the cart reminders to include related recommended products, top sellers, review ratings and testimonials.

5. Test and tweak offers, promotions and business rules and segmentation. Test what effect the type of offers (or lack of) in your reminder emails has on conversions, order value, etc. Test different offers based on customer and/or cart value.

6. Test and tweak series timing and cadence. Test the timing of each reminder email and addition of potentially a fourth or fifth email to your series of three emails, for example.

7. Improve message content and design. Test and tweak copy and layout, adding more personality and  a more "human" voice, for example,  as well as helpful tips and videos, core value propositions, mobile-friendly layout, etc.

This phased rollout will help you get your new email program off the drawing board and generating revenue much more quickly. What other techniques have you used to get your automated email programs launched within weeks rather than months? Please share below.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

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