Email As Experience: Punch Up Your Transactional Messages

Quality can be found everywhere these days. While it's still as important as ever to provide quality products and service, today's customers now look beyond quality for another value-add from your company. They're seeking that other big "E" (besides email, of course): a memorable experience. To stand out in the crowd, businesses now need to give customers something unique. Each touchpoint between customer and company contributes to this end-to-end experience, and email adds a crucial piece.

Transactional messages like membership confirmations and shipping notifications show some of the highest open rates in the inbox. Customers receiving these have already taken a step towards engaging with your company, and they wait ready for you to reach out and seal the deal. Don't miss a chance to give them something special at every turn.

Each part of your transactional message builds towards the experience you create:

(1) Brand. Include your company logo and colors to make transactional communication feel consistent with your other marketing materials. Your customers' experiences are all about their relationship with your unified brand.



(2) Use text treatments, color and graphics to maximize usability and legibility.

(3) Include navigation items relevant to the transaction so that everything customers might need is at their fingertips. Make their experience smooth and effortless.

(4) Show product photography and link product names back to your Web site to reinforce excitement around the purchase.

(5) Include customer service contact information -- and not just a URL, but a phone number with hours of availability. This tells customers that you want their experience with your brand to extend beyond the buy.

(4) Place the most relevant information in an upper-right "key details" module, well within the preview pane. No one wants to search for the crucial order and account details.

(6) Say "thank you." Don't forget your manners! Pay attention to tone and consider a letter format, which can feel more genuine and personal.

(8) Cross- and upsell relevant products to already-engaged buyers, especially if these products will add value to their experience with what they purchased before.

(9) Add valuable content and offers. For example, Coach includes an option allowing belated gifters to send recipients an email announcing the soon-to-arrive prize. REI takes this idea even further. They send a series of follow-up emails after major purchases that exclusively educate customers on how to best use their new gear.

(10) Protect the primary purpose of the message-to communicate a transaction. Follow guidelines regarding transactional-to-promotional content ratios and offer placement. Our resident Email Diva, Melinda Krueger, recently detailed this point in her article about marketing via transactional messages.

It's interesting to consider a question posed by authors Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore in their book "The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage": If you charged customers "admission" for their experience with you, what would you do differently? How would you make sure that the experience they were paying for was worth the ticket fee?

While I'm not about to recommend that you start charging customers to read your email, this line of thinking urges you to consider how to pack more punch into each part of your customers' experience with your company. Make it memorable, from start to finish.

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