customer experience, Why Transactional, Promotional Emails Rock for Marketers

Numbers from Silverpop's survey on email marketing confirm what many vendors have touted -- automated messages triggered by behaviors work —and the success of manual, blind ones are fading.

The email service provider, who many say coined the phrase "behavioral marketing," released findings this month from its 2014 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Report that included emails sent by nearly 3,000 brands across 40 countries throughout 2013.

One of the big lessons from the results for marketers?

"Marketers really need to capitalize on transactional emails," Loren McDonald, Silverpop’s VP of industry relations, told CMSWire. "Don’t overload your customers with promotional offers, but try suggesting related products or encourage reviews within transactional emails. This allows marketers to gain better insight on their customers while also creating the opportunity for upsells."

What the Numbers Say

Silverpop's survey revealed automated (personalized, nurtured, etc.) messages achieved an open rate nearly 15 percent higher and a click-through rate nearly 79 percent higher than their manual counterparts.

Other findings included:

  • Transactional messages (emails triggered automatically by behaviors like purchases or account activity) sent by companies with results in the top-quartile have open rates four times higher than median open rates for non-transactional messages
  • Transactional messages also achieved a median click-through rate of 4.2 percent and click-to-open rate of 15.1 percent, compared to non-transactional messages at 1.5 and 9.9 percent, respectively
  • The overall median hard-bounce rate was just under 0.04 percent, indicating email marketers made list hygiene a priority in 2013
  • Top quartile performers’ automated messages achieved click-through rates nearly 60 percent higher than manual sends and open rates more than double the median and five to 22 times higher than bottom-quartile performers

Surprises, Anyone? 

McDonald told us he was surprised by numbers from the list churn metrics. The overall median hard-bounce rate of just under 0.04 percent, he said, is a 95 percent decline from last year

"While we typically don’t compare year-to-year results in this study, the stats were different enough this year to warrant a response," he said. "This is most likely indicative of marketers really paying attention to list hygiene: ensuring their messages are falling into the hands of people who actually want to read them."   

The high performance of transactional messages did not surprise McDonald. "It makes sense: transactional messages are things like receipts, shipping confirmation or a password reset," he said. "These are emails that are important and valuable to the recipient, so it makes sense they’ll be opening them more often."

The Lowdown on Personalization

Silverpop's numbers confirm what many have said: personalized messages and one-to-one marketing rule today. McDonald explained:

Customers today are busy, and marketers need to provide promotions, content and information when it’s best for the customer, not the marketing department. This requires a shift in thinking for many teams. Personalization doesn’t just mean 'Hi First Name.' It means providing content and offers that are most relevant to the customer’s needs and preference, when they are most likely to make a purchase and on the channel they prefer."

Remember, as McDonald pointed out to us: It’s easy to hit delete on an email:

But if the recipient feels like the message contains some type of value for them, they are more likely to engage. For example, if you employ Web tracking on your company website and a user is browsing women’s handbags repeatedly, send an automated message that contains the merchandise they were viewing. If they don’t convert on that message, consider an additional email that contains some sort of promotional offer."

If you feel like your email marketing program lags behind, start with “quick win” programs, McDonald said. Something like a "happy birthday/special occasion program" or "even cart or browse abandonment if the team is not yet employing those."

"These types of programs are small, but can drive huge results," he told CMSWire. "Once they start to show ROI, it is easier to build more complicated programs and prove email’s worth to the executive team."

No More Blasts?

So are non-targeted email blasts dead? McDonald said:

The email blast will never die mainly because it works for a lot of companies. But, instead of blasting to an entire database weekly or daily, consider asking for your recipients’ preferences on frequency. Also, try incorporating more behavior-based emails into your overall strategy in addition to the 'blasts.' This will allow for some results comparison and provide a little something to make a particular email program stand out from the rest."

Not Alone in Numbers

Silverpop wasn't the only one studying success with email marketing this month.

Experian Marketing Services' email marketing best practices study this month found abandoned cart emails have significantly higher revenue per email than promotional mailings. Part of its Q1 2014 Email Benchmark Report, Experian revealed that personalized abandoned cart emails that show the actual customer cart had 25 percent higher transaction rates than abandoned cart emails that just linked back to the brand’s Website.

And personalized subject lines had 12 percent higher unique open rates than mailings without personalization.

Based on its numbers, Experian said marketers should:

  • Deliver abandoned cart emails in a three-part series. Brands that send second abandoned cart reminders had a 50 percent increase in abandoned cart revenue compared to just their first abandoned cart mailing. Those sending three mailings saw a 56 percent increase in revenue compared to just sending the initial abandoned cart email.
  • Test including an offer. Including an offer in the first abandoned cart mailing boosted transaction rates by 54 percent. The highest transaction rates for offers were for dollar-off offers (2.05 percent), followed by free shipping (1.87 percent) and percent off (1.15 percent) offers.

“Mastering email remarketing through a series of personalized content can have a real and direct impact on a brand’s bottom line,” Peter DeNunzio, general manager for cross-channel marketing at Experian Marketing Services, said in a statement.

We’re seeing that brands that are able to ‘test and learn’ their way to personalization are particularly successful as they embrace cross-channel programs. By understanding the impact of timing, creative messaging and personalization -- and adopting a continuous improvement mindset -- brands are incorporating cross-channel tactics more seamlessly in their remarketing strategies.”