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Omnichannel commerce | Email

11 Best Practices for Transactional Emails

image: illustration of an email inbox
Take advantage of the higher open rates for order confirmations and other transactional emails by making those messages especially engaging

Transactional emails—order confirmations, customer-service replies, and other responses to consumer actions—are operational necessities. But they're also fabulous opportunities for you to further engage with consumers. Such emails have more than twice the open rate of nontransactional emails, according to Silverpop's 2015 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study, and three times the click-through rate.


Since recipients are highly likely to open transactional emails, you want to make these messages work especially hard. In its white paper "Transactional Emails: 10 Tips for Driving More Value and Engagement," IBM offers the following advice:




Send transactional emails ASAP.

Consumers expect immediate email confirmation—even if it's just a message letting them know that their transaction was received and that a follow-up email with more-detailed information is forthcoming.




Use a readily identifiable sender name.

"Customer service" and "Do not reply" are not sender names that encourage recipients to open the email; if anything, they encourage recipients to dump them straight into the trash. Be sure your company's name is in the from line.




Write a detailed subject line.

We mentioned that transactional emails have higher open rates than nontransactional messages. But to really maximise them, IBM suggests going beyond "Order confirmation" as a subject line toward something more specific, such as "Your order of Premium Blue Widgets." "A default confirmation subject line is better than none," IBM notes, "especially if it goes out in real time after a transaction, but you'll build trust and value with a personalised one."




Add secondary information in the preheader.

In many inboxes, the preheader, which is the very first line of text in an email, appears after the subject line. Particularly if your subject line is short, there's an excellent chance that at least part of the preview pane will be visible to recipients before they open (or delete) the email. Yet many senders waste their preview pane on boilerplate copy such as "View this email online." "Consider using a simple 'Order Confirmation,' 'Order has been shipped,' or the product name (or first for multiple-item purchase) if this wording isn't in the subject line," IBM advises.




Answer your recipient's question in the message copy.

Customers who ordered online want to be sure that you received their order, that the payment went through, and that they ordered the correct products—that they didn't accidentally order a size 8 instead of a size 10, for instance. So your confirmation email should be as detailed as possible, listing all products by name (and preferably with a photo), with the price paid and the method of payment.


Similarly, if you're responding to a customer service query, your body copy should remind them of their question or concern as well as exactly what you're doing to remedy their problem. And if they've just signed up to receive marketing emails, you want to onboard them not only with a thank-you but also with information about your company's benefits and distinguishing features that will make them glad that they've opted in.


You also want to provide them with follow-up information, such as whether they need to schedule a delivery appointment, how they can track the delivery online, and when they can expect delivery. "Add branding (logos, colors, etc.) and some personality to replicate a real-life 'thank you' experience," IBM suggests. "Include other content to make the transaction memorable, such as the hotel manager's greeting in a reservation confirmation or a thank-you from your CEO."




Design for mobile screens.

For instance, use large, easy-to-tap buttons instead of text links; include only relevant images; opt for responsive design "to minimise or hide secondary information."




Go above and beyond the transaction.

Among IBM's suggestions are including links to product demo videos and user forums.




Add cross-sell or upsell suggestions.

If someone bought a bicycle, your order confirmation could include links to helmets, repair kits, or other items that would complement the purchase. Or perhaps you want to suggest he or she sign up for your loyalty programme or buy an extended warranty.




Encourage nonsubscribers to opt in to receive marketing emails.

Of course, it's not enough to just say "Please subscribe to our emails." You need to tell them of the benefits that await them, such as early access to sales and discounts.




Comply with email regulations governing unsubscribes and marketing content in transactional emails.

Depending on where you're located and where you're emailing, local antispam laws may restrict how much commercial or promotional content, such as cross-sell suggestions, your transactional email can feature and where in the message it can appear. Complying with these regulations is far more important than any other consideration.




If possible, send your transactional and your marketing emails from different web domains and IP addresses.

Yes, the white paper cited only 10 tips, but this appeared as a sidebar and seems worthy of calling out. By sending transactional emails from a different IP address, you can avoid delays should a mass send of a marketing email clog up the mail queue. And if your marketing IP is blocked by an email server or even blacklisted for some reason, your transactional emails won't be affected so long as they're sent from a different address.

author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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