Every email has a recipe. Sometimes it’s a really simple one, such as a transactional “Your order has shipped” message. Other times it’s a perfectly crafted concoction, like a personalized marketing message that tells the recipient about new products that have been chosen just for them, based on their purchase history.
Like fusion cuisine, you can also mix different kinds of emails to create something unique, such as putting a marketing message in an email that has an order confirmation or an account update notice. According to Experian, transactional emails are opened 8 times more often than regular marketing emails, so that gives you an opportunity to slip in a marketing message.
However, if you don’t do it right, you’ll end up with an email that leaves a bad taste in your customers’ mouths, so here are 7 things to keep in mind if you want to spice up your transactional emails.
1. Be careful with certain kinds of transactional emails
When looking at your suite of transactional emails and considering which ones could benefit from some marketing, consider how your customer will feel when they receive the messages.
If it’s an order confirmation or a shipping notice, they’ll likely be in a good mood. The same should apply for new account creations, as well as triggered emails that contain monthly account activity summaries and similar types of information. That means you can probably slip in a marketing message.
However, if the transactional email lets them know that a product they ordered is on backlog, or it’s a password reset, your customers probably won’t be as receptive to an additional marketing message. The same goes for triggered emails such as suspicious log-in attempts and notices about upcoming payment due dates.
While you’re conducting that email audit, it’s also a good time to check for outdated information, review the conditions that cause those emails to be sent out, and so forth. Even the copyright notice at the bottom of an email should be looked out to make sure it’s current.
2. Watch your mix of transactional and promotional messaging
A good rule of thumb is 90/10: Roughly 90% of your email should contain the primary information while about 10% can be reserved for a promotional component. You could probably adjust it to 85/15 if needed, but it’s a good idea not to push that ratio too far. Promotional content should almost always reside toward the bottom of the email unless there’s a really compelling reason for putting it near the top.
Not only do you have to worry about how customers will react to your email, but you also have to consider any laws that apply to marketing activities. For example, the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States notes that transactional emails are exempt as long as they don’t “contain false or misleading routing information.”
You should also be careful with your subject line since email providers will typically handle a transactional message differently from a pure marketing one. (Consider Gmail’s Promotions tab.) Your subject line should only refer to the primary purpose of the email, such as an order confirmation. It’s a good idea to follow the same rule with the preview text.
While it’s tempting to throw a little marketing spin into the subject line and/or preview text, you run the risk of irritating customers and causing them to flag your email as spam. That will not only damage customer loyalty but it will also hurt your sender reputation, which will make it tougher to reach people’s inboxes next time.
3. Try cross-sells
Amazon is one of the masters of this technique – in fact, they’ve said in the past that up to 35% of their revenue comes from cross-selling, thanks to the “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” notices that are found all over their site.
They’re also good at cross-selling after a purchase has been made, such as in this order confirmation email. Note that the bulk of the messaging applies to the email’s primary function.
This is an easy way to scoop up a few extra sales post-purchase, and you can even apply it to emails like product backlog notices. Yes, we noted in the introduction that consumers who receive such emails probably aren’t receptive to additional marketing, but cross-sells and upsells can be an exception to the rule. It’s an opportunity to let the customer know that even though the product they want isn’t available right now, there are similar items they might prefer instead.
4. Follow up after the purchase
Yes, this isn’t an example of putting transactional and promotional messaging in one email, but it is a way to leverage a sale for additional cross-selling or to simply follow up with some customer care. Making customers feel good about their purchase decisions doesn’t always lead to immediate additional sales, but it goes a long way toward creating goodwill that typically leads to loyalty.
This Apple email is a good example of a purchase follow-up. The buyer of an Apple Watch is invited to schedule a session with an Apple Specialist, and, of course, there’s a link to accessories at the bottom of the email.
5. Offer related information
Another less sales-y way to build goodwill with customers is to give them useful information, such as links to blog posts, how-to guides, and events, or short notes about things like referral programs.
You can also include relevant reminders, such as letting a customer know about mobile app deposits in a transactional email confirming an in-person deposit. And it never hurts to include links to your social media accounts, so customers can interact with you there.
This email from Airbnb does a good job of giving the user links to useful how-to information while confirming that their listing has been published, which is clearly stated in the subject line. The links address three concerns that many users are likely to have, so the email is a nice way of helping give them peace of mind.
6. Help people connect with the community around your business
People like to connect with each other in various ways, even if it’s as simple as reading product reviews. Just about any business can benefit from that, whether that means creating a forum where people can talk to each other, engaging customers on social media, or simply hosting product reviews and testimonials.
Appliance parts might seem like an unlikely topic of conversation, but Appliance Parts Pros has built a niche for itself by catering to do-it-yourselfers. This order confirmation email does a nice job of connecting its community by including links to relevant DIY stories with each part purchased. While the email could use some design tweaks, it’s a good example of building customer connections.
7. Check out examples of emails that do it right
In addition to the examples shown above, we wanted to close with an email that does a great job of balancing transactional information and promotional messaging. This order confirmation from Apple clearly lays out everything the customer needs to know about the expensive Apple Watch they ordered, since that’s what they’re likely most concerned about when they open the email.
The company leaves the promotional message for the end of the email. In typical Apple style, the email takes a Spartan approach, with minimal text and just a few images.