Triggered Email Secrets Green Dart on Bullseye

Triggered Email Secrets from 7 Successful Marketers

I have a secret: a few days ago, my lunch pretty much consisted of a stop at a hip ice cream shop to enjoy a cone with a scoop of my favorite flavor: “Secret Breakfast,” which mixes bourbon-flavored caramel and corn flakes in a sweet cream base. First of all, yum. But it also reminded me how important creativity and surprise can be as marketing tools. Every scoop shop offers bread-and-butter flavors like chocolate and vanilla, but it’s the other buzz-worthy varieties that define their brands. (And I say this as an avowed vanilla-lover.) But what triggered email secrets can I learn from ice cream? 

Think about workhorse triggered emails. Welcome messages, transaction receipts, and shipping notifications probably come to mind. They’re functionally important, and they form the foundation of any successful email program. That’s why every email marketer needs to understand the basics of triggered emails. If you’re in the retail industry, you’ve probably become familiar with how to use triggered email in retail. But what about some unexpected flavors? Today, I’m going to let you in on seven triggered email secrets that you can use to mix up your vanilla programs and drive increased engagement.

1. Onboarding Nudge

Here’s one of my triggered email secrets: there aren’t many people who love onboarding emails more than I do. In its most basic form, onboarding begins with a staple of triggered email—a simple welcome message. However, onboarding also encompasses many additional opportunities to engage with recipients with triggered emails. Here’s one example of an effective form of onboarding. The message breaks the process into easy-to-digest steps and encourages the recipient to take the first step towards engagement.

Triggered Email Secrets #1: Onboarding by Headspace

  • Who: Headspace
  • Trigger: N-days since account creation without taking action
  • Why it works: This email makes it seem easy to achieve the desired action by emphasizing that it takes just 10 minutes.

2. Customer Preferences Solicitation

Guess what? The second triggered email secret I’d like to share is another onboarding message! In this follow-up to an initial welcome message, the recipient is asked to define her or his messaging preferences and some other key demographic information. The benefit to the merchant is clear: not only has a new customer taken a further step to engage with the site, but also has shared explicit data that serves as a foundation for future successful email marketing.

Triggered Email Secrets #2: Preferences by Steve Madden

  • Who: Steve Madden
  • Trigger: New user sign-up
  • Why it works: To sweeten the deal, Steve Madden offers a discount and call-to-action that feels like a win-win.

3. Second Purchase Thank You

Along with a welcome email, a thank you is a cornerstone of any triggered email program. It’s good manners—and represents a step towards building a personalized relationship with a customer. But the secret of this triggered email from Art of Play is that they noted I recently made a second purchase.

Triggered Email Secrets #3: Thank You by Art of Play

  • Who: Art of Play
  • Trigger: Second purchase
  • Why it works: As a customer, I feel really appreciated. The marketer in me understands that Art of Play is using good segmentation to note that I’ve suddenly become a high-value customer to them.

4. First Shipment Notification

Like thank you notes, shipment notifications are a workhorse of any triggered email program. But look at this follow-up to a first shipment notification from Amazon. The email is actually an optimally-timed onboarding message. Rather than overwhelming me with site features related to order tracking when I first sign up, it’s instead sent just when I first need it. That’s smart, and one of the triggered email secrets of Amazon’s success.

Triggered Email Secrets #4: Shipment Notification by Amazon

  • Who: Amazon
  • Trigger: First order shipment
  • Why it works: Shipment and order tracking tools are introduced to a new user at precisely the time she or he would find that information helpful.

5. Product Feedback Request

There’s no question that customer reviews are an important part of today’s retail marketer toolkit. However, not every merchant takes the time to explicitly ask for that feedback. Even fewer senders ask for feedback at just the right time, when a customer is most motivated and still noticing first impressions of the product. Consequently, an email triggered by order shipment (or better yet, delivery confirmation) is the secret to success with messages like this.

Triggered Email Secrets #5: Feedback by Banana Republic

  • Who: Banana Republic
  • Trigger: N-days after order shipped
  • Why it works: Timing is everything. Banana Republic’s note arrived in my inbox the day after I opened the package.

6. First Date Anniversary

Anniversaries, birthdays, and other key dates are opportunities to send messages to customers in a way that feels delightful, rather than like just one more marketing pitch. They’re also good building blocks for adding emotional qualities to the relationship you have with each recipient. This note celebrates the anniversary of a customer’s first transaction with ModCloth, and the promotional discount and social sharing features work well to drive additional transactions and brand reengagement.

Triggered Email Secrets #6: First Date Anniversary by ModCloth

  • Who: ModCloth
  • Trigger: 6 months after account creation
  • Why it works: Like a thank-you note, this celebratory message helps the customer feel appreciated, while the promotional discount and brand reengagement also happen to be great for business.

7. Inactivity and Reengagement Feeler

One of the best practices for any email marketer is making sure that recipients genuinely want to receive messages from you. That means a lot more than the minimum of opt-in (or even double opt-in). “List hygiene”—the regular culling of inactive and other problematic addresses—is a key part of ensuring high performing, highly-deliverable email that sends all the right signals to ISPs about user engagement. It’s also part of a winning engagement strategy that conveys to your customers that you treat them with respect. That’s why this message from Return Path is so successful. It serves an important functional goal, is highly engaging, and it’s a winning example of the sort of secret triggered email that more marketers should use.

Triggered Email Secrets #7: Reengagement by Return Path

  • Who: Return Path
  • Trigger: Period of inactivity/unread emails
  • Why it works: This message walks the walk of email best practices—and makes a “dull” list hygiene task anything but boring.

Triggered Email Is the Secret to Great Customer Engagement

These seven emails break out of the box. All are great examples of triggered email secrets for driving customer engagement. They overachieve on key metrics such as open rate, because the sender tailors them to the recipient’s needs and context. These examples also demonstrate a commitment to building an individualized relationship with the recipient.

What are some of your triggered email secrets? I want to hear your tips and tricks and what kinds of email are your own secret top performers.

—Brent
@brentsleeper

Triggered-Guide_Dev-Blogs_600x200_0816

Error Logging

Mistakes happen. It’s a fact of life. But, mistakes are often a precursor to growth…as long as you learn from them!

Early on after launching our service, the SparkPost support team occasionally received feedback from customers who tried to sign up for one of our paid tiers, explaining that the transaction failed. Not only did that stink for our customers, but it was a real pain point for us as well. We knew that sort of error couldn’t continue unchecked, so we decided to get to the bottom of this frustrating problem.

We integrate with a third party for payment processing, and the third-party system sometimes responds to a request with what’s essentially an unknown error. Super helpful! In most cases, we were able to surface a more helpful error to the user based on logic that parses the response. But up until a few months ago, we had zero visibility into the unknown errors. We had no way to help our customers, and no way to learn from the problem! After looking at a few more third-party solutions, we decided to leverage functionality our current stack already provided.

Some updates to our Angular-based UI and our Nginx web server was all it took. And while we were at it, we went ahead and used the approach to log uncaught exceptions, too. In the front-end portion of our application, we built a simple service for posting errors to Nginx. We just have to get the username from the session, along with the error response and data posted, and post it back to our logs. (Of course, for compliance reasons, we never deal with actual credit card information; our third-party service takes care of that.) No need to catch a rejected promise in the service either, because for our case, we don’t have a need for handling failed log attempts.

From the Nginx side, we’re able to customize our log format by leveraging the built in directives and variables available in the core module as well as the log and proxy modules. In our case, we’re using the access_log and log_format directives, and the $msec variable from the log module. Then $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for from the proxy module. We get $http_user_agent and $request_body from the core module. With that in place, we can easily see information about the request, in addition to the data being sent from the UI.

Finally, back to our front-end code and the case of uncaught exceptions. Angular comes with a global application exception handler $exceptionHandler that does exactly that. In our case, we use the $provide service’s $decorator method to add additional behavior. It’s called in the config phase callback, so that the decorator can intercept the service creation, and we use the $delegate method to retain the exception handlers base functionality.

As any JavaScript developer will know, we have a lot of new tools at our disposal today. But, by knowing your existing tools well, you can arrive at simple, clean solution that addresses your problem without having to pull in extra dependencies, and without the need to learn additional APIs.

Now, whenever our support team needs to assist customers with their subscriptions, we’re able to quickly access additional details, and as an added bonus, we have an easy way to gain insight into exceptions within our application to prevent future occurrences! Learning from this previously frustrating error turned out to be an opportunity for improving the customer experience—and for making the internals of our application better, as well.