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How Top Retailers Use Transactional Email: Revenue Boosting Tactics

To determine how top online retailers use transactional emails, Silverpop studied the messages sent to recipients immediately following an online purchase. Findings from the report, titled "How Top Retailers Use Transactional Emails," reveal how some companies capitalize on using this targeted marketing channel to cross-sell and up-sell relevant products to customers, while others fail to exploit the full potential of transactional email marketing.

To identify best practices, Silverpop's Strategic Research Group purchased items from 84 of the top online retailers as identified by Internet Retailer magazine. Each transactional email was evaluated for subject line branding, personalization, layout elements, promotional content and various administrative elements.

Key findings of the study include the following:

Few transactional emails included promotional copy. Just one in five retailers studied promoted other products within transactional emails. "Far too many companies allow their companies' IT departments to send static, text-only messages," O'Gorman said. "When control over transactional messaging resides outside of the marketing function, the emails often lack cross-sell and up-sell promotional content that can boost revenue."

When adding promotional content to transactional messages, she cautioned marketers to keep in mind that there are certain legal complexities to take into account. It's best to consult with legal counsel with respect to complete regulatory interpretations and compliance requirements.

Nearly six out of 10 emails were HTML. The creativity afforded by HTML emails helps marketers boost returns. Lacking strong branding, text messages generally simply confirmed the purchase order.

Utilizing HTML formatting that includes essential branding elements is a strong way to enhance customer loyalty and even increase revenue," O'Gorman said. "Not only do HTML emails look better, they are measurable."

Deliverability issues stymied some retailers: Six percent of the transactional emails received landed in recipients' junk folders. "Perhaps more retailers would take the time to ask recipients to white list their addresses if they realized how many of their messages - including critical transactional emails - were landing in recipients' junk folders," O'Gorman said.

More companies requested opt-ins than additional purchases: A larger percentage of retailers used the transactional message to promote their commercial email programs than to cross-sell or up-sell customers. Sixty-eight percent of companies that offer emails as part of their marketing programs included a link in the transactional email to opt-in.

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