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When most online retailers think about email marketing, they often just think about sending monthly newsletters or information about sales.

But email marketing is so much more than that.

In fact, every email you send to a potential, current, or former customer is an opportunity to provide value and have a sales conversation.

The following are examples of how major ecommerce brands are using 'transaction emails' to boost their sales during the buying process - and what you can learn from them.

1. The Shopping Cart Abandonment Email

The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 67.44%. That's a lot of ecommerce dollars being left on the table. 

What can you do to get those customers back to your checkout page so they complete their order?

For customers whose information you already have, such as those who have created an account on your website, you can send them a friendly email reminder that they left something in their cart.

Here's a great example of this kind of email from Kerastase:

How this works is typically within 12-24 hours of your customer entering their information and abandoning their item(s) in your store, you send them a reminder that they still have items waiting for them. Often customers just want to get to the last step in the checkout so they can see the final charges with shipping costs included or they simply get distracted from their shopping experience.

The example email above in particular is great because it shows the product the customer added to their shopping cart (with an image) and gently nudges them back to the store. It's also personalized and adds a little extra incentive with the 'same day shipping' offer. Finally, it uses a great call to action button which makes the desired action crystal clear.

However, there is one flaw to this email’s design. A lot of email services will hide images in email until the recipient (your customer) tells it to display them. If they don’t allow their email service to display the images for this email, all they will see is this:

As you can see, without images enabled this email conveys almost zero information.

In other words, you need to have the main message included in the email in text so that the customer will see it immediately when they open your email.

Walmart, on the other hand, takes the approach of a mostly text based email for people who abandon their shopping cart after logging in to their account. Even without images enabled, customers will know exactly what the message contains and where to go next:

But this email isn't perfect either. It doesn’t tell the customer what is in their shopping cart. This makes them miss the opportunity to get their customer excited about the item(s) they were about to purchase.

Thus, the keys to a successful shopping cart abandonment email are the following.

  • Put the main message in text format so customers will see it right away without having to enable images. This includes a link back to their shopping cart.
  • Remind the customer about the specific item(s) in their shopping cart, awaiting purchase so they can get excited about them again.
  • Remind them about a specific incentive, such as free shipping or current availability.
  • Have a clear call to action.

Note that when it comes to incentives you offer in your shopping cart abandonment email, you might want to think carefully about offering a coupon or discount. Why? You will train your customers to put items in their shopping cart and leave so they can get money off of their item(s).

An alternative, if applicable, is reminding the customer that the product is currently on special for a limited time. This leverages the power of scarcity and will hopefully motivate them to return and make their purchase quickly.

2. The Order Confirmation Email

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 - 70% according to Marketing Metrics. This means that once a customer has made a purchase, there's a better chance you can get them to make another one by using your order confirmation email as a marketing tool.

GoDaddy does this well by including a coupon code for your next purchase in your order confirmation email:

What’s great about this email is the promo code is bright, bold, and above the information about the order you just placed.

GoDaddy also offers related products to choose from based on your purchase.

While this can be a great way to increase sales, be sure that you carefully consider whether trying to sell again right away to a brand new customer is worth it.

Your new customer probably won’t cancel their order just because you approached them to make another purchase, but they also might not take up the offer if they're a first time shopper.

This may be a better strategy for your repeat customers as opposed to new ones. As an alternative, you could ask first time buyers to 'like' your business on Facebook which may be a more palatable option for them at this stage in the relationship.

The key takeaway is that order confirmation emails are an important opportunity to not only reassure your customers about their purchase, but also provide ways for them to extend the relationship with your business whether it be through another sale, an app download or a call to action to follow you on social media. 

3. The Shipping Confirmation Email

Just like order confirmation emails, shipping confirmation emails are another opportunity for you to get creative.

For example, instead of asking customers to make another purchase for themselves you can ask them to make a purchase for someone else.

The shipping confirmation email is a good one because your customer is excited about the prospect of receiving their purchase. So much so, in fact, that you can ride this wave of excitement by getting them to consider gifting your product(s) to their friends and family.

Check out how BarkBox does this:

Alternatively, you can always use your shipping confirmation email to encourage your customers to make another purchase for themselves:

The only drawback on the above email from Express is that the calls to action in this email are not personalized to the customer’s purchase. It would be much more effective if they noted the customer’s purchase was a pair of slacks, and the ads were targeted to shirts and ties instead of suits or women’s clothing.

Thus, the keys to a successful email after shipping an order are the following.

  • Make it easy for your customer to track their order. Include the expected delivery date and tracking number linked to the shipping company so people can click once to see exactly where their order is in the shipping process.
  • Suggest that the customer forward a link to the item purchased to a friend.
  • Include product suggestions that match their purchase.

Why is it so important to make the customer’s most recent order so easily to track? You want to do this to reassure them that their order is being delivered (and that your business is trustworthy), get them excited, and make the customer happy - a happy customer is more likely to share their shopping experience with others.

4. The Customer Feedback Email

One email that brands usually do not push marketing into is the feedback / survey email after a customer has presumably received and used their product. Toys R Us, for example, includes a sweepstakes with their survey email.

And here's a survey email from Moo, the printing company:

What's the difference between these two emails? While Moo sends the customer to a third party survey tool for feedback, Toys R Us sends customers to a survey on their own website. This makes it easy to encourage their (hopefully) satisfied customer to start shopping once their review is completed.

Thus, the keys to a successful email for feedback are the following:

  • Focus on customer satisfaction - not sales - so you can get your customer’s thoughts on their purchase.
  • Place the review / survey form on your website so the customer can be presented with offers and products after submitting their feedback.
  • Include the review on the product page as user generated content to help boost future buyer’s confidence.

While encouraging future purchases from satisfied customers is easy, what about those who are less than happy with their purchase? Make sure that your system follows up with an email that offers to help make that customer happy. As mentioned earlier, it’s easier to make sales with existing customers than new ones, so focus on customer retention more than acquisition when possible.

Summary

When you send an email to your customers, you're having a conversation with them in their most personal online environment - their inbox. In other words, you need to make every email count. 

Getting creative with transaction emails can be an effective way to not only be transparent with your customers about their purchases, but also get them back to your store for repeat sales. 

What marketing tactics do you currently build into your transaction emails? Have they been effective for you? Let us know in the comments.