Triggered! Three Email Campaigns to Increase Engagement and Boost ROI

Jen Ribble
by Jen Ribble 16 Jan, 2023

Building deep, meaningful customer relationships is the overarching goal of almost any email marketing program. But it's also a goal that's difficult to measure and build metrics around. That's why most email marketing programs are evaluated based on KPIs that are much more objective and concrete-things like opens, click throughs, and conversions.

What if there was a way to simultaneously create a personalized customer experience and also boost the performance metrics that marketers are judged on? Triggered messages can do just that.

As the name suggests, triggered messages are automated emails that are sent in response to a specific behavior or event. They come in many forms, including welcome messages, order and shipping confirmations, birthday emails, feedback messages, and more. When done correctly, triggered messages can create a personal, customized experience for your subscribers AND improve performance metrics-without the time and expense of many personalization techniques.

Let's take a look at some performance data and best practices for a few of the most common triggered message campaigns.

Welcome campaigns

First impressions are critical, and welcome messages are no exception. A good welcome message makes new subscribers feel valued, provides an introduction to your brand, and sets expectations as to what subscribers can expect going forward. Unfortunately, because they mark the start of a new relationship, welcome messages often face a tougher challenge than other campaigns-both with mailbox providers and recipients.

In the 2018 Email Marketing Lookbook, we found that welcome messages had both a low average inbox placement rate (84 percent) and a high average complaint rate (0.62 percent, compared to a recommended maximum of 0.02 percent). The low inbox placement rate indicates that mailbox providers are diverting these messages to spam at a higher than average rate. The elevated complaint rate is a sign that subscribers either don't remember signing up for these messages or don't like the content-or possibly both.

To help optimize your welcome messages, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Your welcome message should arrive in the subscriber's inbox within 24 hours of signup, while new subscribers still remember why they wanted to join your email program.
  2. Make it clear what subscribers can expect from your email program, including the type of content you'll be sending, how often, and the benefits of engaging with your brand.
  3. It may sound counterintuitive, but making it easy to unsubscribe can actually help limit complaints, which impact your ability to reach your more engaged customers. 

Abandoned cart messages

If you've ever shopped online, added items to your cart, and then stopped short of purchasing, odds are good you received an abandoned cart message. These triggered campaigns are frequently sent to remind shoppers of items they were considering, and encourage them to buy.

Recent research shows that abandoned cart messages have a relatively strong read rate (20 percent), but they're also frequently ignored by shoppers. So it's not enough just to send an abandoned cart message-you have to make sure it's worth opening, reading, and acting upon.

Here are some tips for creating an effective abandoned cart campaign:

  1. Abandoned cart messages should land in the inbox while the item is still fresh in the shopper's mind-typically within an hour or two of the shopping session.
  2. Make sure your subject line grabs the shopper's attention and remind them of the item they were considering.
  3. Indecision is a major driver of abandoned cart behavior; offering an incentive (like a discount or free shipping) may help to close the sale.
  4. This is also a great opportunity to showcase alternative products the customer might like, including related products, similar items, or "customer favorites."

Birthday emails

Everyone likes to feel special on their special day, and birthday emails-with or without an accompanying discount offer-are a great way to personalize your customer experience. Because they only target each customer once per year, they're a relatively low cost, low maintenance email campaign to execute. Yet very few brands actually send birthday emails, likely because they aren't collecting date of birth information as part of their signup process.

Our Lookbook study shows that customers generally appreciate the personal touch of a birthday email. These campaigns experience a relatively high read rate of 23 percent, and are highly likely to be "rescued" out of the spam folder and moved to the inbox.

Implementing a birthday email campaign is relatively simple:

  1. Be sure to include a "date of birth" field in your email opt-in form. Explaining that you'll send something special on their special day may encourage more subscribers to share this information.
  2. If you include an offer or discount, allow enough time to use it. Customers will appreciate your gesture much more if they don't feel rushed to use it.
  3. As an alternative to birthday emails, consider a "shopper anniversary" campaign based on the date of the customer's first purchase. Loyalty should be rewarded, and first purchase data is easily accessible for most brands.

About the Author: Jen Ribble is Director of Public Relations at Return Path.