ATLANTA, January 17, 2007 -- With a growing number of consumers shopping online, more marketers are expressing interest in using transactional messages in new and effective ways, but few are harnessing the channel's full potential.
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.
"Because transactional emails reach customers at a time when they are most likely thinking about the company in a positive light, savvy marketers recognize the power of transactional emails to enhance customer relationships, solidify branding and cross-sell and up-sell additional products," said Silverpop Vice President of Strategy Elaine O'Gorman.
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 from Silverpop's "How Top Retailers Use Transactional Email" 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.
"Ultimately, transactional emails can be a robust tool for marketers," O'Gorman said. "By taking advantage of the high open rates of transactional emails and establishing brand loyalty at the time customers are most likely thinking about the company, top online retailers strengthen relationships with customers and drive revenue growth."
Silverpop is a leading provider of permission-based email marketing solutions, strategy and services, with offices throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom. Silverpop is the only company that has consistently appeared as one of the top five enterprise-oriented ESPs each of the last four years in JupiterResearch's annual analysis of ESPs. Best practices and white papers are available at www.silverpop.com.