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Utilize Transaction Communications to Increase Customer Value

by: bgramer (@IBMforMarketing)
06 August 2007

Consumers are bombarded with nearly 4,000 advertising messages per day coming from sources such as billboards, radio, TV, email, direct mail, indoor advertising, outdoor advertising, banner ads, PPC, point-of-purchase, newspaper, magazines, search engines, and many more. As a result they have become experts at tuning advertisers out and turning them off.  For example, 85% of people with Tivo don’t watch any TV commercials.

How do you cut through the clutter?  Seth Godin says companies need to practice permission based marketing techniques, or they stand a good chance of being tuned out by tired consumers.  I happen to agree with Mr. Godin.   In fact, I believe if companies are overly intrusive something worse can happen - they can start creating a negative brand, and as a result they could actually be spending extra money to decrease awareness and alienate loyal customers. So what should marketers do? What tactics can a marketer use to become a permission based marketer?  One of the best tactics is utilizing transaction based communications to subtly introduce additional products/services or build deeper relationships with current customers.

What are transaction-based communications? Communications generally created and distributed by Financial, Operations, Technical, and Customer Service departments, such as invoices, statements, receipts, confirmations, reminders, and alerts.  Marketers need to embrace these communications as opportunities to create additional awareness and corporate goodwill.  The communications should be customer centric, meaning helpful to customers and empathetic to their problems, needs, or wants.  Finally, the communications need to be delivered at the time and via the channel most convenient to the customer.  One industry that could utilize this technique is the financial industry and banks in particular.

I have banked with several banks over the years ranging from large national banks to small local banks.  I currently maintain relationships with six financial and banking institutions and utilize their online banking services.  And I’m not the only person banking online.  Jupiter Research projects the number of U.S. households banking online to jump from 29.6 million in 2003 to 56 million by 2008, and the percentage of those paying bills online to increase from 50% in 2003 to 85% in 2008.

Even though a large percentage of customers are banking online, very few banks offer the ability to receive banking statements via email or RSS feeds.  In addition, when confirmation is received for an online transaction via email, most often it directs the consumer to a web-page to print the receipt. And very often organizations miss a great opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell additional products or services as very few confirmations or receipts provide additional marketing messages on how the company can help me further. Here is an example of how this opportunity could be seized by the financial industry in particular.

Scenario: Online transfer of money, from one account to another or from an account to debtor. Solution: A bank or financial institution retains a vault of data on each customer.  This data should be used to send valuable information in addition, and in contrast, to the details of the transaction.  For example, they could include a message alerting me to interest rate changes and link it to a personalized landing page with more information. Or, the message could include information about college savings plans for my children or new retirement plans available.

The messages should be different for different audiences; and should be conversational, rather then promotional in nature. Using the vault of data, they could be very personalized and empathize with each customer’s life situation and provide solutions relevant in each instance.  With the marketing automation technology available today, this strategy is manageable, repeatable and streamlined.

In any industry, it’s more cost effective to retain existing customers then it is to attract new customers.  I used the banking industry as an example, but any industry can benefit from including subtle marketing messages within transactional emails in order to increase the value of existing customers.




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