Beyond the Beginning: Refining Your Triggered Email Program in the Age of Personalization

Triggered emails, defined as an email deployed when an individual takes an action or meets a condition defined by the sender, has been around since the early 2000s (SmartInsights).

When someone signs up for an email program, they might receive a welcome email, which is a very common form of triggered email. Some other common types of triggered emails are welcome emails, educational series, abandoned cart emails, or date-baked emails (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).

The world of triggered email is very complex, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to set up a triggered email program of your own yet, fear not! Nearly 50% of senders are still working on getting their programs up and running.

The main steps to setting up an effective triggered email program are:

  • Step I: Situation Analysis
    Begin with a review of your current capabilities. Determine the key segments for your email program.
  • Step II: Establish Framework
    Once you have completed an evaluation of your triggered email program capabilities, the next step is to establish the framework for your future triggered message strategy.
  • Step III: Create Testing and Implementation Plan
    Not only is testing a helpful way to optimize your triggered email strategy, it’s also the key to ensuring continued success.

For more insight on how to get started with an effective triggered email solution, check out this blog.

Once you have your triggered email program up and running (a feat in and of itself), there are still so many opportunities to test and refine your program. According to a study executed by Epsilon, triggered email messages average 71% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than “business as usual” marketing emails. Even more impressive, marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue (Campaign Monitor, 2019). These statistics expose a huge opportunity to create an even more effective triggered email program – one highly focused on personalization and micro-segmentation.

But what exactly does that mean for your email program?

Personalization has been a hot topic in the marketing world for some time now. For email, personalization is a targeting method in which an email appears to have been created for a single subscriber. It is widely accepted audiences prefer personalized messages, and it’s been shown to boost open rates and engagement.

Personalization techniques include:

  • Adding a subscriber’s name to the subject line or message body
  • Creating user segments based on prior purchases or demographics
  • Using a subscriber’s location to create email content for their region
  • Social media integration
  • Responsive design to optimize the appearance of content viewed through different devices

Micro-segmentation is a relatively new concept email marketers are beginning to implement for their programs. Beyond traditional segments such as active, loyal, unengaged, etc., micro-segments take complex data and demographic background to form extremely nuanced groups and improve the performance of your email programs. Behavioral data may include engagement with email, actions taken on the site or social media, and more. Demographics could include age, location, and relationship status.

When it comes to these concepts, the more data collected from your subscribers the better. Many senders collect only email addresses from their subscribers or leads to create less of a barrier to convert. However, there is a growing amount of brands adopting a different strategy.

These brands have been able to identify opportunities to progressively profile their customers and build more robust data profiles, leading to better opportunities for segmentation and conversion. They achieve this by providing consumers with a clear picture of why providing more information is beneficial and will lead to a better subscriber experience.

Great examples

A common strategy we are seeing across B2C brands, who have historically struggled with a longer opt-in process, is to provide a more personalized approach to their audience from the beginning. This allows for better product recommendations, and typically involves some sort of survey or form-fill promising to provide a tailored experience for their subscribers. Some great examples include:

Health and Nutrition: HUM Nutrition

Through a 13-question, in-depth quiz, HUM Nutrition starts their subscriber relationship on an incredibly detailed level. Historically, subscribers might have been wary to provide so much information, but in the age of personalization, people are seeking products and recommendations that will ensure the best possible brand experience.

HUM capitalizes on this willingness by providing a personalized journey for each subscriber from the very start. Their follow-up email takes users to a personalized profile, complete with verified reviews from actual customers, and access to a nutritionist. This complex triggered program sets HUM up for converting subscribers from the very first email, complete with a coupon to get their users started. This is a fantastic example of how brands can capitalize on the personalization momentum in their triggered emails.

Retail: Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix takes a simple approach with a three-question quiz, which helps identify each subscriber’s personal style. After users submit their email address, the quiz continues. This way might be a little more palatable for brands who are afraid of giving their subscribers too many chances to abandon a quiz before submitting their email address.

If you are looking for more detailed information from a subscriber via survey, consider offering an incentive to sweeten the deal, such as the chance to win a gift card.

B2B: HubSpot

When it comes to B2B senders, the strategy differs quite a bit. In the past, gated forms have provided the opportunity for these brands to capture more information from their subscribers in exchange for more or better premiums. However, if a brand asks for too much information, their conversion rates typically drop. HubSpot does a fantastic job of balancing these issues within their resource center.

HubSpot does a great job of identifying which pieces of content on their site warrant gated fields. The more information HubSpot is offering, the more information the user needs to provide in order to access it. Much of their content on the site requires only an email address, but they provide the opportunity to progressively profile their subscribers by asking for different information for subsequent assets.

Another example of their best-in-class technique is their unchecked subscription box. Not only are their gated forms strategically placed throughout their resources center, they are compliant as well!

Transactional email

When it comes to personalization, transactional email can draw from previous purchases to provide more relevant email experiences. A good example of personalized transactional emails comes from Lego:

This email is personalized to the shopper’s cart and encourages the individual to return to finalize their purchase. The template has a branded look and feel, but the dynamic elements (abandoned cart items) are still tailored to each shopper.

Many brands offer a coupon for individuals who abandon their carts as an incentive to return. While this historically has been an effective strategy, many shoppers have become wise to the tactic. If your brand is able to put together a multi-touch abandoned cart email, it would be best to save a coupon or discount offer until the final touch in the series to avoid shoppers strategically abandoning carts to save money. Sneaky.

You might be wondering how brands capture some of this data after the initial subscription process without the use of a detailed quiz. Progressive profiling and preference centers offer the option to add the element of personalization to your triggered email program. A great example of this comes from Prose:

This email offers the subscriber several opportunities to update their information, yet includes personalized elements the brand already collected about the subscriber (such as location).

With all of the different ways personalization can be applied to your program, there are some key items to keep in mind:

Privacy policies
As you collect data from your subscribers, it is important you remain compliant with any relevant data policies such as CAN-SPAM, CASL, GDPR, etc. Each year, more policies are put in place, so it is important you regularly audit your email program and data collection points to ensure they are compliant.

Regularly reviewing email programs
Even the best automated journey needs to be updated from time to time. It is important to regularly review your automated journeys to ensure your information is up to date and relevant for your subscribers. In addition, it is important to review your templates, subject lines, and other key elements to ensure they are still functioning at a high level.

Attention to current events
The world is unpredictable, which means it is important to be able to adjust your program on a whim. The ability to halt or alter your triggered program is crucial.

Reviewing the data
Keeping an eye on the trends in your data is critical. Inbox placement rates, open rates, and engagement signals are important in understanding your triggered email programs are performing. Together with your ESP data, Validity’s Everest can offer you the most complete picture of your program’s performance. In addition, our highly qualified team of email experts can help ensure your program is functioning at peak performance.

Hopefully you can take these tips and bake them into your triggered campaign to create more engaging, personal emails for better engagement (you can track using Everest!). If you need any more help, let us know.

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