Marketing Automation: Driving Revenue with Triggered Emails

By , Digital Marketing Manager, Hanson Dodge

If you’ve ever abandoned a shopping cart online, only to have a special reminder waiting for you in your inbox, you’ve encountered a bit of marketing automation known as a triggered email. Well-timed trigger emails for events that you specify are one of the most effective strategies you can enable for your e-commerce business. In fact, according to Epsilon, triggered emails have open rates nearly 60% higher than non-triggered messages. And the click-through rate on triggered messages is nearly 130% higher than on business-as-usual messages.

Marketing Automation Revenue

Their effectiveness lies in their inherent relevance and timeliness. Unlike a promotional email calendar that dictates a one-size-fits-all message to everyone, triggered emails are sent right after a specific on-site behavior or on a date that has a unique meaning to the customer. The key to a successful trigger email program is to combine the automation power of event-based triggers with an offer that resonates. For example, perhaps Analytics tells you that cart abandonment most often occurs after the customer calculates all fees and taxes and experiences a bit of “sticker shock” at the actual bill. An appropriate triggered email for this event might contain a unique promo code for free shipping.


Because triggered emails (and marketing automation in general) are rules-based, there are seemingly limitless scenarios by which you can trigger messaging. Some of the most useful events to trigger a message against include:

Pre-Sale Triggers

When subscribers opt in to your email database, sending them a welcome email is an excellent way to introduce them to your brand. It allows you to thank them for signing up, provide a coupon or incentive, promote your social channels and set expectations by informing them how often emails will be sent.

You can also use welcome program trigger emails to ask subscribers to set up their email preferences based on what content they want to receive and how often they want to receive it. This approach can reduce the number of unsubscribes and SPAM complaints for future mailings.

During the Shopping Funnel

Countering shopping cart abandonment is a popular use for trigger emails because abandonment is a huge e-commerce lost opportunity. In fact, roughly 70% of carts are abandoned, and of that, around 60% are recoverable. It’s not always necessary to offer a discount or free shipping in the triggered email. In fact, as an initial message, we recommend simply reminding your would-be customers that they left some items in the cart and that the items may be sold out soon. You can also include a link back to a product landing page containing positive customer reviews, which may give the customer enough confidence to complete the purchase.

In addition, you may want to reinforce the warranty information and return policy for the product in question to ease the consumer’s mind. While incentives like free shipping to complete the purchase can help, they should be used sparingly, to avoid encouraging consumers to abandon their carts simply to receive a discount. Here's a nice example of a shopping cart abandonment email from Keep:

Keep Shopping Cart Example

Post-Purchase Triggers

Sending an order confirmation email after an order is completed and a shipping confirmation email once an order has shipped is standard, best practice. The primary purpose of these emails should be to provide order details, tracking information and return policy information, but there is also an opportunity to include a secondary message featuring products to cross-sell and upsell. Adding copy similar to, “You may also like” or “Customers who purchased this product, also viewed these products” are subtle ways to drive incremental revenue.

Five to 30 days following the purchase, a well-crafted trigger asking consumers to complete a review of the products they purchased continues engagement and adds significant value to your e-commerce site. According to a survey from Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX), 78% of Americans aged 18-64 agree that online reviews help them decide whether or not to purchase a product, including roughly one-third who “very much agree.” Reviews also qualify as user-generated content, and can greatly improve search engine rankings.

Date-based Triggers

Sending a date-triggered email for a customer’s birthday, wedding anniversary or anniversary of a large purchase is a great way to offer him or her an exclusive deal with a personal touch. According to Silverpop’s, “Birthday Blueprint: How to Build a Top-Tier Birthday Email Program,” one Silverpop client’s birthday message generates 25 times the revenue of a standard broadcast email. For birthday or wedding anniversary emails, consider including a discount code or free upgrade for a product or service. On the anniversary of a large purchase, take the opportunity to upsell/cross-sell, as well as ask the customer again to write a review.

Appending Lifetime Value

Scoring to Triggered Emails Once you have the foundation of a trigger-based email content plan in place, you will want to enrich your triggered emails with segment-based information on each user’s revenue opportunity to the company. For example, not all who abandon your shopping cart are worth the same to you. Some are new visitors who are unlikely to ever buy, while others are loyal past customers who are very close to purchasing. Knowing the difference, and applying the appropriate messaging to each segment is the key to a robust, optimized triggered email program.

Jill Fink, Digital Marketing Manager, Hanson Dodge

Jill assists in e-marketing and e-commerce programs including search engine optimization, email marketing, affiliate marketing, analytics and interactive advertising. She has 10 years of experience in creating and implementing successful online marketing initiatives. Prior to joining Hanson Dodge, she worked at The Weyco Group, Inc (Florsheim Shoe Company) and The Mark Travel Corporation working in several internet marketing roles.

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