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Triggered email marketing for retail businesses

June 29 - 2020

Email Marketing Automation 5 min read

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In addition to increasing sales and revenue, it's your job as an email marketer to contribute to the customer relationship, helping your subscribers to fall in love with your brand.Customer retention is vital for any online business, and for retailers, a solid email marketing strategy can play a key part in keeping customers coming back again and again. 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a brand due to poor customer service (Kissmetrics), so it's necessary to consider how we can provide a personalised service online that speaks to customers as individuals.One such way is through triggered emails.

What are triggered emails?

Triggered emails are automatically sent campaigns that go out to subscribers upon completion of a certain action, or when a significant date occurs. This can cover anything from a welcome email to a birthday discount code.Using dynamic content (content that automatically adapts to the interests of the subscriber), these emails feature specific products and customer information, such as names and birth dates, that allow retailers to connect with their customers on a personal level.Because these campaigns are tailored to customer behaviour and information, in essence they offer highly personalised customer service, building upon the relationship and strengthening brand loyalty.

What types of triggered emails are there?

Most retailers are used to sending newsletter-style updates, tactical promotions and product-based emails, and will be achieving sales from these campaigns. But triggered emails offer the opportunity for increased customer engagement and a way to close sales that would otherwise not have been capitalised upon.Here are three types of triggered emails to get started with...

Shopping cart abandonment

How they work

When a visitor to your site adds a product to their basket but fails to complete the transaction, shopping cart abandonment emails can be used to remind the customer of their interest in the product and bring them back to the site to complete the purchase.Abandonment emails are commonly set up with three stages:

  • First email: the gentle reminder. Sent shortly after the cart is abandoned, these emails typically feature the product in question along with a helpful customer service-based message.
  • Second email: the nudge. Including reasons to carry out the purchase.
  • Third email: the final push. The last email in the series, it's your last chance to convert. You could chose to tell the customer that their item will be removed from the basket, or incentivise the purchase further with a discount code.

Why you should use them

Cart abandonment is effectively the same as an in-store customer dropping their item at the till and leaving your shop without explanation, and there are many reasons your customers might not go ahead with their purchase the first time round.For instance:

  • Website crashes
  • Slow internet speeds
  • Interruptions at home
  • Unexpected costs
  • Lost login details

Abandonment can also occur when shoppers use their basket in place of a 'favourites' feature - holding items for consideration at a later date.Checkout abandonment rates are surprisingly high, at an average of 67.4% (Hubspot). That's significant revenue you should be recovering.Shopping cart abandonment emails have an average open rate that pushes 50%, so your chance of capturing customer attention is immediately higher than with other campaigns. What's more, over a third of all people who click through from an abandonment email go on to purchase a product with a 50% higher average order value than direct sales (Ometria).

Personalised product recommendations based on purchase history

How they work

Your customer's recent order doesn't have to be the last you hear from them for a while. As with shopping cart abandonment emails, product recommendations look to increase repeat business.Personalised recommendations are made through the dynamic use of targeted portfolio products, and are used to upsell and cross-sell products based on previous purchases. Showing customers related products that are targeted to their interests means you'll have a higher chance of converting.

Why you should use them

A survey conducted in the US in 2014 by Harris Poll suggests that 80% of consumers find it helpful when retailers send them email campaigns based on previous purchases.This kind of data-driven campaign allows you to deliver targeted products that help your customers discover more of your products. In turn, your business can expect to make more sales and keep customers coming back.

Replenishment reminders

How they work

If your business sells consumable products, you can create a workflow based on the product cycle of each item to remind the customer to repurchase when the time comes.Say, for instance, your business sells a skincare product you know will last six weeks if used every day. From the date of shipment, you can set up a series of emails to go out to the customer when you anticipate the product will soon be running out, plus follow up with another when it (in theory) will have gone.You call also add in the incentive of a discount code if you wish, to increase your chances of a conversion.

Why you should use them

When selling consumable products you have the benefit of knowing that at some point, the product is going to run out. Replenishment reminders are a prime example of sending the right message at the right time.Savvier businesses will track their regular customers buying habits to find out when they'll be ready for a top up, but even if you expect them to keep buying from your business, you'll be building loyalty and trust as well as gaining the sale.


All three triggered email types discussed here share fantastic benefits. Each one, using dynamic content, smart customer profiling and high quality data is able to offer the customer a highly personalised experience that connects with the buyer behaviour or purchase history - often at the very time they are interacting with your business.

For retail businesses that want the advantage, triggered emails are sure to help you get ahead, currently accounting for just 4.4% of email traffic. Whilst the adoption rate remains low, you can benefit from open rates 65% higher than that of broadcast emails (The Magill Report).

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