Transactional e-mails part 2: The mechanics

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Using transactional e-mails as an extension of a marketing program might be a good idea—if you follow some key design and creation best practices. Derek Harding, CEO of Omnicom Group's Innovyx Inc. interactive arm, and Melissa Sherman, marketing director of e-mail marketing software provider JangoMail, provided these tips to help get your transactional e-mails delivered and opened.
  1. Check e-mail addresses. If you're dealing with a new customer or prospect, your transactional e-mail may be their first introduction to your brand. Make sure to put your best foot forward by selecting an e-mail address that is short, to the point and syncs well with the nature of your message. Avoid nonsensical letter-number combinations, Harding said, and be very clear about whether or not the e-mail inbox associated with the address is checked often. If it's not, get into the habit of checking it anyway, he said. “It all comes down to quality control,” Harding said. Another important step, he added, is making sure the inbox associated with your e-mail address isn't accidentally deleted. If it is, you are inadvertently spoofing an address, which often denotes spam.
  2. Check links. The links you include in the message can present another quality-control issue, Harding said. They should be live and checked on a regular basis. Your Web team may move your FAQ, for example, and then everyone receiving your customer service acknowledgement will be trying to click on a dead link. “We tell clients to automatically confirm and re-verify every single mailing that goes out,” he said. “Yes, it's time-consuming, but it's important.”
  3. Consider the time element. People often hold on to transactional e-mails for months or years. You want them to be able to click through and look at their order or warranty history, for example, for as long as they are your customer. “There are some things you can't help. If you sold an item that's discontinued, there's nothing you can do about that; but you should make sure that all your links stay live for a long time,” Sherman said. She suggested marketers keep track of Web analytics to see which dead links customers are encountering, then reach out to those visitors with updated information.
  4. Provide an image when possible. This becomes extremely important when a customer is a frequent and repeat buyer or when your products have part numbers or archaic product names, Sherman said. “Even having a small image of the item and a link to a product page is helpful, since people very often forget what it is they purchased,” she said. Another good idea: Provide a reorder link so the customer can click once and make another purchase.
  5. Don't assume. You might think your transactional e-mail is giving customers everything they need, but the best way to be sure is to ask via a post-response survey. Did your transactional message provide enough information to the recipient? Were they looking for something that you left out? “It's another way to reinforce the dialog,” Harding said.
  6. Give them a way in and out. Both experts agreed that all transactional communications should include an opt-in link so you can get that recipient into your regular e-mail marketing pipeline as well as an opt-out link so they can choose not to receive any future communication.

Tips for Transactional Emails: Part 1

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