EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 381 - August 09, 2015 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 5

Email Triggers Hit the Target for Online Sellers

By Greg Holden

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Triggers: they help you get the most out of your emails to customers, provided you know all the ways they can be used.

A trigger, in ecommerce-speak, is an action or an event that initiates a response. If someone makes a purchase from you and they opt in to your mailing list, that opt-in event can be a trigger that prompts your email application to send a "welcome" email.

Perhaps the best thing triggers can do is help you to personalize your email in ways you never dreamed of before. By sending specific emails to select groups of customers whose behavior on your website triggers a targeted response, you can increase revenue and decrease the number of abandoned shopping carts.

That message was delivered at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago earlier this summer by Nathan Decker, director of ecommerce for evo, a retailer of bike, skate, ski, and other sporting gear. In its early days, evo ran its own mailing list and sent occasional mass emails to the entire list. Later, it sent out one-per-month mailings with Constant Contact. After that, the company used the "behavioral marketing platform" provided by Silverpop.

Decker's talk concerned how evo teamed with a developer called Bluecore to create automated emails with content tailored to multiple trigger events. Now that evo is a $50 million company with two brick-and-mortar stores in Seattle and Portland, and with 85% of its revenue coming from its website, it can afford to come up with sophisticated custom solutions of this sort.

What about you, the small (or very small, or all alone) e-business owner? What can you do to send out more targeted emails in a more systematic way?

Triggers are the key. By learning about all the possible email triggers evo uses, you can adapt your own small-scale mailings accordingly. You might not be able to automate the process, but you can target specific groups of customers and assemble content they might want to see. It's all about tracking what customers do on your site and personalizing communications based on that behavior.

As Decker put it, "We know a lot about what people are doing on our website, but all that data is disconnected from our email. How do we translate that into email marketing messages?" These are the triggers evo uses to send emails:

1) Dynamic Welcome
This is one kind of email trigger you can easily emulate yourself. When someone initially registers and submits their email address, they get a message welcoming them.

2) Abandoned Cart
This is one type of situation you're probably familiar with: someone puts one of your products in a cart but then fails to follow through with the purchase. For those customers who are logged in to their account and can thus be identified, when they abandon their cart, evo sends an email suggesting products similar to what they were shopping for.

They get impressive results from this type of marketing approach: 49.8% open rate; 10.1% Click Through Rate (CTR); $4.75 Revenue Per Email (RPE).

3) Window Shopping
"This email goes out to people who shop but who don't even have a shopping cart," explained Decker. "We don't do a lot of messaging. The emails are very generic: "Here are some items we thought you might be interested in.""

The success of the "window shopping" email was a "big surprise," he added: 57.45% open rate; 23% CTR; $1.68 RPE.

4) Post-Purchase
This is basically "up-selling" of the sort you already do yourself: when someone makes a purchase, you suggest something else in which the customer might also be interested. "If you buy a flat snow board, we send you an email suggesting bindings to go with it," said Decker. This mailing had an impressive 57% open rate.

5) Price Drop
"This is one of our more innovative emails," said Decker. "We track things you search for on our web site. If you show interest in a product but didn't buy it, if later we drop the price, we let you know."

A control group shows that evo is getting a 20% boost in revenue per user from these emails: 34% Open Rate; 16.8% CTR; $0.61 RTE. Decker didn't give statistics for two other innovative email triggers:

6) New Product Arrival
This email lets customers know that new products have arrived based on interests they have previously expressed, through purchases or other shopping behavior. If you have shown an interest in skateboards, for example, when a new model comes in, you might get a notice about it.

That isn't the only reason for receiving an email, however; Decker said that evo uses 6 or 7 customer attributes to generate an email.

7) Low Inventory/"Going, going, gone"
This email trigger shows that just doing a search on the evo website, without making a purchase, will generate an email. "If someone has looked for a product and the inventory has dropped below 10," we send them an email to let them know," says Decker.

It's important to emphasize that these emails all require visitors to the evo website to log in earlier so they get these email flows. To encourage logins, evo provides an incentive: content that is shown in return for entering an email address or for logging in.

Another important point is that evo and Bluecore have made an effort to keep customers from getting overloaded with too many messages by instituting frequency caps: "They are set up so that in any given week, we only send you one of these emails based on your behavior," Decker commented.

How successful can this sort of email personalization be? Decker noted that 30 to 40 percent of their competitors from four to five years ago are no longer in business. At the same time evo's business has grown dramatically.

"I don't know if this is all from email, but we are pushing and trying new things," he said. "I suggest that other businesses keep driving things forward. Keep pushing the needle."

About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

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