For marketers, it’s always been important to connect with customers and prospects where they are. And, like it or not, for the past couple of months they’ve largely been at home. Because of this, ecommerce sales surged during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis. Email engagement rates have also increased with more people at home.
Like all things related to the crisis, how long this boost will last is uncertain. But there are email campaigns that businesses can launch or improve right now that will help them take advantage of the increased ecommerce sales, website traffic and email engagement rates.
Whether the plan is to invest in ecommerce or to extend your email presence, these three email campaigns will provide lasting benefits even after the crisis has passed.
Post-purchase series encourages repeat business
Many businesses are seeing spikes in ecommerce sales, much of which is from new customers. Whether it’s for loyal customers or new customers dissatisfied with Amazon’s delivery window, a post-purchase series is one of the most cost-effective measures for increasing customer lifetime value because it capitalizes on high engagement following a purchase.
“Triggered messages always perform better than standard promotional emails,” Kellie Boggs, Oracle NetSuite senior marketing strategist, said. “You should be seeing double and triple compared to your standard metrics.”
They automatically trigger within two weeks following a purchase, when customers are most likely to open your emails. The series should be three or four messages, spaced two or three days apart. Unlike transactional messages, post-purchase emails focus on promoting products or services rather than purchase-specific information.
Each message should be relevant and personalized and, if possible, include product recommendations. Remember to avoid list fatigue—segment post-purchase contacts and throttle regular marketing messages so subscribers aren’t getting emails from multiple campaigns.
Saying thank you is always a good practice, but it’s a post-purchase best practice to both say thank you and offer an incentive. Engagement is highest immediately following a purchase, so try to capture their attention right away.
Send a follow-up message that offers customers some type of value, such as content showing them how to use a product or relevant service information. Would customers benefit from registering the product, or is there a customer service option they should be aware of?
“This is building that positive customer experience,” Boggs said. This is also an opportunity to touch base and tell them about your brand or loyalty program.
This is a chance to connect with customers after they’ve had enough time to experience the product or service and their excitement is still high. It’s also an optimal time to ask customers for reviews and referrals, or to invite them to join your social media community.
Either way, this is the time to solidify the emotional customer connection—and include relevant product recommendations.
Assuming they haven’t acted on the incentive from your first email, remind them of it here. Share more options or services that may not be aware of. Try some other initiatives, including:
- Share your brand story
- Refer-a-friend programs
- Customer service awareness
- Reorder reminders
- Birthday rewards
- Update preferences
If the post-purchase series doesn’t get the desired results, step up the personalization.
“When engagement is lower than expected, I always ask how we can personalize, because that’s usually the problem,” Boggs said. “Brands often have issues with their message when they keep it vague and make customers wonder what it’s actually about instead of speaking directly.”
A post-purchase series is always an excellent time to strengthen bonds with customers, but it’s especially helpful for first-time customers and clients who may not have spent much time familiarizing themselves with your brand.
Reengagement series to keep deliverability rates high
It’s important to find out if subscribers, whether businesses or consumers, aren’t engaging because they simply don’t want to be customers anymore. Continuing to send emails to lapsed or unengaged subscribers artificially lowers engagement metrics—but the real damage comes from when internet service providers (ISPs) penalize deliverability.
“Deliverability problems are a mess to clean up, and Gmail and Microsoft can recognize when you have a trend of sending to people who aren’t opening, and they start sending your messages to spam folders,” Sara Luu, NetSuite marketing strategist, said.
On the chance that subscribers’ circumstances have improved, such as regaining their employment or reopening their business, this can also bring back lapsed customers. But remember, email list health is one of the main reasons for a reengagement campaign. These unengaged subscribers make up 60% of email lists on average, according to industry consultant Neil Patel, and running an ongoing reengagement campaign helps keep lists healthy.
If subscribers haven’t engaged with content offers and promotional messages, entice them with a monetary incentive, such as a percentage discount. If margins won’t allow a discount, consider a free product with purchase so there’s less of a hit to margins.
Wait a week, then send a reminder message of the first offer.
If the subscriber still isn’t opening, try an incentive that’s larger than usual in the subject line. If users open these messages, consider them active and put them in the normal send list — even if they don’t purchase.
Subscribers may be used to scanning past promotional messages, so use a subject line that’s out of the ordinary to grab their attention, something like “Is this goodbye?” Give them an option within the email body to update preferences for the type content type and email frequency they’d prefer.
Move users who haven’t opened any reengagement messages to an unengaged segment that receives messages at a much lower cadence, maybe an email once every few weeks or high volume periods, such as Black Friday or when your business sees a surge — they may be seasonal purchasers. Set up an automation to move them back to active send lists if they open a message at all.
But if they don’t engage with messages over the course of a year, it’s time to remove them. It’s normal to lose subscribers over time. Resist the temptation to put them back in normal workflows, because developing a large percentage of unengaged users year over year will lead to deliverability issues.
“Open rates decline over time, and no matter what,” Luu said, “there are some people who are just going to fall off the wagon and have a trend of not opening, artificially dragging down your open rates.”
Remember, any opens in this series are a win—an unsubscribed user who was never going to purchase is better than one who never opens, drags down engagement metrics and hurts deliverability.
Welcome series to turn interested subscribers into buyers
An increase in web traffic throughout the early chapters of the COVID-19 crisis likely means an increase in new subscribers. New subscribers have just taken a step and indicated interest, and welcome series emails—like all triggered campaigns—have some of the highest engagement rates.
As the business reopens, make sure to include things like shipping delays and new procedures for physical locations, lead times, sanitization measures and inventory replacement limitations. If supply chains and delivery windows are steady, share that too—it’s a valuable differentiator now.
As an added bonus for businesses with browse or cart abandonment programs, welcome series can attach an email address to visitors’ browse and cart behaviors, giving better insights into subscriber interests.
Introduce the business. Much of this content will exist on the website already, but don’t assume customers are aware of it. This is also the time to explain what the benefits are of being a subscriber. Here are some things to mention, if they apply:
- Exclusive discounts and promotions
- Product updates
- How-to tips and tricks
- Access to special content
Make it clear why subscribers should shop with your business and not your competitor. Customers have expressed interest by subscribing, so don’t be shy about self-promotion here. During the reopening stage, these may be even more valuable to customers than they were before:
- Fast and free shipping
- No hassle returns or product guarantees
- Lowest prices or superior quality
- Rewards programs/incentives
If there are any unusual circumstances related to the COVID-19 crisis, such as shipping delays, make sure to mention them and explain what the business is doing to work on them.
Subscribers most likely signed up for the welcome series because they found something on the website that interested them. This is a good time to remind them of differentiators or functionality that attracted them in the first place — the goal is to direct them back to it:
- How-to resources and content
- Product builders
- One-click reordering
- Unique functionality (live support, message boards, etc.)
Sending a “manage preferences” email can help keep subscribers engaged with your business and prevent unsubscribes—especially if there isn’t much information collected at signup. Remember to only ask for information that can reasonably be used to market to them better, such as:
- Name, gender and birthday
- City and state
- Type of content they wish to receive
- Category/product of interest
After this, segment them based off of any information collected in the manage preferences email and then place them in regular email workflows.