Posted September 9, 2010 3:37 pm by with 0 comments

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According to a new Experian Marketing Services report, transactional emails that include relevant and related products and services have 20%  higher transaction rates than those without.

Blown away, aren’t you? Okay, probably not. It’s no big marketing secret that suggestive selling and cross-promotions work, so why doesn’t everybody do it?

Let’s go back to basics. A transactional email is one that a customer expects. Could be an order confirmation, a shipping notice or information on returns and exchanges. Experian analyzed more than 1,800 emails of this type that were sent through their CheetahMail system and found that more than 100% of the time (how is that possible?) these emails are opened by the recipient. You won’t find anywhere near that kind of open rate on bulk emails.

Once you’ve got customers opening the email, it’s time to convert them and this is where many companies fail. Experian says that’s a lot of money left on the table. Here are the numbers:

“Compared with standard bulk mailings, the average revenue per email is two to five times greater and can be up to six times greater than the all-industry average of $0.13. Experian CheetahMail’s analysis showed an average revenue per email for order confirmations of $0.75, while shipping confirmations and returns/exchanges pulled $0.53 and $0.80, respectively.”

Making the most of your transactional emails doesn’t have to mean promoting another product. Experian says that transactional emails that included links to social media sites had 55% higher click rates than emails with no click-through opportunities.

The only place that failed in the study was in the area of incentivizing future purchases. Oddly, emails without this kind of incentive did better than those that had them. Looking at my own behavior, I’d say this is because a “future purchase” email would either get filed away in my coupon folder or deleted if I had no intention of buying again.

The takeaway here is that companies must optimize every opportunity they have to engage with a customer. Emails need to branded to match the company website. Social media links should be prominent in all emails, especially transactional ones and ideally, personalized services and add-ons should be included in every order or shipping email.

This may sound like marketing 101, but I can’t tell you how many transactional emails I receive in a week that miss out on all of these points. On the other hand, there is one company I buy from that has a transactional email so memorable, I actually tell people about it and that’s CD Baby. Their order confirmation includes a wild story about how my CD has been taken off the shelf by a person wearing sterilized gloves, it was polished and inspected by 50 employees then everyone gathered around, lit a candle and watched in awe as it was packed, then they had a parade while delivering it to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved and said “Bon Voyage!” Silly, yes. But everyone who gets that confirmation remembers it and it effects their decision to buy from CD Baby again.

Lastly, don’t forget to say thank you to your customers when you confirm their order. It’s a simple thing but it makes a big difference.

Click here to get the full report free from Experian Marketing Services.