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3 (legal) ways to make money with transactional emails

A shopper makes a transaction online

With the fourth-quarter holiday season fast approaching, everybody’s trying to find a way to increase revenue over the previous year. We’re guessing your business is among them, so here’s a tactic that everybody else overlooks:

Sell something in your confirmation email.

Pretty obvious, right? I think so, but it surprises me every year to see how few marketers take advantage of this incremental-income source.

If you’re searching for a way to increase revenue year on year, this is an easy and effective way to do it – and there’s a good chance your competition isn’t doing it, either.

 

Build on trust, and suggest another purchase

Think about what’s going on when people buy on your website. They just got their wallets out, found something they wanted, and spent money on it. This is the golden moment: when they trust you enough to give you their credit card numbers. They’re comfortable with your brand, your products, your checkout process and your transaction security.

Why not offer them another opportunity to trust you even more? Shopping habits and a little bit of psychology make this tactic pay off.

No matter how carefully we shop, online or offline, we sometimes forget to buy everything we need. Or we want to make sure that we bought the right thing, or that we bought everything we needed to make the purchase complete.

My favorite places on a website are the sections that show me “people who bought that item also bought this item” and “people who viewed that item bought this instead”. It’s the digital version of the fine retail art we used to call “suggestive selling”.

I rely on these product suggestions, especially if I’m buying something for my home for the first time. I might not know what I’m doing, or need help to make sure I’m buying the right products or buying everything I need.

That same propensity to look for product suggestions exists everywhere. Putting them in your order confirmation email is a logical step to drive these follow-up purchases.

Why put it in the order confirmation? Because it makes sense. Open and click rates on order confirmation emails are astronomical: often 60% – 70% compared to 10% – 20% on broadcast emails. With all that attention, you want to give yourself the best shot possible to capture all the incremental revenue you can from these purchase suggestions.

 

3 tips to sell more in confirmation emails

1. Say “Thank you!”

Remember, your customers just spent money with you, whether for the first time or as repeat buyers. Your opening line should be “Hey! Thanks for buying something on my site!”

Thank them for their patronage, their loyalty, their trust – whatever feels right for your brand, products and customers – and keep it short, sweet and to the point.

2. Make the confirmation email as attractive and interactive as possible.

A confirmation email is a receipt for a transaction. You want it to maintain and increase your customer’s trust, interest and affinity in your brand and products.

Your confirmation email tells people what they just did and what to do next. A good confirmation email should…

  • Report the transaction clearly by listing products with photos and descriptions, transaction date, prices paid, all fees and any disclaimers, fulfillment or shipping conditions listed.
  • Explain the return policy: deadlines, locations, and shipping instructions.
  • List the brand or company name, address and contact or customer service information.
  • Reflect the brand from the inbox, all the way through the email content.
  • Have a clean layout and navigation.
  • Look good and work well on mobile.

If you buy something at a store and get a crumpled, illegible receipt that shows just the price paid and nothing else, that can be an off-putting experience. You don’t want that same reaction from your customers to your confirmation emails.

3. Suggest products associated with their purchases.

Your own customer data powers this section. Alternatively, you can use a third-party platform that sorts through and finds products to display. Study your data to understand what other customers bought along with or after the products listed in the confirmation emails and suggest the most relevant in your email.

(See my blog post, “Using ‘Next Logical Product’ Triggers for Increased Email Success“, for a detailed explanation of creating and setting up product suggestions in your confirmation emails.)

 

Caveat: Use the 80/20 Rule to Stay Legal

If you ever see a headline that says “Turn Your Confirmation Emails into Money Machines,” run far, far away. Anti-spam laws around the world vary in whether they allow promotional content in a transactional email and how much you can add.

The U.S. CAN-SPAM law has been interpreted to allow a limited amount of promotional content, as long as the focus stays on the transaction. Adestra recommends following the 80/20 rule: at least 80% of the email real estate concerns the transaction, while up to 20% features promotions.

In contrast, CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) allows no promotional content in a transactional message. Adding promotions like product suggestions turns the transactional message into a commercial message ad subject to consent rules.

Tread carefully when adding promotional content. Check your country’s email laws and regulations before adding promotional content.

 

Ready to start?

You still have time to research and test product suggestions in your confirmation emails. Work with your IT and database people to set up a pilot program.

If you already suggest products or other purchases in your confirmation emails, review them now. Look at your integrations and algorithms. Are the suggested products accurate? Do people click on them and buy from them?

Tweak your algorithms now, before the holiday crush, so that they drive value for your customers and revenue for your company.

Once you add product suggestions to your emails, you’ll be astounded at the results they can pull in for your email program.

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