January 8, 2007, 12:00 AM

Retailers are ignoring the power of transactional e-mails, says new report

Only 20% of the retailers in a survey by Silverpop promoted other products within transactional e-mails, Silverpop reports in its new study “How Top Retailers Use Transactional Email.”


Online retailers have a long way to go to use transactional e-mails-messages that confirm an order, provide shipping details or perform other such functions-as marketing vehicles, according to a study of transactional e-mails from 84 top online retailers conducted by e-mail marketing company Silverpop.

For instance, only 20% of retailers promoted other products within transactional e-mails, Silverpop reports in its new study “How Top Retailers Use Transactional Email.”

“Far too many companies allow their companies’ IT departments to send static, text-only messages,” says Elaine O’Gorman, Silverpop vice president of strategy. “When control over transactional messaging resides outside of the marketing function, the e-mails often lack cross-sell and upsell promotional content that can boost revenue.”

She cautioned that there are certain legal complexities to take into account when adding promotional content to transactional messages, so it’s best to consult with legal counsel before incorporating such messages.

Deliverability issues also caused problems for some retailers: 6% of the transactional e-mails in the test landed in recipients’ junk folders. “Perhaps more retailers would take the time to ask recipients to white list their addresses if they realized how many of their messages–including critical transactional e-mails–were landing in recipients’ junk folders,” O’Gorman says.

Further, more companies asked customers to sign up for their e-mail programs than offered additional merchandise. 68% of companies that offer e-mails as part of their marketing programs included a link in the transactional e-mail to opt-in to their programs.

Finally, only 60% of transactional e-mails were in HTML format. “Utilizing HTML formatting that includes essential branding elements is a strong way to enhance customer loyalty and even increase revenue,” O’Gorman says. “Not only do HTML e-mails look better, they are measurable.”

The power of transactional e-mails should not be underestimated, O’Gorman says. “Ultimately, transactional e-mails can be a robust tool for marketers,” she says. “By taking advantage of the high open rates of transactional e-mails and establishing brand loyalty at the time customers are most likely thinking about the company, top online retailers strengthen relationships with customers and drive revenue growth.”


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