Remember when you first started dating that special someone? There was a moment, early on, when you shared your phone number. You didn’t do it until you established trust. But once you did, you were happy to answer that person’s call.
It’s similar when a prospect or customer gives you her email address. You’ll only be invited into someone’s inbox when there’s trust and a desire to hear from you. For this reason, a new customer’s email address is an invaluable asset for your business. You’re being given permission to market directly to that person.
But unlike the relationship you had with your significant other which was (probably…) a one-to-one relationship, relationships with customers are different. No small business owner can develop and maintain personal relationships with each and every customer to grow and nurture the relationship. That’s where email automation can help.
What is Email Automation?
Email automation is exactly what the name implies—email sent automatically based on rules. By defining a set of requirements for what should trigger an email (e.g., a number of days after a purchase or a number of hours after a cart is abandoned) and by having a system that can automatically personalize and send these emails, you can make an outreach to each of your customers that wouldn’t be possible to do on a one-to-one basis.
You may already be using some email automations. When people sign up for your newsletter, do they receive a confirmation email? Does your shopping cart send an email when a purchase is made? If so, you’re using email automation.
It’s great if you have started using automations (imagine having to send those emails manually), but you may not yet be thinking about how these individual messages can be part of an overall email automation strategy and about how you can use automations to increase your revenue.
Best Practices for Email Automation
First, develop a good email template. A customer or prospect who shares her email address with you may receive several emails over a period of time. Make sure that when your messages land in the customer’s inbox, she recognizes them as being from you. Don’t use the default templates provided by your shopping cart or email marketing provider. (Or, even worse, don’t use different templates for different messages!) Make a single, mobile-responsive email template that mirrors the look and feel of your website. That way, when an email arrives in a customer’s inbox, she’ll recognize at a glance that it’s from you.
To start developing your automation strategy, list the points during the customer’s relationship with you when she currently receives automated emails: on signing up for a newsletter, when a purchase is made, when an order ships, etc.
Then think about when you would like to be able to contact a customer automatically. How about a month after a purchase is made to suggest other products she might like? What about at a point in the future where a customer could be considered lost because she hasn’t made a repeat purchase. Could you bring any of these customers back if you offered them a special discount?
You’ve now got two lists—automations you’re currently using and those you want to develop. Start by updating your current automations so the look, feel, and tone of the emails is consistent.
Then begin defining your new automations. Think about what’s most important to your business—time since last purchase, average ticket—and define the situations in which you would like emails to be sent. Create a set of triggering rules and then write the content of the email. You could invite a customer back to your site to see new products if it’s been a year since her last purchase. You could ask for a review of the product someone bought 30 days ago.
Finally, determine how you are going to run these email automations. You’ll need a system to do it for you. Can some be sent from your shopping cart software? Can your email marketing platform handle automations? MailChimp excels at this and provides built in integration with many shopping carts. This allows you to create all sorts of possible automations based on the time since a customer’s last purchase, average order value, and order frequency. You can keep things simple, or you can make them as complex as you want if you have the right tools.
Five Email Automations That Can Increase Your Revenue
Here are five ideas for email automations that can strengthen the relationship with your customer and encourage her to come back to shop with you again.
1. Newsletter Sign Up Welcome Series
When a prospect registers for your newsletter, use an automation to strengthen the relationship, build trust, and encourage the prospect to convert. Send new subscribers a series of three or four emails introducing them to your offerings and encouraging them to get to know you better. In the final email, consider offering a discount code good on a first purchase.
2. Abandoned Cart Reminder
How many customers do you lose during your checkout process? If a customer has provided an email, use an abandoned cart automation to send her a reminder that she hasn’t completed her purchase. People get interrupted and forget where they were. A simple reminder with a link back to the shopping cart will help close the sale in a percentage of cases.
3. Sales Receipt and Shipping Confirmation
Some marketers view these as transactional emails, not email automations. They are right, of course. But there’s no reason you can’t use them as marketing opportunities as well. Provide a personalized thank you message in your sales receipt email. Make sure your shipping confirmation emails go out quickly. Use these automated touchpoints with your customers to continue building trust and developing the relationship with the goal of getting a repeat purchase.
4. Post Sale Follow Up
Contact your customer a while after the sale to thank her and ask for feedback. Request a review if your site accepts them. If not, ask the customer to respond to the email with any feedback she has. You can use this opportunity, as well, to suggest products that are similar to the one she purchased that she might also enjoy.
5. Advanced Customer Segmentation Messages
Once you’ve experimented with automations, you can begin developing more advanced automations based on in-depth customer segmentation. Here’s an example. By analyzing your past sales data you may be able to identify the point in the customer lifecycle where customers can be considered “lost.” If 95% of your repeat purchasers placed their second order within 30 months of their first order, a customer who hasn’t reordered in 31 months can be considered a lost customer. Create an automation for customers who have not bought from you in 30 months with a special promotion to entice them to purchase again to keep them live. You can also use a customer’s purchase frequency and average order value to create advanced automation emails that ping the customer at a certain time or with a certain offer that she’ll find enticing based on her history with you.
As with any technology you decide to implement, don’t try to do it all at once. Start with simpler automations. Test and refine them. Once you’ve gotten some experience, begin adding more complex ones. It’s not realistic to expect that any single automation will drive double-digit revenue growth for you. But if each automation provides a top line boost of 1-2% (which is a reasonable expectation), you can see how developing a new email automation can provide you with a nice return on your investment over time. Create the automation once, and you’ll realize the benefits month after month.
Get even more ideas for autoresponders in this article, Using Autoresponders to Build and Engage Your Audience by Stephanie Woodson.