How Automated Emails Solve Problems (Yours and Your Subscribers)

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For more email marketing guidance, check out our webinar “Email Marketing Strategies and Tactics During a Period of Disruption.

At its best, marketing has always excelled at solving problems. For brands, it includes acquiring and converting prospects into paying customers. For consumers, marketing helps guide them through the purchase process from awareness to post-purchase and advocacy. And in today’s stay-at-home environment with customers navigating the purchase process in entirely new ways, solving customer buyer challenges and struggles has become critical.

Because it is based on customer behavior, events/dates, and other data points such as scoring, automated email marketing messages are one of the best tools available to help marketers solve problems.

The following are a few examples I’ve seen of how brands are using triggered messages to do this:

Problem: No online account

One of the challenges many consumers have experienced recently (myself included) is interacting and purchasing from brands online and via mobile apps for the first time. Many of your customers may be members of your loyalty program and regularly purchasing from your physical locations. But if they’ve never set up an online account, they may have ended up with struggles during their first online purchase. 

When customers join your loyalty program, put them into a series of onboarding emails that drive them to create an account. For customers that don’t set up an account, put them into a series with incentives until they set up an account and make their first purchase.

Problem: Product returns

When consumers return products they’ve purchased it’s not only a hassle and poor customer experience for them, it eats away at profit margins for the retailers. In fact, the Reverse Logistics Association pegs the return rate on in-store purchases at about 8%, but it jumps to 25-40% for online purchases.

Many returns can be avoided, however, by providing videos and how-to tips that help customers use a product correctly. One retail client was seeing a high rate of returns for ski boots purchased online, and through call-center data and interviews with customers they discovered that many were not using the right type of socks or even forgetting to remove the cardboard inserts. They added a three-part series of triggered emails that included links to videos, step-by-step instructions, and links to purchase the perfect ski boot socks which led to a significant reduction in returns.

Problem: Low renewals of program memberships

Many retailers have free shipping programs similar to Amazon Prime, but a frequent challenge can be getting consumers to renew their memberships. Use member behavior to drive a different series of automated emails to persuade members of these free shipping, subscription, and similar programs.

These members are at high risk of not renewing so don’t wait until it is too late. Start as early as six months prior to member renewal dates and “re-onboard” with benefits and tips they have yet to take advantage of. For infrequent users of your program, remind them of their purchases or usage and provide recommendations and show how much they might save by taking advantage of the program.

Problem: One-time purchasers

Another challenge for many retailers and ecommerce sites is customers who only purchase once and never again. Don’t wait for months to send those “We want you back” emails. Onboard first-time customers with a series of automated emails that provide a tour of your site and explain various key services such as return polices, subscription options, order online and pick-up in store, and gift cards.

Problem: New users not completing set-up

Some online services require users to take actions, such as adding financial service accounts for spending and budget-tracking services. One financial site sends a series of three triggered emails to new users who don’t finish setting up accounts. The emails address users’ main concerns and problems in creating accounts, including security and forgetting passwords.

Problem: Increasing direct mail costs

Whether it’s account statements from financial services firms or monthly invoices from utilities, the increasing cost of direct mail is a problem that email is ideal to help solve. For new customers, include in your onboarding series an email that encourages them to sign up for email and in-app alerts when invoices and statements are available. For existing customers, trigger emails to those customers every few months in advance of mailings to take advantage of online-only statements.

Problem: Shopping cart problems

Sending a series of cart abandonment remarketing emails has been standard practice for retailers for years. But an upgrade is to use struggle and journey analytics tools to identify actual or potential reasons for abandonment, and dynamically populate those messages with solutions to the problem. For example, for consumers who experienced credit card issues, remind them of other payment options, prompt them to try again, and show them how to find your card’s security verification code.

So, want to get started with problem-solving emails? Here are a few ideas to help you on your way:

  • Map the customer journey. Identify gaps in your customer journey and where they most often struggle to move to the next step. Are there specific pages on your site that aren’t working or channels with lower engagement?
  • Talk to other departments. Think beyond marketing and ecommerce and uncover key pain points in finance, sales, HR or logistics. Talk to customer service and other customer-facing teams to learn their top issues, complaints, and returned products, and to identify the causes.
  • Review your company’s customer satisfaction surveys. Where is the company falling short? Where could content delivered via email educate customers to reduce confusion or have a better experience?
  • Review current key business initiatives or imperatives. Has your company launched a new subscription delivery service and a high percentage of new customers are cancelling after a few months? Look for big problems where email marketing could help solve a problem or enable success.
  • Leverage existing content. Creating content for these emails is always a challenge, so tap into what already exists within your company — videos, web or catalog copy and images for products, customer support scripts, training presentations, sales collateral, and webinar recordings.

Done well, using automated emails to solve your customers’ and company’s problems can have a huge impact on revenue, costs, and loyalty. And for the email marketing team, these programs can significantly raise the profile of the channel within the executive suite and hopefully lead to additional budget and resources.

For more tips on optimizing email, check out the rest of our Brilliant Basics series.