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Triggered Email Adoption Up, Still Low: Epsilon

By Ken Magill
The good news is triggered email adoption has risen almost 25 percent in the last year, according to Epsilon. 
The bad news is triggered email still accounts for just 4.4 percent of total email volume, according to the marketing services provider’s just-released Q1 2015 North America Email Trends and Benchmarks report.
Anecdotal and empirical evidence has indicated for years that triggered emails—messages sent as the result of some action or inaction by customers and subscribers—far outperform broadcast messages.
According to Epsilon, triggered open rates were 65 percent higher than broadcast emails in the first quarter of 2015. Also, click rates for triggered messages were 148.5 percent higher than those of broadcast messages, according to Epsilon.
So why do they still account for such a low percentage of email traffic? For one, they’re not all that easy to implement, according to Kara Trivunovic, vice president, digital solutions for Epsilon.
“Oddly enough, while there is more manpower involved in doing it [broadcast email marketing] on a day-to-day basis, it’s still easier than setting up some of these triggered communications,” she said. 
She added that even thinking about implementing triggered emails can get overwhelming.
“You sit down and think: ‘Oh, I can send a triggered message when somebody spends three minutes on my website looking at a product, but doesn’t convert,’” she said. “There are all these moments that you can think about. A lot of marketers will look at that and think they have to tackle it all at once.”
Trivunovic said she advises clients to identify moments in which triggered messages could be beneficial and prioritize them according to ease of implementation and impact to the business.
“You can get so farfetched with some of this stuff that the level of effort involved in trying to get it set up far exceeds the benefit that it will contribute to the bottom line,” she said.
When asked if there are some no-brainer triggered emails most if not all marketers should consider, she referred to messages sent based on purchase date.
“Refill messages are no-brainers, but not everybody thinks about them in the right way,” she said. “Online vitamin companies definitely think about it because there are only so many pills in your bottle. But every product you buy has a lifecycle. The example I always use is running shoes. If you know what kind of runner they [customers] are, you can ultimately understand how many miles they can put on those shoes and how long from the purchase date they’ll put those miles on those shoes.”
Sending messages to running-shoe buyers telling them it’s probably time for replacements “is a little bit of logic based off of a purchase date and a really easy way to get in front of a customer in a very meaningful way,” she said. “Clearly it doesn’t apply to every market, but there are a lot of marketers who could benefit from it.”
What’s more, while identifying stages in a customer’s lifecycle where they should get an event- or non-event-related message is fairly doable, exactly how to handle that even or non-event isn’t always obvious, according to Trivunovic.
“You can identify an opportunity where you can trigger that message one time, but what happens when that consumer demonstrates the same behavior a second time and a third time and a fourth time?” she said. “If you’re consistently triggering the same message to them based on a behavior, that message becomes repetitive and less valuable.”
For example, abandoned-cart emails—widely reported to be highly effective by those who use them—could drive customers to repeatedly load up their carts and abandon them if the triggered emails contain discount offers, she said.
“It’s not just being able to identify the trigger one time,” Trivunovic added. “It’s how are you going to handle it every time it happens with the same customer? Being able to get that logic set up, having the data to drive it and then having the content to support it is complicated. Mapping all that out can be a very large undertaking.”
However, as daunting as the prospect may be, Trivunovic still recommends that marketers prioritize triggered messages.
“There is this expectation of immediacy from consumers,” she said. “It’s a dialog. Triggered communications are the other side of the conversation. The customer has done something. What do you say back?”
Apparently her question is not an easy one to answer, but it’s one that needs to be asked more often than it is.

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