Using Merchandising Triggers in Your Email Marketing Strategy

By Evan Britten-Bozzone

Ecommerce triggered emails are nothing new.

For years now, ecommerce marketers have used triggered emails to prevent browse abandonment, whether that’s abandoned carts, abandoned searches or abandoned products. While these triggers are extremely effective (just look at our Retail Email Benchmark Report for proof), they only scratch the surface.

Today, it’s time for ecommerce marketers to get even smarter about triggered emails. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

Which is Best: Behavioral Triggers or Merchandising Triggers?

While there are many different types of triggered emails that ecommerce marketers can run, there are two categories in particular that prove the most popular currently: Behavioral triggers and merchandising triggers.

Most marketers run behavioral triggers, such as abandoned cart and abandoned search triggers. These emails fire off after customers take a designated action on the site (e.g. abandoning their shopping cart with items still in it) and usually get sent within 24 hours of that action taking place.

Merchandising triggers, on the other hand, don’t react to any actions taken by customers. Rather, they use relevant product data to react to changes within your product catalog and surface those changes to customers who are likely to find them interesting. For example, if a product in your catalog decreases in price, a merchandising trigger will pick up on that price decrease activity and notify customers who viewed but did not buy that product within the last 30 days.

So, why does the difference between behavioral and merchandising triggers matter? Because merchandising triggers generate an average of 80% incremental attributed revenue compared to behavioral triggers alone. And that number can go as high as 133% for some retailers.

How Do Merchandising Trigger Emails Work?

So what’s the deal with merchandising triggers? Simply put, whereas behavioral triggers capture intent, merchandising triggers manufacture intent.

When someone adds a product to their shopping cart, regardless of whether they ultimately buy it, the intent to purchase is high. If they leave that item behind without purchasing, the abandoned cart email reminds them of their intent and serves as a catalyst to taking further action.

Meanwhile, a merchandising trigger like a price decrease alert creates an intent to purchase by surfacing a relevant and interesting opportunity. For instance, if someone browses sweaters online, they may just be doing some window shopping and have minimal intention of buying. But if you send them an email when those same sweaters decrease in price two weeks later, you can turn that interest into intent and drive a purchase that may not have happened otherwise.

Why Merchandising Triggers Perform So Well

Interestingly, if you compare a single merchandising trigger against a single behavioral trigger, you’ll get some seemingly backwards results.

You see, on a per-email basis, behavioral triggers will outperform merchandising triggers when it comes to benchmarks like open, click and conversion rates. But when you compare overall attributed revenue from the two, merchandising triggers will come out as the clear winner.

The reason for this discrepancy is that merchandising triggers send in significantly higher volumes than behavioral triggers, which creates more revenue-generating opportunities. That’s because behavioral triggers will only send once customers take certain actions. But merchandising triggers aren’t as dependent on what actions customers take and how often they take those actions.

As a result, merchandising triggers open up new opportunities to send highly relevant messages to customers that will accelerate their purchase process. Perhaps best of all, because these emails are so relevant, they typically have very low unsubscribe rates and deliver incremental value for the ecommerce teams that adopt them.

Getting Started with Merchandising Trigger Emails

When it comes to getting started with merchandising triggers, there are four options for ecommerce teams:

While all of these product-related notifications have the potential to deliver significant value as described above, the price decrease and new arrivals triggers typically provide the most value right off the bat.

The Most Important Ingredient to Merchandising Trigger Success

At this point, I’m sure you’re asking what’s the hook? If merchandising triggers are so powerful for ecommerce, why aren’t more marketing teams using them? Because in order to power merchandising triggers, you need a solution that follows the unique retail data model. It needs to tie together customer identity, product catalog and onsite behavioral data.

Diving deeper into the product catalog data piece of that equation, you need to get that catalog information in the right way. Most ecommerce triggered email solutions take in a product feed, but that inhibits their ability to identify changes to the catalog like new arrivals and price decreases. To power merchandising triggers, you need a solution that has a native understanding of your catalog and combines that understanding with the other two data points — customer identity and onsite behaviors.

Then and only then can you reap the power of merchandising triggers. And with a potential increase in attributed revenue of up to 133%, the opportunity to get in front of customers in even more relevant ways is one ecommerce marketers can’t afford to pass up.

Evan Britten-Bozzone

Evan works with Bluecore’s strategic, ISV and service partners as part of the BD & Partnerships team. In his 2+ years with Bluecore, he has worked across Product, Strategy and Partnership teams, supporting the creation and growth of Bluecore’s leading edge marketing technology products and services. Prior to Bluecore, Evan was a founder of a B2C services company serving thousands of customers, a private equity analyst at The Blackstone Group, and an investment banking analyst at Lazard. Evan completed his MBA at Harvard Business School and BBA at the University of Michigan.