Bluecore’s forward deployed engineering team (or the ‘FDE’s’ as we prefer to be known) is a crack team dedicated to helping Bluecore partners to extract maximum value from their triggered email platform. In our role as FDEs, we bring our technical know-how to the front lines, working directly with partners to design and implement triggered email programs that map to the customer’s vertical, audience behavior and product mix.
Over the course of many hundreds of deployments, the FDE’s have uncovered a trove of information on effective triggered email design. Here, I’ve distilled those insights down to 5 key best practices for you:
1. Ensure consistent layout with responsive design
The cross-platform, cross-device nature of email makes it a wonderful communications medium. Emails can be read anywhere, on any device! But be forewarned, this accessibility also poses some serious challenges for the email marketer.
According to Experian, 53% of emails are now opened on a mobile or tablet device, the screen sizes of which can vary anywhere from 4 inches up to 13 inches. And, in addition to phones and tablets, significant email consumption still takes place on PCs too. So, not only do marketers have to accommodate devices of varying screen sizes, but they have to support legacy systems as well. The point here is that the same email needs to look as good on a desktop running Outlook 2007 as it does on an iPhone.
To ensure your emails look great on all devices, my team and I recommend using responsive design on your triggered emails. Responsive web design adapts to the screen size on which it is being viewed—so your customers don’t run into those frustrating layout issues that can prompt them to delete the email or, worse, unsubscribe.
2. Be product-specific in your subject line
We all get lots of emails a day, many of them from retailers. When scanning subject lines in our inbox, we are most likely to open an email with a personally relevant subject line. And the data agrees: Bluecore partners see higher open rates on triggered emails with relevant product names in the subject line than without.
For example, an email that’s triggered when a customer leaves a backpack in their online shopping cart might be titled, “You Forgot Your Transport Backpack.” This personalized subject line increases the likelihood of click-through, as it alights a specific memory—as opposed to a generic email that doesn’t fuel the customer’s interest in making a specific purchase.
3. Spark engagement with product-centric email content
As batch-and-blast email programs do not leverage buyer behavior data such as shopping cart abandonment and on-site browsing activities, their content limits how personally relevant you can be to customers. Furthermore, these less targeted emails typically drive shoppers to the retailer’s home page or to a coupon page. Is this truly optimal? After all, the goal is to lead the customer down the buying funnel, and this is best achieved when linking to a product page.
Triggered email content should make the product the centerpiece. Consider our earlier example, in which the buyer abandoned a backpack in their shopping cart: To reignite buyer interest, my team of FDE’s would recommend offering 3 to 6 (up to 9) similar backpacks in the body of the email. An effective product combination would include three ‘bestsellers’ and three ‘new arrivals’; this grouping has been shown to give the retailer the possible best chance of reigniting the customer’s interest.
4. Keep products above the fold
In the traditional approach to e-mail design, there’s often a logo, banner, or coupon featured on the topmost portion of the email. And in some cases, it makes sense; such graphics can be an important part of a compelling retail email.
But in triggered emails, personally relevant product should be the thing most prominently featured above the fold. By reminding the shopper of every item they had had previously considered buying in the area they’re mostly likely to see while scanning their inbox, you increase the likelihood they will open the email and engage.
5. Use layouts that account for varying numbers of dynamic products
Our most common layout is the three column by two row grid, and for good reason. Using this type of layout allows for us to have up to six products, but also can dynamically account for less products. Should a customer email only turn up four or five relevant products, our code can easily reshuffle the grid to send this email, always looking it’s best. While it is good to have a lot of products, we don’t want to hurt our volumes when our algorithm turns up fewer relevant recommendations. This way we can allow for a range of products between a specifically defined minimum and maximum.
Our email design principles give you maximum customer engagement
Triggered email brings a windfall of exciting new behavioral data that’s proven to increase customer engagement through targeted, personalized marketing. To maximize effectiveness and drive shoppers down the buying funnel, marketers should make personalized product the centerpiece of customer interaction and follow the triggered email design principles I’ve described above.