AtData logo

The Art & Science of Triggered Emails

Apr 5, 2013   |   3 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog

triggered emails towerdataAlthough there is a lot of expert advice about the benefits of triggered email marketing in general, there is little discussion about the technology and systems required to conduct a triggered email campaign. As Neil Rosen of eWay Direct relates, there is an art and science to triggered responses. The art is in deciding which actions to respond to, and in crafting the messages and offers you send in response to prospects’ actions. The science is in the technology that allows you to monitor prospects and deliver relevant and timely content based on their actions.

Although Rosen writes volumes about the advantages of triggered email in response to what he calls Now Data, he offers scant information about the technology involved in setting up a triggered email campaign, save a vague, “You can set up triggered email responses to actions customers take on your website or in response to other emails.”

Likewise, while Cara Olson of Marketing Land offers excellent advice about conducting and expanding the scope of triggered email campaigns, she does not delve into the technical aspects of how to create a triggered email system.

Why Aren’t Experts Discussing the Science of Triggered Emails?

The dearth of technical information likely stems from the fact that setting up an automated triggered email system is a complex process. The good news for marketers is that email system and service providers like StrongMail and ExactTarget are providing guidance as well as making automated triggered email systems available as part of their portfolios. These systems, however, require more technical sophistication to set up and execute than regular email campaigns.

As Strongmail explains, unlike traditional outbound batch email campaigns, triggered email programs must be integrated with triggering mechanisms such as customer databases, e-commerce systems, web analytics systems and other external systems. Once the triggering system is created, the messages must be assembled dynamically based on the triggering actions, and then the emails delivered, either as single messages or a series.

For automating the delivery of triggered emails, the marketer must set the business rules that will trigger the email, as well as prepare the content that will be delivered automatically in the triggered responses. Another approach is to hand-craft and send each message in response to a trigger.

Automating the Delivery of Triggered Emails: Technical Skill Required

If you are using a service like ExactTarget’s, some technical skill is required on the marketer’s side to connect to the provider’s triggering system via APIs (application programming interfaces) and to provide the information that will guide the triggered email systems.

In the ExactTarget system, you must create code to cause the events that trigger an email to make a call to the ExactTarget API and pass the subscriber information to ExactTarget. Examples of actions that can trigger an email, says ExactTarget, include a prospect filling in a web form, purchasing a product through a website, abandoning a shopping cart and performing a search.

The relative complexity of triggered email systems likely accounts for the relatively low level of triggered email activity. Epsilon, which created a new category to track triggered email in its Email Trends and Benchmarks studies, found that while the use of triggered email is rising, triggered emails accounted for only 5 percent of total volume of 7.3 billion emails sent by Epsilon in Q4 2012, which was 73 percent higher than the 2.9 percent volume of triggered emails Epsilon reported in Q411.

Demographic Appending & Email List Hygiene Can Help

While triggered emails generate significantly higher open rates and click-through rates, reaping the higher payoffs of triggered email requires marketers to put in extra time and effort to acquire the appropriate skill sets.

Beyond setting up the infrastructure, you must acquire the information needed for profiling prospects and delivering relevant content. As ExactTarget explains, your organization must have a way to capture the subscriber attributes that are needed in the content of the email message for personalizing the dynamically delivered content.

As we have seen, demographic appending services can provide the missing customer profiling data for targeting prospects and personalizing messaging.

Data quality also can contribute to higher triggered email success rates. As SilverPop relates, top-tier marketers achieve their superior results by being more vigilant about email list hygiene, verifying addresses before adding them to a database and removing undeliverable addresses.

Download “Email Validation for Improved Deliverability and Marketing Results” to discover how email validation can help improve your email list hygiene.

Photo Credit: e-magic

Talk with an Email Expert