Are you successfully using trigger emails?

How to use trigger emails to support each customer’s buying journey


Trigger emails reliably perform well across industries, yet are completely underutilized.

Trigger email metrics consistently outperform business-as-usual (BAU) emails, yet these types of emails typically account for less than 5% of all delivered emails in any quarter and only 1.6% in Q4 2018. Your brand may be missing opportunities to use trigger emails.

Trigger emails support the buying journey

When people take an action, like purchasing an item on your website, trigger emails provide a response, like a confirmation email. Trigger emails should also happen earlier in the journey when people abandon their cart or browser.

Abandon cart and abandon browser emails in particular keep your brand top of mind with the customer, even if they’re jumping around on different websites, apps and emails during their day. 

Trigger emails cut through the clutter

Getting your email subscribers’ attention is crucial in an era of insane inboxes. Of all emails deployed in Q4 of 2018, 82% of emails were categorized as “marketing messages,” which means there is a lot of competition within the channel as many companies are taking up the opportunity of using triggered email marketing..

Triggered emails are one way to get your subscribers to click.

People tend to open trigger emails because they’re delivered based on specific actions a customer has taken with your brand, which means they are highly relevant.

And the numbers don’t lie: Triggered email marketing responses are increasing. Trigger email open rates were 76% higher than BAU in Q4 2018, and trigger email click-through rates more than doubled BAU.

These high engagement rates highlight the fact that trigger emails are critical to your email marketing and marketing campaign strategy because today’s email content needs to tailor to individuals. They deliver personalized email campaigns and real-time messages to every customer— each one built for an inspiring inbox experience.

Tips to make the most of trigger emails

Whether you already have a trigger email strategy in place or you’re just getting started with an automated email campaign, keep some of these tenets in mind.

Help people move through the buying journey

Triggered email marketing consistently has a high ROI, making it an ideal channel to encourage customers to continue on their journey with you. An abandoned browser email is one way to bring potential customers from consideration toward purchase.

In this example from The Children’s Place, the email shows items that a customer browsed on the website but did not purchase. A few hours later, a trigger email is sent with the products that the individual viewed along with an enticing headline.

Example of abandon browse trigger email 

It also provides the option to pick up the items in store, which they may not have known was available, so it’s easier to hit “buy now.”

Use the profile information you already have

Trigger emails can give your email subscribers a better customer experience. While your emails may not always be moving people toward making a purchase, you can continue to retain and nurture them based on their preferences and provided profile information.

For example, 1-800-PetMeds used information from a new subscriber’s profile to make it more personal to the customer and offers other products..

Example of a triggered email from 1-800-PetMeds

By including Moxie’s name, they show that they care, and they are continuing to build the customer profile by asking what other products and services could be relevant for her.

Don’t forget to say “Hi”

It’s a simple, but too easily overlooked part of your email strategy: Always welcome your newcomers.

In many ways, this should be the first trigger email you set up as it sets the tone for all other communications from your brand moving forward. It shows what kind of business your new customers have a relationship with and gives you a chance to highlight the many benefits of receiving email communications from your brand.

This is especially important for loyalty and rewards programs. Whole Foods, for example, has a series of welcome emails for newcomers to their My 365 Rewards program.

Example triggered emails from Whole Foods

The initial welcome email highlights the perks of membership, and what they get from subscribing to you email marketing automation, all shared in a light, conversational tone. It is also great to add you social media links in your welcome email so the customer can find out more about you.

Showcase other related products and services

Your trigger email approach may be pretty standard, but what if you can give the recipient a little something extra? Trigger emails are an opportunity to add on to their customer experience based on their interests.

For example, when Airbnb sends a confirmation email, they tend to include a section to book fun activities in the area, like local hiking or crafting classes. These offers are highly relevant since people are often looking for unique adventures at their destination.

Example triggered email from Airbnb

This is a useful option for B2B marketers too. You can use a marketing automation email responder from a downloaded report to recommend other content people may be interested in reading.

Example triggered email from B2B

Keep it conversational

Your customers are busy people, and nurturing their relationship with your brand is probably not at the top of their to-do list. By opening up a dialogue with your customers at an appropriate time, you can do the heavy lifting for them.

One way to make a conversation with your customer is to ask for their feedback on products they recently ordered. People will still find this relevant since it relates to a purchase they made, and they’ll get a chance to give their opinion. This will also give you more information on the products they like (or don’t like). Which will them provide you with more information for a future triggered email.

Example of triggered email from Chewy

As you can see, there are many ways to incorporate trigger emails into your email campaign strategy without feeling forced or random.

Let your customers’ actions open the door to their journey with you. You can be there, ready to respond to them with an appropriate next communication.

To learn more about how well trigger emails perform compared to other types of emails, all segmented by industry, see the Q4 2018 email trends and benchmarks report.