What is Email Automation?
Email automation is the process of automating the delivery of an existing email campaign, which otherwise would have had to be sent manually, by employing a tool.
Unlike the manually sent emails, an automated email is triggered by a specific user action, inaction or an ‘event’ date, which is why it is also called triggered email.
How does it work?
To automate an email, you set the campaign in whatever software you are using and then it is delivered to the user’s inbox as and when the sending criteria is met. That sending criterion is called trigger, and like we discussed it could be either-
- User’s action
For instance, you get a welcome email as soon as you subscribe to a specific blog. Here, ‘your subscription’ is the trigger. (user action)
- User‘s inaction
For instance, you get an opt-out email from Growthhackers when you have haven’t interacted with their email for a significant period.
- Event date
For instance, you get a reminder from Netflix when your trial approaches expiry. (event date)
Automated email campaigns help build customer relationships at scale
Previously, for establishing a one-to-one relationship with the customers, sellers personally built rapport with them and understood their psyche and affinities. The buyer-seller relationship, which was crucial to business, was built at a personal level.
In the online medium when we scale to millions of users, it is impossible to adopt the same strategy. So, marketing technology gave us the flexibility to track and analyze the online behavior of the user and accordingly craft our communication with them.
Myth- Automation replaces humanness in the conversation
One of the loudest arguments against automation in any sector is that it reduces the human component which until some time ago was very intrinsic to that job, like Painting.
Consider a Robot painting next Monalisa. The resultant painting may be as good as any of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, but it is unlikely that it will achieve even an iota of acceptance by art lovers.
A similar analogy could be drawn for automated electronic communication too. Or could it?
Robots cannot replace human conversation, and it’s true. However, this argument cannot be held against automated communication because what automation essentially does here is that
a) it lets human instantly process gazillions data points about his customer’s browsing history
b) it spares him from being at his desk when the email is supposed to be delivered
So, contrary to the perception that forms in our head when hearing of automated email (i.e., Jeff Bezos says “Alexa, shake that motherboard baybeh” and email lands in our inbox”), it still comes from a human only. A human who is faster, efficient and capable of interacting with million customers at once.
Moving forward, we have defined how to set up automated email communication. If you pay attention, you will notice that in each step that we are working towards building context (humanness) in the email.
Steps to setting up an automated email campaign
Step 1- Define the target group or segment
Whom do you want the email to be sent to?
Segment is a group of users unified by common action, demographic attribute, location etc.
Like any marketing campaign per se, segmentation is crucial in email marketing too. The only requirement is that your email marketing tool should be able to group your users based on the parameters specified in the image above.
Step 2- Identify the right trigger
At what moment should the user receive the email?
Pre-requisite- An email marketing automation tool with the capability to track user actions (or ‘custom events’ as it is technically called)
Identifying the right trigger for an email entails zeroing down the moment when you want the particular email to land in the user’s inbox. The following table lists down some the common user actions or events which could be converted into email triggers.
|On purchase||Send the invoice copy.|
|On email subscription||Send a welcome email.|
|On customer churn||Send an internal email to the customer success team.|
|On cart abandonment||Send a win-back email which incentivizes user to complete the abandoned purchase.|
Step 3- Personalize the message
How deeply you want to customize the message based on audience’s behavioral and demographic data?
When we talk of email personalization, $first.name$ immediately comes to our mind because that’s the extent of personalization that most email marketing systems provide. However, that’s comparatively infantile if you look at the powerful personalization solution offered by marketing automation systems today. For instance,
- Product recommendation to the customer based on previous purchases (this warrants a different post for itself given the enormous use-cases recommendation technology can address, but that’s for a different day)
- Show items in wish list in the promotional email
- Add conditional logic in the email content so that personalized email is crafted for the user on the fly depending on his attributes.
Step 4- Set up campaign goal
What’s the concrete goal of this email campaign?
The click and open are invariably calculated by the email marketing tool, and they are presented with the array of other metrics. But more than often they are/should not be the goal of our campaign. Our goal should be the action that we want the users to perform- one that drives dollars.
The goal of an email campaign is the answer to “what action do you want your users to take from this email.”
#image setting goals in email marketing
Certain tools also provide email templates categorized by marketing goals.
Step 5- Create test/control groups
How much lift the campaign has provided?
In case you have forgotten, here is a quick rundown of the definition of campaign lift.
Lift is the measure of the difference in the conversion rate of users who were exposed to your email campaign (insert mobile ad, push notification, sms etc etc.) against the ones who weren’t (control group). So if the lift is positive, the campaign is successful, and quite obviously the success is proportional to the lift percentage. Vice versa, if the lift is negative.
Now that we understood how to create a great automated email campaign let’s check out some of the great examples.
9 great examples of Automated Email Campaigns
1. Chartmogul- Transactional(+Promotional) email
Transactional emails are 8x more likely to get clicked than the non-transactional ones.
So it’s a tremendous opportunity for marketers to drive engagement and dollars.
Chartmogul does a great job of inserting their resource content into the transactional email. The email does the same job as any email newsletter but without appearing such and certainly driving more engagement than a regular newsletter could.
2. Jabong- Reactivation email
Nearly 3 out of 10 apps installed end up getting uninstalled within first 30 days.
While there is no solution to the volatile behavior of users amidst millions of apps, and thousand new getting uploaded every day on play store. Most users uninstall because they couldn’t realize the value proposition. Nudging them again to win them back is a good idea and Jabong’s quirky attempt to pull that has our vote.
3. Myntra- Welcome email
Welcome email on an average record 4 times the open rate and 5 times the click-through rate of a standard email marketing campaign. It’s very common, and nearly all brands do it. But Myntra’s stands out for the reason that it went a step ahead and made it contextual for the present day.
The user had subscribed to Myntra while they were running their yearly sale and Myntra ensured that it was adequately highlighted in the welcome email.
4. Grammarly insights- Periodic report email
This email stands out for the deep personalization. A report template has been created by Grammarly, and data is populated on the fly replacing the personalization variables, making the email different for each user.
The similar email was sent by Swiggy too. If you see there is a common template which changes on the fly based on user attributes.
— Ajit Singh (@cycle_wallah) January 6, 2019
5. Glassdoor- Update email
Glassdoor is a website where you drop reviews about the companies you are working or may have worked.
Now, after you have reviewed a certain company, glassdoor sends you an email each time a new review is added.
6. BetaList- Winback email
BetaList is a startup listing platform, and you could subscribe on their website for a periodic update on freshly launched startups.
When you unsubscribe from Betalist newsletter, this is what you get.
Quite clearly, they are acting on the fact that when subscribers say goodbye, they don’t always mean it. Oftentimes, they could be reasoned, and BetaList is trying to do that in a slightly playful manner.
7. Anniversary email
This email from Crocs has been raved by many and it our approval too.
It is an excellent combination of great context and good copywriting.
Great context because you receive this email when you complete one year with Crocs. Not one more year on the world when your inbox is anyway littered with ‘Happy Budday’ email from banks. You get it when you complete a year with Crocs. An anniversary email on a regular day.
Good copywriting because the value proposition is decently highlighted with big font. No playing around with anything and jumping straight to the point.
8. IFTTT- Nurturing email
This email looks like an anniversary email, but it’s just a nurturing email in disguise (1 month doesn’t qualify as an anniversary in any world) asking for more engagement and is every bit contextual.
To make it even more engaging, they sent the content for which they have data-backed evidence that it would resonate most with the audience.
9. Amazon- Replenishment email
Usually, when somebody gives example of Amazon’s email I stop listening. Because that’s equivalent to telling “guess what! Brad Pitt has a nice face”. I am like “really? How come no one ever told me that.”
Also, it’s not that I couldn’t find any other example of a replenishment email, but this email from Amazon trumps all the other examples several times over.
It came to the user when his phone’s warranty period had expired, around the time when one looks for replacement.
Automation is a success story if you go by what they say on Twitter. There are a lot of legitimate case studies as well to support the argument.
But customers too in general are exposed to a lot of automated messages so unless your message stands out you are only making spam folder heavier.
Remember, good email is like oxygen. Customers won’t appreciate if there is a good one but they will immediately drop you in spam if it even slightly stinks. Hope this analogy didn’t stink 😉