Let’s get serious with auto responders!

Let’s get serious with auto responders!

Auto responders tend to get set up almost as an after thought. We’ve planned our email broadcasting strategy for bulk sends but about those pesky auto responders? What should we send there? They also tend to get set up and often are left unchanged. We recently discovered a self-service client who had sent over 3 million auto response messages over the last 2 years for a brand they had shut down! The auto responses were set up in the system, the data was there, the trigger criteria had been met in each instance and so the email had been sent, approximately a 1/4 of a million of them a month, all because the auto responders or trigger emails are all to often an after thought. What’s worse they were getting a 14.8% open rate and a 6.2% click through rate to a 404 error page!

So why are these types of emails treated so badly and what can we do about it? Well, I think the truth of it is, as marketers, we are a little scared of being pushy – over selling and over emailing. We’re scared of upsetting someone so we do little or nothing ‘offensive’ in these emails rather than embrace them for the opportunity they are. I also think that many email agencies haven’t developed robust strategies around these types of messages. We, and that’s a generic we – clients and agencies – don’t spent the same amount of time or effort testing what is possible, what works and what doesn’t. We don’t analyse the results in the same way, we don’t tweak and test – we tend to set them up and leave them. We seem to forget that every touch point should be seen as an opportunity to engage, brand, and reinforce our message.

Well we at display block think that is the wrong approach. We feel this strand of our industry is a massive opportunity waiting to be exploited. Think of all the touch points, and I’m not just talking about, Nursery programmes, Birthday greetings, Anniversaries or the things that everyone feels they should do but the real opportunities lie elsewhere. Order confirmation emails, very rarely do I see these and think, “you’re pushing the boundaries” or even “this company is following good marketing principles”. What I generally end up thinking is “oh good my order went through ok”. Now think about this; in general order confirmation emails get a 114.3% open rate, read that again; a 114.3% open rate, and most marketers are throwing that opportunity to cross sell or reinforce their brand message away with a limp logo and a ‘thanks for your order’ message. *source litmus


Of course, not all marketers are like this but there are an awful lot who have taken this approach. Now if we accept that the order confirmation email is a good place to cross-sell, engage and reinforce our brand then thos presents opportunities. What about the dispatch email, the delivery confirmation email? If we get clever, as we are supposed to with our marketing, think of the possibilities for these emails. Clever, professional, witty, friendly, on-brand type messages which give the recipient a WIIFM feeling and also sells our brand to them one email at a time.

There are, of course, other opportunities and we are increasingly seeing basket abandonment emails being triggered when a transaction hasn’t been completed, but again these follow a tired and not very inspiring format of “oh we see you left something in your basket, here’s a discount if you buy it” type message. The truth is that’s our goal – we want them to go back and buy it but saying so and sending them a discount to do it every time seems to be herd mentality and not very marketer inspired. At display block we’re going to encourage you to think outside of the norm (I nearly said box but that is so clichéd that it could almost be ironic to use it!)

What I rarely see with triggered or auto responders are browse abandonment emails. Triggering an email when someone has looked at a particular product or product area on your website as a result of recieiving and clicking on an email or coming to a website via another channel that allows us to recognise who they are – then including some business rules that we tweak and test based on results to trigger a clever browse abandonment email. Now I know if I have looked at a product once online and haven’t bought it the chance of an email pushing me over the edge is slim but if I’ve looked 3 or 4 times and then get a clever, personalised and targeted message about the product or product area then I am going to be more likely to buy. I have shown my hand so to speak and it’s time for you to close the deal.

2 thoughts on “Let’s get serious with auto responders!

  1. Very interesting article and I’d certainly agree! It’s an area that’s all too often overlooked in email marketing strategies. That auto responder example you mention is crazy! For over two years!!!

    It might be me having a moment, but how does an email have over a 100% open rate?

    1. An email can get an open rate of over 100% if people go back and open the email multiple times. This is not uncommon for people checking their correct goods have been ordered and they have been charged correctly.

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