4 Ways to Improve Transactional Messages During the Holiday Shopping Season

August 29, 2017

By: Greg Zakowicz,
Author Title: 
Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst
, Oracle + Bronto

There is so much focus on planning for the holiday season, from finalizing marketing calendars and setting sales and promotion schedules, to crafting lifecycle messaging strategies. But despite our best efforts, one item is often left off the to-do list: optimizing transactional messages.

It may not be a sexy topic, but using transactional messages to further market your products is a very effective strategy. The holiday shopping season is now longer than ever, and you’ll likely be seeing a lot of first-time buyers. This is your big opportunity to secure that second purchase – and maybe even a lifelong customer. Putting in the extra effort will pay dividends not only now, but year-round.

Here are a few ways to optimize your transactional messages for the holiday season:

1. Pique Their Interest with Product Recommendations

Intuitive recommendations can take into account not only individual purchase information, but also browse behavior, message product content, and retailer-specific business rules.

To use recommendations effectively, be sure they are as accurate as possible for the individual. Offering recommendations that are irrelevant to the individual not only dilutes your message’s effectiveness, but can hinder future trust in the recommendations served. There may be more forgiveness during the holiday season, however, because people are buying gifts. But maintaining relevant recommendations throughout the year will be critical for maximizing your revenue potential.  

2. Take Advantage of the Opportunity to Grow Your List

Remember: These messages are sent to all customers, not just email subscribers, so why not use the available promotional space to call attention to joining your email program? I have worked with clients who had great success with growing their subscriber list via this method.

When asking people to subscribe this way, however, be sure to have a unique sign-up path. This allows you to track the acquisition source and send a unique welcome message, which is critical if your standard welcome message includes an incentive. Recipients of transactional emails just recently purchased. You don’t want to upset them by offering a discount moments after.

3. Gift Reminders, Stocking Stuffers, and More

If people are purchasing gifts from your store during the holidays, you can assume that they purchase gifts all year round, so go ahead and advertise your gift-giving reminder service in these messages. It’s a great way to grow your email database and trigger relevant, automated messages throughout the year. If you don’t have an automated reminder service set up, create one!

Another approach to holiday recommendations is to highlight stocking stuffers and often forgotten items, such as batteries. These callouts, likely to be more static in nature, can be a great way to add to recent customer sales.

And don’t forget to advertise shipping deadlines. Using a sense of urgency in the promotional areas of your message can be a great way encourage a repeat purchase. A real-time countdown clock can be a good visual tool to really drive home these dates.

Consider combining the countdown with your buy online, pick-up-in-store optionsan offering that should be a no-brainer if you have brick-and-mortar stores. Not only does this offer convenience for consumers, but it is a great value-add for those last-minute shoppers. After all, 65% of customers make additional purchases when they pick up orders in-store.

If you offer any sort of deals of the day or week, you might want to use this space to highlight those upcoming promotions. Such promotions might encourage customers to go back and browse, especially if they’re not already email subscribers.

4. Tell Them How You’ll Help

Don’t think of this as purely an exercise in getting customers to make repeat purchases. Use some of this space to feature your customer service department. In some cases, these purchases will be returned or require additional support. Creating loyal, satisfied customers requires more than delivering a package on time. You must make the customer feel valued and cared for. Promoting your top-notch, easy-to-reach support team can mean the difference between a one-time buyer and a repeat customer.

While you won’t use every one of these tactics, consider which ones will speak best to your customers and help drive your company goals forward. I have worked with many companies who drove significant revenue through their transactional messages, including one Internet Retailer Top 500 company who credited nearly 30% of their yearly email revenue to them. Failing to optimize your transactional messages, especially during the busiest time of year, is like hanging mistletoe when there’s no one around to kiss.

Looking for more holiday email ideas? Check out A Look Back at 2016 Holiday Emails: Dramatic Wins & Colossal Failures.

About Greg Zakowicz and Oracle + Bronto

Greg Zakowicz is a Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst at Oracle + Bronto, a leading cloud-based commerce marketing automation platform provider. Keenly focused on the commerce marketer, Bronto continues its longstanding tradition as a leading email marketing provider to the global Internet Retailer Top 1000 and boasts a client roster of leading brands, including Rebecca Minkoff, Timex, Lucky Brand, Theory, Brooks, Ashley Homestore, and Christopher & Banks. With more than 12 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Zakowicz knows the retail industry and its challenges, and he is a frequent speaker at eCommerce events such as IRCE, eTail West, eTail Canada, Fashion Digital New York, SIA Snow Show and ROI Revolution Summit. He has been published by top retail and marketing publications, including Multichannel Merchant, Click Z, and Total Retail and is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. Greg is also the host of Bronto’s Commerce Marketer Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.