The Outliers | 3 small changes to your email marketing to reap a big reward
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3 small changes to your email marketing to reap a big reward

I always notice missed opportunities in email marketing, and I think there are some small tweaks that make a difference to the bottom line. This article is an example of 3 small changes, based on an email I received, that I think could make a difference.

Years ago I was shopping in New York City after a crazy snow storm.  I wasn’t really prepared for the icy cold chill in the air, it was the kind where your lips are constantly dry, and licking them constantly brings short-term relief but eventually, they crack and sting.

I was at the counter paying for my new clothes, it was the time when the AUD was at parity to the US so I was shopping up a storm, and the shop assistant did a good job upselling me on some tins of lip balm that she had next to the register.

Now, this lip balm is the best I have ever used, and one tin lasts around 18  months so every time I return to the US for work or holidays, I stock up on a couple of tins. There’s no point in stocking up because they last so long by the time I finish one, I have either misplaced the extra ones or they can melt over the Australian Summer.

The other night I realised my last tin was almost empty, and with no trips to the US in the near future, I decided to Google to try to find an Australian stockist.  I found an online store that had a couple of flavours that I hadn’t tried so I placed my order.

The next morning I had received two emails, one a receipt for my order and one containing from the company. The emails triggered immediately after I placed the order, so it was great to see a company using basic email automation but I couldn’t help but think there was an opportunity for improvement. Money was being left on the table by not using the emails as a chance to get customers to make a second purchase.


Where could they improve

1.  Look at the timing

The first thing I would consider is triggering the emails at different times. If a customer receives two emails at the same time from a company, chances are they are only going to open one. I would test sending the invoice email immediately, customers generally want to see these to make sure their order has gone through. Then I would send the account information in a second email the next day. Now you might ask why I wouldn’t suggest combining the account information with the receipt information, imagine in 2 months they want to make another purchase but can’t remember their account info and search for the email. You want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to find it.

2. Give the customer something else to buy

The second thing to think about is increasing the lifetime value of the customer. Many first time customers never make another purchase so we want to encourage customers to make a second purchase as soon as possible. If we can encourage a second purchase, we’ve created loyalty and the customer is much more likely to return to buy again in the future and not only do they come back more often, they usually spend more on the second order. According to Adobe customers who make a second purchase are likely to spend 3 times more than they did in their first purchase.

Did you know that receipt emails have one of the highest open rates of all emails? According to conversio they have 70.9% compared to the average of 17.19%. So you have a captive audience who is engaged with your business. This is an opportunity to offer suggested products to your customer.

There are a couple of ways to do this:

    1. You can offer your best selling products. Logic tells us if they sell the best then they appeal to the majority of people and therefore may appeal to the recipient of the email. This is often the simplest option but may not get the highest conversion rate.


  1. If you have the technology, then you can offer complementary products based on the customer’s purchase. Now I have seen some organisations complicate this by having hundreds of variations and for a large organisation with lots of resources, like Amazon, this can make sense, but for a smaller organisation I would keep it simple. With some basic analysis, you can determine what customers usually purchase next and offer that as a suggested product. Or you can do some data analysis and see which follow up products.

Using my lip balm example, you may find that customers who buy lip balm usually follow up with a purchase of an additional flavour of the same lip balm or maybe you’ll see they buy more moisturiser because if they have dry lips they may have dry skin too.

Another example could be if you sell courses, what are other courses that progress their knowledge in the same topic or logically follow the one they took.

Or if you’re a hotel and you want to increase your revenue and give a good experience for your guests you could partner, where you get a % of the cost, with a local tour company and offer tour

I raided my inbox to find a couple of examples of cross-selling in receipt emails.

Amazon is the undisputable leader in this space, this was a cross-sell of similar business books after I bought a business book.

Amazon cross sell

Amazon cross-sell from the receipt of recent purchase.

Jetstar offer in-flight extras when you book a flight.

Jetstar invoice

Jetstar cross sell from invoice email

This one isn’t from my inbox, it is from Really Good Emails, which is a great resource for seeing examples of, well, really good emails.


Huckberry is a great example of offering popular products for additional purchase.

Your Huckberry Order email

An e-commerce example of a cross-sell in a receipt email.

I do a lot of shopping online, so I have a lot of email receipts or invoices and going through them to find these examples, I am actually surprised going through my inbox how few businesses actually do a cross-sell to entice a second purchase. But that to me says opportunity, once everyone starts doing something in digital marketing it is a lot harder to get cut through.

3. Customers trust what others think

If reviews are important in your industry, and word of mouth is always important, then after you know the customer has received the product (you could find out from your shipping company to be accurate, or estimate based on delivery date), then you could ask them about their experience with your company and the product or service. This has the benefit of engaging with the customer, but also a better customer experience, for positive reviews you can use these in your marketing, emails, and website and for anyone who had an issue with their experience you can take steps to improve it for everyone and make it better for that customer. Customers are much more likely to return if you fix a negative experience. Also, you want to take proactive steps to avoid them bad mouthing your company either online or to other potential customers.

Here is an example of a request for reviews from my inbox.

Review email

An example of an email asking customers for a product review.

So there you have it, that’s a couple of small, simple changes that could make a big difference to the bottom line.


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