Emails to send after they order: an automation strategy founded on relationship


Imagine this: a dream prospect goes to your ecommerce website and makes their first purchase.

After they receive the expected email with their receipt and order confirmation, another email shows up in their inbox. The timing and tone is just right.

Upon reading the email, your new customer feels so well taken care of and welcome, that they decide to make another purchase.

Where before they may have felt anxious about making the wrong decision to buy from you, now they feel reassured. Now they’ve found a resource, a new friend. Within days, rather than months or never, your first-time customer becomes a repeat customer.

How often do your first-time customers feel and act this way?

Building Relationships Through Automated Email Communication

Good communication puts anxiety to rest. Good email communication in response to something your customer has just done on your website can help your customers trust themselves, accepting the risk they took by spending their money with you.

We like to approach post-purchase email marketing by framing it with this question: ‘How does this particular email strengthen the relationship we have with this person?’

  • What emails might you send if that were a screening test you applied?
  • What emails might you stop sending? (Sometimes not sending an email is just as important.)

By answering these kinds of questions you can evolve a strategy that works for your business. It’ll naturally guide you toward what’s relevant to your customer and the context in which they found you.

But there’s another part that’s just as important as what to send: timing!

It’s the when part paired with the what! When emails are triggered automatically and sent based on actions taken by the customer, the timing of your emails becomes responsive. The result: opens and clicks.

So to recap, we start with a screening of content based on sending only what strengthens the personal relationship. Then we anticipate what messages are ‘relevant’ and when they will be ‘responsive’ through automation. With such a strategy you can get results better than industry benchmarks for typical email marketing, as we explain in examples below.

Soon your post-purchase marketing starts to look like proactive “customer service.” It takes on the back and forth of a rewarding relationship.

Using automated sequences of emails (flows) becomes a system to support the loyalty that develops naturally. The fact that it’s automated enables you to have a timely, intentional response when your customer takes an action. Similarly, you can respond to inaction; for example, not completing a purchase, abandoning the shopping cart.

Start with a New Customer Thank You Flow

Email marketing automation can feel overwhelming. But it’s not when you know where to start. For any business with an online sales channel, there are four “core” flows that ought be created first (we’ll explain more about the core four soon, so consider subscribing to our newsletter so you don’t miss it). From this base of automation you can create an email marketing infrastructure that nurtures your prospect and customer lifecycle.

If you don’t have any email automations running yet, this New Customer Thank You flow ought be the first one you build. But if you do have this automation, this flow running already, stop, take stock and consider what could be optimized about it now. Get this VIP one right before extending or creating new ‘flows’ or automations.

Why does this ‘flow’ come first among the ‘core four’?

First impressions last a lifetime, as they say. Now’s your opportunity to reassure their decision. Also, more ecommerce sales: in our experience, with this reassurance, they’re more likely to buy something else in a follow-up order that’s placed soon after the first. (Example below.)

Orient them to what it feels like being your customer, and what they can expect from you. If they need a little education on how to care for their purchase, or how to use it, sharing that information with them in this flow is a simple way to build in proactive customer service.

Demonstrating your awareness of how your new customer may need help is something they will appreciate. It shows you’ve learned from experience with other customers, so that you’re capable of similarly solving their problems. You anticipate questions, you foreshadow their questions.

With this pre-emptive communication in place, the question they may have otherwise brought to your customer service team – or worse, complained about in a review or on social media – it’s already taken care of!

Your customer can relax. They can enjoy their new purchase without reservations. And there’s one less email or phone to answer by your customer service team.

Shaping Your Strategy for the New Customer Thank You Flow 

Each flow you create is triggered by a specific action, or inaction, that your customer takes. The content you include in each flow will shape an intentional journey – think of it like a story arc.

The arc rises and falls. There can be a pattern to the interactions over time. You might interrupt the pattern they’re accustomed to (a typical pattern being a periodic newsletter to prospects) with a more personalized message that connects now as a new customer. You might acknowledge something they did in interaction with you or that you noticed about their activity.

Use these ideas to guide what kind of content you include in the flow and at which point you make an offer. For the purpose of this article, we’re focused on responding to the action of making a new purchase.

In such a circumstance, what might you communicate to welcome them as new customer?

They just took a risk and bought. Sometimes that quiet void of no communication between the time they make the purchase to the time their package is delivered prompts anxiety. They might begin to experience ‘buyer’s remorse.’

Send a simple email affirming the choice they made, and thanking them for their purchase. Introduce them to the stories of customers who made a similar choice. Explain why you created this product, perhaps to meet your own needs originally. With these examples, your new customer can better keep feelings of buyer’s remorse at bay.

(And about the remorse remark above: that’s NOT because you’re pressuring them to NOT feel their feelings or ‘trust their gut.’ Instead, it’s that by what you sincerely communicate, you connect and offer reassurance. Your customer genuinely responds to it with relief. It’s an actual biological response of the brain ‘coming to rest.’ It’s a form of attunement so long as its not fake.)

As an example, House Home & More found this kind of response as we helped them roll out this strategy:

Their customers felt so reassured by that post-order communication, the order rate on that very first email averages 2%. Compared to the industry average, 0.8%, their conversion rate is 1.5X higher.

This response is the result of refining this flow over the course of 2 years. Together we dialed in the content and timing based on what their customers did, and did not, respond to.

Out of all the first-time customers receiving their New Customer Thank You flow, at least 2% are becoming repeat customers. More make their second purchase later in the journey this flow takes them on.

Simply the act of saying “thank you, we’re glad you’re here” can be the reassurance a new customer wants. There are likely items they removed from their cart the first time that now feels okay to be added to their second purchase. We see this over and over in our work.

Learning What Your Customers Like and Dialing In

Marketers like to talk about ‘customer journeys’ these days. Your new customer can be guided along such a ‘journey’ with this first welcome flow.

We sometimes like to think of journeys, from the perspective of the merchant, as instead being a story you tell. The arc of the story you’re telling your customer is brought forth by these emails sent in an intentional sequence. It is story-telling in serial format, one email at a time.

But it’s not just you doing the telling. At best, it’s a relationship, meaning it’s responsive. Each story you tell in the larger arc of the relationship is triggered by a specific action or inaction your customer takes. So take care to establish a story where the ratio of offers to content is specific to each context, each flow.

First inform, offer reassurance, tell stories. Then recommend an appropriate next purchase. Then tell more of your story. And so on….

Understanding Your Email’s Results

An important part of using email flows is consistently checking in and refining them. As you learn what does and doesn’t work, revise!

At first, you’ll find that revenue generated by these flow emails fluctuates from month to month. Sometimes you make it better, sometimes worse. (Ask us if you want to accelerate this learning curve!)

Over time, as you get each flow dialed in, the fluctuation will decrease until it becomes insignificant. Thereafter, if there are fluctuations, it can be understood to be due to seasonal shopping patterns.

Track email open and click rates to measure what’s working. We focus on click rates more than open. An especially practical way to measure the effectiveness of flow emails is to look at the Revenue Per Recipient (RPR). This is something that’s measured easily by Klaviyo, our primary email marketing tool. If you don’t use Klaviyo – it’s a simple calculation you can perform.

RPR is also referred to as $/ recipient. We pay particular attention to the monthly average within each quarter. This gives you a number with a more significant perspective than evaluating the $/ recipient on a weekly or per campaign basis. But the frequency you measure ought be relative to the frequency you return and optimize the emails. After the initial revisions are made in a focused start up period, we pace ourselves to revise them quarterly and or in sync with seasonal changes.

Coming back to House Home & More, a client in the Garden & Home Goods industry, we discovered an interesting trend in the fourth quarter, which then led into the first quarter of the new year.

Their New Customer Thank You flow, the average monthly $/ recipient fluctuates about 3% each quarter – but stays consistent from Q2-Q3.

In the fourth quarter when people are likely to experience a holiday shopping burnout and spending peak, it drops by 48%. But it increases by 52% in Q1 when people resume their shopping.

This is where that long game plays itself out as they shift from being a new customer to a loyal repeat customer.

Having this communication in place to strengthen the relationship you have with your new customers is what makes fear of the “January dry spell” a thing of the past.

Complementary Post-Purchase Flow: The Repeat Customer Thank You

When you feel ready to move on to the next level, you’ll find that creating a separate flow just for repeat customers makes it more relevant, more responsive to the relationship. You’re acknowledging what is: their loyalty, your gratitude, and honoring the continuation of what you hoped would happen. We call this the Repeat Customer Thank You flow.

These two groups of people have different needs and interests, so treat them accordingly.

Distinguishing between repeat and first-time customers enables you to appropriately tell more stories — which means sharing content and recommendations based on the stage of of your particular relationship.

It can start really simply, just taking the time to let them know that you’re aware of their loyalty. They’re more than just another number in your database, right?

The post-purchase experience for repeat customers continues to be, in our experience, the second best place to focus on with your email marketing automations.

How This Strategy Translates to Orders

At this point in their journey, repeat customers are less likely than first-time buyers to make another quick purchase as a direct result of automated emails. So don’t expect similar results as the welcome flow. But we’re in it for the long-haul, and there’s value over a lifetime.

Your communication through this flow is focused on solidifying the foundation of the relationship you have with each repeat customer. How you interact with them now affirms what you already share.

Even just sending one message can make an impact. Our repeat customer flow contains fewer distinct email messages sent. But the value (as measured in click through sales) of each email is often higher.

In the case of House Home & More, for each quarter in 2019, the monthly average $/ recipient with this client’s Repeat Customer Thank You flow is 75% greater than the New Customer Thank You flow. There’s no surprise here. It’s more return for less effort with an established loyal customer. This is classic 80/20 results.

Results show up broadly in the performance of your store’s ecommerce conversion rate. You’ll typically see the conversion rate for ’email’ medium, or referred traffic, as measured in Google Analytics be higher than other sources of traffic. As you introduce the core four, starting with these two described in this article, you’ll see it steadily climb.

In House Home & More’s example, conversion rates for email are 4x to 6x higher than their paid traffic conversion rates. Specific high performing flow automations have been 10x higher.

Put Post-Purchase Communication to Work for You

If you’ve been looking for a way to increase profits in your business, consider automated email marketing in your post-purchase experience. Our clients make it a high-priority strategy.

With these two flows in place for House Home & More after the first year, the ratio of customers who buy once to those who buy a second time increased by 1/3. Entering the third year of these compounding benefits, the business can afford through its profits to increase its advertising. Knowing the store’s conversion rate keeps rising, they can more confidently bid for traffic against their competitors.

But it all goes back to customer attunement. These two post-purchase flows encourage the feeling that customers made the right choice, they have a place in your tribe among friends, and you can faithfully meet their needs.

That’s the kind of email automation strategy you can rely on to increase your customer retention and store-wide conversion rates through the long haul.

Updated: May 3, 2024Array
Published: May 1, 2020

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