Contributions to Profit Discover the Power of Confirmation
By Jim Gilbert
One major value of the Internet and e-mail is the power to keep customers involved and informed throughout the purchase cycle. From confirming receipt of an order, to notifying customers of back orders or shipments, event-triggered e-mail tied to your customer database can build your brand, create positive relationships and generate sales.
Below, I've put together some effective ways to use e-mail:
1. Use e-mail sign-up confirmations. Although the industry numbers are increasing, there are many companies that don't send out confirmation e-mails when I opt in to receive their newsletters, sales materials and the like. A simple confirmation e-mail is the perfect vehicle to set the tone for your brand and the first sale. If you don't send out a confirmation via e-mail, I have one word for you: Start. If you do, you might be able to do more by adding in some content about your company and the products you sell. You may even want to use this e-mail to stimulate the initial sale by offering a discount off the first order.
2. Confirm all catalog requests placed online. While we all can put up a confirmation screen on our Web sites stating, "You'll receive your catalog shortly," this is a prime opportunity to deliver a message via e-mail with creative that affirms your brand, and/or an offer to drive the first sale.
3. Extend the retail experience. I was in a retail store recently that had to order an item for me that was not in stock. Earlier this week, I got a very nice call from the salesperson saying my product was in, and thanking me again for ordering.
4. Send e-mails after your customers have ordered and after their orders have shipped. Much in the same way, I love to get confirmation e-mails after I order and also when my order has been shipped. I like the way it connects me to my purchase and the company I'm buying from. It's also an excellent forum for cross-selling items that are complimentary to my purchase.
As a music lover, I use iTunes to download music. When my order confirmation e-mail comes, there's a sidebar that offers me music based on my recent purchase activity. Needless to say, my music collection is expanding while "my wallet weeps gently." (See example of iTunes order confirmation e-mail at www.catalogsuccess.com.)
5. Look for other opportunities to connect with your customers. Some confirmation e-mails I've received in the past have been generated when an order I've placed online is on back order, or when my credit card has been charged and when an item I've returned has been processed. With a little ingenuity, opportunities like these present ideal situations for brand building.
Probably the best thing about these event-triggered e-mails is the fact that the costs are negligible compared to more traditional contact methods.
For example, if you were to send a traditional postcard, you're looking at printing and postage costs, plus the time it takes to reach the customer. But with e-mail, once the requisite programming has been done, this process is automated. In your customer relationship management, e-commerce or enterprise software, this process is usually just a matter of clicking an "on" button. Some programming may be done on the creative and database ends to customize the message.
So, once the requisite programming has been done, this process is automated. Remember to test different creative and offers as you would with any direct marketing campaign and to track your results carefully and thoroughly.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing and professor of direct marketing at Miami International University of Art and Design. Reach him at (561) 302-1719 or via e-mail at email@example.com.