Insights

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What we've learned from this year's Email Marketing Automation Summit

Everything from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to Creative Copywriting, applied to transactional email

Tom Blijleven

Marketing Manager

@

Flowmailer

Liana Tamse

Digital Marketer

@

Flowmailer

Nick van Dijk

Business Developer

@

Flowmailer

On June 23rd, the DDMA Email Marketing Automation Summit (or: EMAS) brought us all kinds of new insights we'd love to share with you. Just like keeping your email marketing game up to speed, transactional emails deserve your full attention too. We've translated all the insights we got from the EMAS to actionables for you to improve your transactional emails.

Published on:

Jul 2022

Note: All the EMAS presentations, pictures, and aftermovie can be found on their website.

About the Email Marketing Automation Summit

In a rapidly changing field such as email marketing, it's crucial that email specialists keep a close eye on all developments. During the DDMA Email Marketing Automation Summit, national and international speakers update peers on the latest trends and share their vision on the future of email and marketing automation. Formerly known as the Email Summit, EMAS has moved to a more omnichannel focus. In the 2022 edition, we surprisingly noticed some very, very good transactional email learnings.

Email Marketing Automation Summit welcome screen
EMAS 2022 Welcome screen (source: emas.nu)

What we've learned

With 12 very insightful sessions divided in two rooms, we split up to write down everything the speakers had to say. After comparing notes, we distinguished four prominent themes:

  1. Strategy
  2. Content
  3. Design
  4. Data

1. Strategy

Getting marketing involved in the process of sending transactional email is what we've been preaching for quite a while. Whether it's about simply creating a prettier email, adding cross- and up sell, or using transactional data for marketing purposes - there is no reason for them not to be involved.

Jordie van Rijn's LinkedIn post about the EMAS and how marketing should get involved in transactional email CEX
Jordie van Rijn's take on marketers & transactional emails

With the marketing department getting more involved, you need to look into the strategy behind developing, designing, and sending transactional emails. It boils down to answering five questions:

  1. Why am I sending an/this email?
  2. What is the purpose of this email?
  3. What does the receiver have to do with this email?
  4. What would I like the receiver to do?
  5. How will they know it's from my brand?

Applying Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

As the first keynote speaker, April Mullen (Women of Email) told us about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In a buying process, transactional communication fulfills the basic needs of your customers: Physiological and safety needs. In this stage, the customer wants to be informed and ensured of their purchase. It's your job as a marketing professional to make sure they have all the information they need in a comprehensive way. Knowing what specific needs your transactional emails fulfill makes it easier to communicate with your customers.

A checklist for transactional email strategy

To our delight, this edition of EMAS included more transactional tips and tricks. Fernando Rubino Pereira's (CANYON) keynote went all in on their welcome journey. He ended his presentation with a checklist to create a better welcome journey, but we like to think it's applicable to multiple sorts of transactional emails:

  1. Define its goal (inform or convert);
  2. Think in the full width of the Customer Experience;
  3. Follow email best practices;
  4. Timing is crucial;
  5. Be human;
  6. Be transparent;
  7. CTAs: Shop, read, download;
  8. Ask for more email communications;
  9. Test, test, test & A/B test;
  10. Data is king;
  11. Do it!

Fernando Rubino Pereira's presentation at the Email Marketing Automation Summit 2022
Fernando's presentation at EMAS (source: emas.nu)

2. Content

Transactional emails are sent to fulfill a specific goal, primarily based on the customer's journey. You send a welcome email when someone signs up for your service, send a confirmation email when someone places an order, and so forth. In those emails, you sometimes want - or need - your recipient to take action. Thoughtful copywriting can steer your recipients to take that action.

It is ‘easy’ to write a text, but if you want your customers to take action, you have to know how to influence them. In his keynote, Christ Coolen showed us how. By using certain biases, you're able to influence the customer's brain. That's because the subconscious makes 95% of our daily choices and people are - on average - very predictable when they make decisions. When applying cross- and upsell to transactional email, here are some tactical take-aways that can help optimize conversions:

  1. When you want your customers to take action, point out what will happen if they don’t. People don’t like adverse outcomes or missing out on things. By making them conscious of what they're about to miss out on, they are more likely to take action;
  2. Also, when people identify with certain situations and feel spoken to directly, they're more prone to take action. This is called the Barnum effect;
  3. Sometimes products are featured in a transactional email, e.g. in order confirmations. It is overwhelming to see loads of products, which puts possible upsell opportunities off. This can easily be fixed using fewer items or even just one specific item. 
  4. In conclusion: Make it as easy as possible for your customers to understand what you'd like them to do. 

3. Design

EMAS Awards: The Design Jury
Email Design Awards

Besides the contents of your email, email marketers/developers tend to overlook their transactional email designs. Creating a consistent look and feel is important for your branding and your customer experience. Branding goes beyond just showing a logo. It's a feeling. A deeper meaning behind what you see and feel when you look at logo's, websites, even colors, and yes... emails!

Your email design is the feeling you want to get across through the inbox. It's a piece of visual communication - just as important as your written communication; your email content. But how do you go about the design? What are best practices, how do you optimize your templates, what are the trends?

At EMAS, Tim Zuidgeest (Unravel), Jay Oram (ActionRocket) and Mike Nelson (Really Good Emails) talked us through email design. Tim showed us how neuromarketing can help you optimize your templates, Jay live-coded an interactive email on stage, and Mike gave us insights in the latest of the latest email trends.

Two types of attention

To really guide your recipients' eyes to where they need to be, it helps to be aware of the two types of attention: bottom-up and top-down. This helps you create (transactional) emails that help your recipient even more, steer their attention to where action is required, and help you upsell items in a neuromarketing-approved way.

Attention can be categorized into two distinct functions: bottom-up attention, referring to attentional guidance purely by externally driven factors to stimuli that are salient because of their inherent properties relative to the background; and top-down attention, referring to internal guidance of attention based on prior knowledge, willful plans, and current goals.
- Abstract from "Bottom-up and top-down attention: ..."

Interactivity in email

A prominent trend in email is interactivity. Whether it's CSS, AMP, GIFs - moving elements in an email is *hot*. However, transactional emails are often left out when considering interactivity. That's not necessarily a bad thing - they're meant to drive action, not engagement - but we feel some transactional emails could do well with a little interactivity. Before you start investing in interactivity, however, you should answer these three questions with yes:

  1. Does a significant part of your audience use an inbox that supports interactivity?
  2. Is there a good reason (other than you just having fun) for applying interactivity?
  3. Will it add to the experience and goal of the email?

Trends (and other stuff)

Mike Nelson (RGE) walked us through the latest trends in email design. We've listed them below and looked for some transactional email examples on - could you guess - Really Good Emails:

Tim Zuidgeest in front of EMAS screen with emoticons
Tim on stage talking about neuromarketing in email (source: emas.nu)

4. Data (& Privacy)

Privacy is another hot topic in email and beyond. With massive privacy updates happening every few months, like Schrems II or Do Not Track, Apple's Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is one of the latest in the feed. Last year, we sat down with Chris Byrne and Tobias Eickelpasch to discuss MPP already, and Romar van der Leij (DDMA) updated us on the actual effect of Apple's changes and how to work around this factor:

  1. Calculate the amount of Apple Mail users in your audience;
  2. Focus on Click-through Rates instead of opens to measure success;
  3. Consider going privacy first - what is your interest in knowing what's going on in emails?

Cookieless ≠ No data

A large chunk of marketing professionals rely on third-party data to create customer profiles and target customers based on this data. With the rise of 'the cookieless world', however, third-party data is at risk. Beata Linz showed us how we - the email professionals - can survive in a cookieless world. The answer is simple: just ask. Customers are willing to share data that's clearly used for personalization.

Instead of using third party data to guess what customers want, you can just ask them. Transactional emails are perfect examples of data-enrichment tools: Ask people to introduce themselves in your welcome email, see what type of cross- and upsell works in order confirmations, et cetera.

Summarized:

What we've learned from this year's Email Marketing Automation Summit

Just like prior editions, the Email Marketing Automation Summit was filled to the brim with incredible keynotes, useful insights, and plenty of ways to expand your knowledge and network. With so much to learn about email, our main take-aways about improving your transactional emails, are:

  1. Involve the marketing team in the transactional email design & process;
  2. Tune your transactional email content to the needs of your recipient;
  3. Write comprehensive copy to make your recipient do what they need to do;
  4. Explore interactivity - only when it enriches the transactional email;
  5. Use your transactional emails as a means to enrich your customers' profiles.

EMAS 22 After Movie

Curious to what the EMAS has to offer? Watch the aftermovie or visit their website!

Tom Blijleven

Marketing Manager

@

Flowmailer

With years of experience in the email (marketing) industry, Tom currently manages the marketing department at Flowmailer. In this role, he mainly writes about transactional email, email deliverability, and the API-first economy.

Liana Tamse

Digital Marketer

@

Flowmailer

Interested in the details & the data, Liana is currently working as Digital Marketer at Flowmailer. Whether it's writing about GDPR or optimizing our digital campaigns, Liana has proven to be a true T-shaped marketer.

Nick van Dijk

Business Developer

@

Flowmailer

Like a true Business Developer, Nick knows what is going on in customer projects, analyzes pitfalls, and writes about what he sees happening with (potential) customers - so you don't make the same mistakes.

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