November 13, 2012
Case Study

Automated Email Case Study: 175% more revenue and 83% higher conversion rate

SUMMARY: Some email marketers dabble in automation, while others dive in headfirst. The e-commerce team profiled in this article is among the latter, with a series of 40 triggered emails that regularly outperform its standard messages.

In this case study, we describe the team’s top three triggered emails, how they work, and how they perform. You’ll see how shipping alerts can be money makers, and how the team blends customer service and marketing.
by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter

More than 60% of email marketers send automated "welcome" emails, and more than 50% send "thank you" emails. A smaller number send product recommendations.

SmartPak Equine is ahead of the pack. The national equestrian-supply retailer has 40 event-triggered, lifecycle-marketing emails.

"We will always have a need for typical batch-and-blast [campaigns], but here we try to be smarter about the messages we send so they are super relevant," says Carey Marston Kegel, Email Marketing Manager, SmartPak Equine.

Triggered messages are among the company’s strongest performers. Here are the team’s average results for automated emails and manual batch-and-blast campaigns:
  • Open rate: 28% for automated emails, 17% for manual

  • Clickthrough rate: 5-6% for automated, 2-3% for manual

  • Conversion rate: 11% for automated, 6% for manual

  • Revenue per email: $0.44 for automated, $0.16 for manual

We would need a small book to describe 40 campaigns, so Kegel shared how her three favorites work.

Email #1: Shipping reminder

SmartPak Equine strives to offer everything a customer needs to maintain a horse and its health. One of the company’s signature products is its SmartPaks. These single-dose packs of vitamins and supplements are made to order. This gives the marketing team some downtime between purchase and delivery.

To take advantage, the team schedules an automated email to reach customers 11 days before their SmartPaks are shipped.

Portions of the email lean toward customer service, including:
  • Delivery reminder – The email reminds customers that the order will ship in 11 days. It also notes they have three more days to change the order if necessary.

  • Helpful links – Customers can click buttons to review an order or reach customer service. There is also a navigation bar.

  • Feedback – The final portion of the email’s copy asks customers to share feedback and thanks them for their business.

Other parts of the message relate to customer service and lean toward marketing, including:
  • Free-shipping reminder – The copy mentions that orders of supplement packs over $40 ship free, and "anything you add to ship with your horse’s SmartPaks ships free."

  • Order button – A large blue button asks customers to "change or add to your order."

  • Related info – The email also mentions relevant promotions and products.

Results show the email encourages more customers to increase their orders.

"It’s a way for us to add incremental revenue to the orders and lump shipments together," Kegel says.

Second reminder email

Encouraged by the success of the first email, the team launched a second to reach customers three days before shipping.

"At this point, it’s too late to make changes to your horses’ packs, but you can still add supplies," Kegel says. "It’s kind of a last-minute chance to get free shipping."

After launch, the second email earned nearly as much revenue as the first, almost doubling the total income for the campaign.

"We didn’t see the revenue spread over the two emails. We saw an incremental lift," Kegel says.

Email #2. Product review reminders

Product reviews often increase conversion rates on e-commerce sites. SmartPak Equine also likes reviews because they:
  • Give shoppers more confidence

  • Help the marketing team monitor product quality

  • Reduce the rate of returns

  • Help the brand sell more of its private-label supplements

The team previously used a homegrown system to manage reviews. It had about 5,000 of them on the site. The company later partnered with a software vendor that specialized in product reviews. Then, it had to drive ROI.

"We had to figure this out," Kegel says. "How can we get as many product reviews on our website as possible to make this really pay for itself?"

The team set a triggered email to ask customers to review products they purchased. Here are its features:
  • Timing – Some products take longer to show benefits than others, so the team used two schedules. Customers who bought one type of product received the email 21 days after purchase. Customers who bought another type of product received the email 42 days after purchase.

  • Review request – The email includes a large banner that encourages the reader to "let your voice be heard." The copy thanks customers for the purchase and invites them to submit a review.

  • Call-to-action – The center of the email features a large image of the product the customer purchased and a button that says, "Review this product."

  • Incentive – The copy also mentions that customers who send a review are entered into a monthly drawing for a $25 gift certificate.

The team launched this email in 2009. Product reviews have since increased 16-fold, from 5,000 to more than 80,000, Kegel says. She attributes the jump to the new review system and this automated message.

Email #3. Recover abandoned shopping carts

SmartPak Equine also earns great results with shopping-cart-recovery emails. These messages reach customers who add products to their carts and leave the site without buying.

Here are the key features of the team’s shopping-cart-recovery emails:
  • Timing – The email reaches customers one day after they abandon.

  • Product image – The email lists the names and pictures of the abandoned items. Also included are prices, five-star ratings, and a link to return to the cart.

  • Reminders – The email mentions the company’s "100% happiness guarantee," free shipping for orders over $75, free return shipping, and price-match program.

  • Calls-to-action – One link and one button urge customers to "return to cart," and other links help customers log into accounts or reach customer service.

This campaign is a workhorse. It earns an average of $4.80 revenue per email, and earns a 50% conversion rate among readers who click through.

Customer service trumps marketing

SmartPak Equine differentiates itself through great customer service, Kegel says, and the team tries to reflect this in its emails.

"We are like your friend at the barn, and that’s how we really try to make our emails come across."

For example, the team’s shopping-cart-abandonment message starts with the headline, "Did you forget something?" The shipping-notification email begins as a "friendly reminder." These nuances help the emails come across as helpful instead of annoying.

The company is also in the process of putting a cap on frequency. The team plans to launch a logic system to ensure customers are not flooded with emails and the most important emails are delivered.

Creative Samples

  1. Shipping reminder email

  2. Product review email

  3. Shopping cart email


SmartPak Equine

Related Resources

Automatic for the People: The pros and cons of triggered emails

Marketing Automation: 416% higher customer lifetime value from auto-email strategy

Shopping Cart Recovery: Triggered emails recapture 29% of abandoned carts

Remarketing Emails: How JetBlue's automated triggers get 1,640% more revenue-per-email than promotional emails

Trigger Happy: Why emails are the magic bullets of marketing automation and shopping cart recovery

Email Marketing: How Microsoft increased product engagement using email

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