April 29, 2009
Case Study

Improve Customer Acquisition and Retention by Combining Triggered Email and Outbound Promotions: 4 Steps

SUMMARY: As an email marketer, you have control over your outbound promotions, but what about all the other email sent from your company? Are you coordinating your efforts across triggered email, autoresponders, and other service emails?

Read on about an online dating service that made triggered email and marketing promotions work in unison. Find out their new tactics that lifted conversion rates by 10 percentage points and improved email deliverability from around 80% to 99%.

The email marketing team at MEETIC, an online dating service operating in 17 countries, was never quite sure how much email its customer base received on a given day. The company sent out 3-5 million triggered emails a day to registered users, in addition to its outbound marketing campaigns.

The problem for Olivier Moulene, Email Specialist, and his email marketing team: Those messages were coming from two separate, uncoordinated platforms. They used one system for promotional emails and another one for the automated system alerts triggered by member activity on the site. “We couldn’t see the whole picture of which campaigns a member received,” says Moulene.

The team realized that coordinating their triggered email and outbound promotional campaigns could provide more relevant, personalized messages, while managing the volume of email each user received. They wanted to align triggered and promotional emails toward the main goals of attracting and retaining customers, while improving customer satisfaction with email communications.


The team first installed a new email marketing platform to manage both promotional emails and alert emails. Once up and running on that platform, they focused on creating email programs that recognized a user’s status -- free, registered or paid, premium member -- and delivered a personalized mix of service-oriented alert emails and targeted promotional emails.

New user registrations represented one of the team’s primary marketing opportunities, so they developed a campaign that combined an automated welcome series, triggered emails with room for promotional offers, and a personalized newsletter to convert or retain paying customers.

Here are four steps they took in the process:

Step #1. Set limits for the amount of email a subscriber receives

When promotional and triggered email programs were handled separately, the marketing team did not always know how many messages a member was receiving each week. After the two email programs were merged, the team created rules to manage that volume:

- Email alerts were limited to 10 per subscriber, per day. The team programmed its email system to apply that rule automatically.

- Promotional emails were limited to about one per week. The team enforced this limit manually to give themselves flexibility to manage their marketing campaigns.

Step #2. Create automated welcome series that encourages conversions

The dating service offers free registration, but requires a subscription to access the full range of features. They knew from previous experience that the odds of converting a free user into a paying customer decreased over time, so they created a new automated welcome series designed to encourage conversion in several ways.

- The welcome series employed more than 10 emails, with delivery staggered over 60 days.

- A new email was sent every other day for the 10-day period after registration. Then, the frequency slowed one email every five or ten days for the remainder of the welcome series.

- The urgency of the conversion messaging increased over time:

During the first week, welcome series emails introduced new users to the service’s features. Topics included:
o Conducting searches
o Setting up personal profiles
o Contacting other members
o Accessing customer service

After two weeks, the series began featuring emails focused on direct promotions for premium upgrades, including trial offers.

Near the conclusion of the 60-day period, the series included promotions for additional products beyond the core online dating services. “Toward the end, it’s more likely we won’t be able to [convert] the client, so we try to migrate them to another offer,” says Beatrice Tourvieille, Director, CRM.

Step #3. Coordinate conversion offers with triggered service alerts

All registered users receive real-time email alerts about online activity related to their dating profiles. These email messages are triggered by specific actions, including:
o Someone viewing your online profile
o Someone opening a message from you
o Receiving a message from another user

The majority of the information in those messages is dedicated to the specific alert. But the team also created dedicated space below the alert message to highlight promotional offers.

They assigned a promotion to that space depending on the user’s status. For example:
o Free users received offers to convert to full membership
o Paying members received offers to upgrade or extend their membership

Step #4. Send customized email newsletter based on preferences

The team created another marketing opportunity by sending registered users a personalized service-oriented email newsletter.

- All users specify preferences for potential matches when signing up for the dating service. The email system then assembled a list of members who meet each user’s stated preferences.

- As with the welcome series, the team created a schedule that sent messages more frequently in the days immediately following a registration. Emails containing recommended matches were sent:
o Daily for the first four days after registration
o Every three days for days 5-90
o Weekly for days 90-365 after registration

- The email messages also contained areas to promote additional products and services related to the user’s status (i.e., free, registered user or paid, premium member).

Coordinating their outbound promotions and triggered email campaigns has made the team’s life much simpler -- and improved the performance of those campaigns.

“Because we can make more tests and understand the performance of each campaign, we’ve seen an overall improvement in our marketing programs,” says Tourvieille.

- For the automated welcome series:
o Open rates range from 35% to 45%
o Clickthrough rates range from 2% to 20%

- For the triggered alert emails:
o Open rates average 40%
o Clickthrough rates average 12%

Because of issues with their previous email platforms, they don’t have data to easily compare those metrics to past alerts and an earlier non-automated version of a welcome sequence. However, they say those metrics are an improvement over prior efforts.

Overall, the team is most encouraged by two additional metrics that show their efforts are reaching users and achieving their goal of attracting and retaining customers:

- Email deliverability has improved from around 80% to 99%

- Email conversion rates have improved by 10 percentage points.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from MEETIC’s welcome series and triggered email campaigns

The team used Neolane’s email marketing platform:


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