Email Transforms Website Conversion


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When you think about an email service provider (ESP), you tend to think about large batch-based email blasts, customer promotions and newsletters that will drive visitors to websites as targeted traffic. We find ESPs could play a critical role is tackling website, checkout and/or shopping cart abandonment as well.

Research by the e-tailing group shows that the top tactic in driving website conversion for 2009 is targeted email.

Not tuning your shopping cart, personalization, listing new products or any of the other tactics in the marketers’ arsenal, but, yes, email as a website conversion technique. And as I noted in my last blog, this is a priority for marketers in these tougher economic times.

To date, leading ESPs have been building transactional application programming interfaces (APIs) which allow you to integrate directly into their email engines. The first wave of these APIs allowed you to send a mini batch of contacts to be mailed, and they’d then be queued up and sent some hours or even days later.

But the next generations of APIs are different altogether. Using web services interfaces, these new APIs are designed to take one event per email to be sent. These were designed initially for transactional emails, where an electronic message triggers an individual 1-to-1 email.

Not all ESPs have this capability, but the good ones do this in real time. Silverpop, for example, has a really slick transactional API called Transact which is both real time and event driven. It’s used by, amongst others, airlines to confirm flight bookings.

But these APIs are now increasingly important in the battle to optimize website conversion rates because they are at the heart of real-time abandonment remarketing.

In website remarketing an email is triggered by a website abandonment. If the first of a series of follow-up emails goes out in real time, and you follow best practice advice, then you should be able to convert up to 50 percent of those who originally abandoned. This is big bucks—average website abandonment rates are running this month at 63 percent, so a 50 percent conversion of abandoners would translate to a 67 percent increase in website conversion.

But to get this type of lift, you need real-time email. It is critically important simply because a real-time email is much more relevant to the recipient. An email several days later is much more likely to be out of step with what the customer is doing. It’s also much more likely to be considered intrusive and annoying. Because of this, response rates to real-time email are significantly higher (between 3x and 7x higher than emails sent 24 hours and 72 hours later respectively). But to get this, you need the right type of ESP.

So, if you are evaluating email service providers at present, in addition to the batch mailing requirements you have, here are a few other questions you should be asking:

1. Do you have a transactional API? Can it send an individual email in response to an externally triggered event in real time?
2. What is the round-trip processing time from the event being received to the individual email being dispatched, in seconds?
3. Can I report on emails sent through your transactional API alongside all my other campaigns?
4. If an abandoner receives a follow-up email, but doesn’t follow the provided link, and subsequently converts, how do you ensure additional reminder abandonment emails are not sent?

SeeWhy works with several of the major ESPs on real-time email abandonment follow up with its Abandonment Tracker Pro service. If you’d like more information about how remarketing works, best practice techniques, or to discuss ESP options, visit us at for more information.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


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