What Is a Triggered Email and How To Use It in Your Marketing Campaigns

What Is a Triggered Email and How To Use It in Your Marketing Campaigns
28 December, 2023 • ... • 95 views
Natasha Zack
by Natasha Zack

Reaching out to your subscribers at the right moment with the right message is beneficial both to them and to your business. Email automation allows you to do just that. With triggered emails, you can deliver personalized experiences to your customers with maximum effect and minimum effort. Keep reading to learn more about triggered email campaigns and see some prime examples.

What are triggered emails?

Triggered emails are automated emails prompted by your subscribers’ actions, their lack of activity, or certain events. These actions and events can take place at various stages of your sales funnel, such as opting in to your mailing list or browsing a certain page on a website. Using these triggers, you can create an automated email or email sequence to reach out to your subscribers at the time when your communication is most likely to produce a positive effect.

For example, Julia was casually browsing a shoes category on an e-commerce website during a coffee break. But before she could find what she needed, the break ended. At home, she discovered an email with a selection of shoes similar to those she browsed, took a closer look, and bought a pair. Thus, the email triggered by Julia’s activity on the website prompted her to go back and eventually make a purchase.

That was just one example of how triggered emails work. Besides abandonment emails like the one sent to Julia, there are other emails that can be automated: 

  • Welcome emails
  • Product catalog emails — new arrivals, back in stock, and the like
  • Post-purchase messages, like upsell emails
  • Recommendation emails
  • Retention emails

These days, thanks to the abundance of email automation solutions, more and more businesses of all sizes leverage triggered emails to streamline their email marketing and improve their bottom line. Read on to find out how triggered emails can help your business.

Why are triggered emails so important in business?

Triggered emails can benefit businesses in many ways, making email marketing easier and enhancing the results received from this channel. Now, let’s discuss the most important positive effects triggered emails can have on your email marketing strategy. 

Increasing customer loyalty and engagement

Receiving regular and timely communications from a brand helps customers remember it as trustworthy and reliable. Moreover, triggered emails help retain at-risk buyers — those who haven’t purchased from your brand for a while and might consider parting ways with you.

This is confirmed by numbers. According to Klaviyo, cart abandonment email flows have an average open rate of up to 53.57% and click rates of up to 6.25%, which means chances are high to retain a customer with triggered emails. Same goes for browse abandonment emails, with an average open rate of 57.41% and a click rate of 5.26%. 

Triggered emails also  help you keep active buyers engaged by regularly offering them products they are most likely to need based on their purchase history. According to the same report by Klaviyo, post-purchase emails have an open rate of 64.03%, which is even higher than abandonment flows we mentioned earlier.

Saving time

Triggered emails are also huge time-savers for marketers and businesspeople. Just imagine: without them, you’d have to monitor your subscribers’ activity on all of your platforms 24/7 so as not to miss an opportunity to engage. Not a viable option, is it? 

Luckily, email automation tools monitor “trigger” actions and events automatically, sparing you the necessity to do that in the manual mode.  

Improving customer service

Customers expect businesses to be there for them 24/7 and provide quick responses on every stage of the customer journey. In fact, according to a HubSpot research, 82% of consumers consider “immediate” response from brands important or very important. 

Another thing is that customers like personalized communication. Triggered emails help automatically tailor email content to your customers’ profiles and preferences and offer the most relevant information based on their past communications with your brand as quickly as necessary.  

Boosting revenue

The more relevant content you offer, the higher your email open rate is, and the higher the open rate — the more conversions you may get. Reaching out to your customers at the right time increases the odds in your favor even more. 

According to the Omnisend H1 Stats report, automated emails made up 46.9% of all email sales and only 2.6% of sends. Plus the positive effect triggered emails have on customer loyalty and retention helps increase customer LTV (lifetime value). This is how triggered emails can boost your revenue.

Examples of triggered emails

There are several types of triggered emails that can appear at different stages of the customer journey. Let’s take a look at some common examples and discuss them in detail. 

Welcome email

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the welcome email — the first touchpoint with your customer after subscription. Welcome emails do more than just establish a rapport with newcomers. They also provide essential information about your business and outline the subscriber’s journey. Luckily, these emails are easily automated, so you only have to take care of them once. By hitting the “subscribe” button, a new (potential) customer will trigger your pre-set welcome email campaign and receive automated emails (one or a few) without your involvement in the process.    

Here’s an example of an automated welcome email from Miro. Triggered by joining a team by invitation, it contains concise information about the tool and facilitates onboarding.

A welcome email from Miro contains essential information about the tool and helps a new team member with onboarding.

Abandoned cart

Even after a prospect has moved on to the next stage of the funnel and seems ready to buy, something can go wrong. Cart abandonment, or leaving items in an online shopping cart but failing to proceed to checkout, is a common behavioral pattern among online customers. 

According to estimates by Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate worldwide currently sits at 70.19%. Due to this issue, businesses lose a large share of potential profit. Luckily, abandoned cart emails can help tackle the problem. These automated emails triggered by an abandoned cart remind customers of the items they’ve left behind. Such emails can use psychological triggers such as FOMO marketing or small discount codes to encourage them to purchase. Sometimes, these emails also contain an incentive such as a discount, a gift, or a free shipping offer.  

This abandoned cart email from Red Dress is a classic example of leveraging FOMO. Starting off with a compliment and offering payment options helps make the message even more appealing, and bright design helps create the right mood.

A cart abandonment email from Red Dress. The email features a link to checkout, payment option description, and product recommendations.
Source: Really Good Emails

Here’s another example. This cart abandonment email from Lensabl offers a discount as an incentive while also leveraging a sense of urgency.

A cart abandonment email from Lensabl. The email features a large CTA button at the top and offers a limited-time promotional code to encourage the customer to complete the purchase.
Source: Really Good Emails

Back-in-stock email

Sometimes, the consideration stage is too long, and by the time your prospect decides to buy, the product goes out of stock. Does such behavior mean such potential buyers are lost for good? Not at all: with back-in-stock emails, you still have the chance to re-engage your customers and persuade them to finalize the purchase.

Just like the aforementioned “abandoned cart” emails, these are remarketing emails. Remarketing campaigns are focused on promoting products to existing customers who have already expressed some interest. 

The example below is a classic back-in-stock email. It informs the subscribers who were interested that the item is available again, and highlights the product’s benefits to encourage the purchase. 

A back-in-stock email from Outdoor Research. The email contains an attractive hero image, a description of the product’s benefits, and three CTA buttons.
Source: MailCharts

Customer feedback

Customer feedback is essential to understanding how well your business is doing. What’s more, it can help you glean insights about your products and the quality of your customer service, which is the first step to improving them. Sometimes, customer feedback can even inspire the creation of new products or the development of new features. And with triggered emails, you can reach out to your existing customers after the purchase to gather this feedback. Want to make them more inclined to share their thoughts with you? Offer an incentive, like a gift or a discount code.

This is exactly what Frye, a well-known shoes brand, does in its beautifully crafted feedback email. Here, the brand manages to place just the right accents, highlighting the product and the incentive and coming up with concise copy and a clear CTA.

A feedback email from Frye. The email features a large image of the brand’s product and offers a $50 gift to those who complete the survey. The CTA reads: “Take our survey”.
Source: RetainIQ

Another common example of a customer feedback triggered email is a survey email like the one shown below. This email from Ferragamo was prompted by a customer’s visit to the brand’s online store. It features a quick and simple customer satisfaction survey which is the most popular way to understand the quality of customer experience.

A survey email from Ferragamo. The email contains a message for the customer and an NPS survey and it’s designed in a minimalist fashion
Source: MailCharts

Recommendation email

Every time people browse your website, open your emails, click on your links, or buy products from you, they give you information about their preferences. With this data, you can figure out what else you can offer so they purchase from you again. 

Imagine this. If someone browses a certain product category, clicks through product pages, but leaves without adding items to cart, they likely didn’t find what they were looking for. In this case, you can send them an automated email with recommendations showcasing popular products similar to the ones they browsed. 

Below is an example of a recommendation email from an online bookstore Powell’s. Presumably triggered by a website visit from a subscriber, it contains non-personalized book recommendations from several categories and throws in an element of mystery, hinting that the store has much more to offer. The CTA button is an invitation to explore. 

A recommendation email from Powell’s. The email contains non-personalized recommendations based on the subscriber’s interests and browsing history.
Source: Really Good Emails

Here’s one more illustrative example. This email from OpenTable offers restaurant recommendations based on subscribers’ preferences.

The product recommendations email from Open Table that suggests restaurants based on the user’s location, past behavior, and preferences
Source: Really Good Emails

Birthday email

People love feeling valued — and showing them small but timely signs of attention are a great way to remind them you really care. For businesses, this is a proven strategy to nurture relationships with their customers and increase customer loyalty. Both are essential for a company’s growth and prosperity in the long run. Luckily, you don’t have to send postcards and bunches of flowers to win your customer’s hearts because there is a more efficient and cost-effective way: triggered emails.  

Sending birthday emails is a common practice for businesses, and the process couldn’t be simpler thanks to email automation. In this example from Dutch Bros., the email is triggered by the arrival of the customer’s birthday date. Here, the brand also uses a carefully worded birthday greeting and a personalized gift coupon to get a customer to visit their place again. Neat offer!

A birthday email from Dutch Bros.. The email features a large image of a branded cup of coffee with birthday decorations and contains a special birthday offer. The opening line reads “Let’s Celebrate You Today”.
Source: Really Good Emails

End of subscription reminder

These days, people typically have more than one subscription running, and most don’t even follow their renewal dates unless they receive reminders. Some brands send these reminders each time a renewal is due, while others opt for less frequent communication, only sending reminder emails when the subscription is coming to an end. In both cases, these automated emails are an important part of a company’s customer service. This is especially true for companies offering B2B products such as SaaS solutions. In this case, forgetting to renew a subscription can result in financial losses. For B2C businesses, automated email reminders are a great way to show customers some extra care, helping them plan their budget and keep track of their subscriptions. 

The example below is a typical end-of-subscription email. Here, Intercom, which is a B2B software company, uses a concise plain text email to inform a customer about an expiring subscription a week in advance and prompts them to restart it using a simple and clear CTA.

An “end of subscription” reminder email. The plain text email contains a message for the subscriber and a CTA button that reads “Restart Subscription”.
Source: Really Good Emails

One more common example of this type of automated emails is an end-of-trial email such as the one shown below. Companies use these emails to remind new customers that their test period is coming to an end and offer them to upgrade to a paid plan. In both cases, the trigger is an upcoming subscription expiration date. 

An end-of-trial email from Squarespace. The email features concise copy with crucial information highlighted in bold, a simple infographic, a colored CTA button that reads “Upgrade now”, and a signature styled as handwriting.
Source: Really Good Emails

How to create a triggered email campaign

As you can see, triggered email campaigns are an invaluable tool to businesses of all types and sizes. But setting triggered emails on your own can seem somewhat daunting, even if you already know how to send mass email campaigns — and especially if you don’t. Luckily, creating and launching a triggered email campaign is not that hard once you learn the ropes. So, where do you start?  

First and foremost, you need a software solution that allows for sending automated email campaigns. Depending on your business’ specifics, it can be a complex tool for CRM emails, a professional ESP service, or some other digital marketing software with an email automation feature. For small to medium-sized businesses, ESPs are the preferable option. In many ESPs, however, email automation is only available on paid plans. But in Selzy, you can create and run automated campaigns even with a free plan if you don’t exceed the contact list and the monthly sending limits.

Anyway, regardless of the software, setting a triggered email campaign typically includes the following basic steps:

  • Choose the campaign type. For example, you can create a welcome campaign. Many ESPs, including Selzy, offer ready-made automation templates, but you can always create your own campaign from scratch. 
  • Choose the trigger for your campaign. For example, subscribing to your mailing list. If you want to use events from your website as triggers, you will also need to integrate your website with your email automation tool. 
  • Choose the target audience. At this step, choose a contact list or a list segment that answers your campaign criteria — for example, new subscribers for welcome campaigns or those who browsed a product category for remarketing campaigns. 
  • Put together the emails for your campaign or edit the pre-written ones.
  • Set it all up. Create or edit your chain sequence, set delay times to determine when the next email in the sequence is sent, edit the unsubscribe link, etc.)
  • Save and launch your campaign. 

And if you want to learn more about setting up an automated sequence in Selzy, check out our Knowledge base.

Triggered email campaigns best practices

Now that you know what triggered email campaigns are and how to set them up, it’s time to learn what you can do to improve their performance. Here are some best practices to help you get started. 

Personalize your emails

Triggered emails are already personalized by nature because they are based on the customers’ specific actions or behavior patterns. However, you can take personalization in your triggered email campaigns even further. 

The most common example is using merge tags to greet each customer by name, which is a good way to avoid your emails coming across as generic despite the laser-targeted content. By and large, extra personalization is believed to improve click-through rates. However, it might not always be worth the effort. Across dozens of emails we reviewed while choosing examples for this article, only a few contained personalized greetings. This might be an indication that triggered emails work well without going that extra mile.

Be concise

Triggered emails are meant to convey information highly relevant to the subscriber. Whether it’s an abandoned cart reminder or a birthday greeting, there is no need for your copy to be too elaborate. You don’t want to disperse your readers’ attention and distract them from your CTA. Keeping your message concise is the one way to avoid that scenario. That means steering clear of long introductions and storytelling and getting straight to the point instead. If you need inspiration for your copy, these best email marketing ideas might help.

An abandoned cart email from Chatters. The email contains a short headline in bold, three lines of text and a prominent CTA button on the hero image.
Source: Really Good Emails

Take a look at this email from Chatters — its copy is reduced to a couple of lines, including the header. You can use this one as a reference. But, if you’re inexperienced in writing marketing emails, check out Selzy’s definitive guide on email copywriting.

Use a clear call to action

The call to action is the main focus of all marketing emails, and it is especially important to keep it as simple as possible in triggered emails. Each marketing email has a CTA, whether it is to sell a product, to get customers to upgrade after a trial period, or to entice them to come back to your website after a break. Whatever the purpose, you need to make it crystal clear in your CTA. That’s why straightforward CTAs like “Shop now”, “Checkout now”, or “Go to my cart” typically work best for this kind of email.

A cart abandonment email from Lensabl. The email features a large CTA button that reads “Go to my cart” in all caps.
Source: Really Good Emails

Test and improve your emails

Last but not least, triggered emails can — and should — be reviewed and tested regularly. You don’t want to set up an automated campaign and then accidentally find out it’s been delivering poor results for a few months. 

To avoid this scenario, it’s essential to A/B test your triggered emails, track the metrics, and apply timely changes when needed. This simple but necessary practice will ensure you always have the best-performing version of your email, which is especially important for campaigns running on autopilot most of the time.

Wrapping up

Triggered emails and sequences are indispensable to businesses these days. They offer a lot of benefits, such as increasing customer loyalty and retention, providing a smoother customer experience, boosting revenue and saving tons of time. You can use different types of triggered emails, depending on the specific triggers and the stage of the sales funnel a customer is currently at. The most common types are welcome emails, abandoned cart emails, remarketing emails, recommendation emails, and more.

To create and launch a triggered email campaign, use a software solution that has an email automation feature — for example, an ESP service like Selzy. Choosing email marketing software is a labor-intensive and confusing process. Luckily, many email automation solutions offer a free plan. 

We’re not hinting at anything but Selzy has a great offer — its free plan is fully functional and generous enough to cover the needs of a small business. Create an account with no credit card required so you can test the waters or start growing your sales with emails right away. 

28 December, 2023
Article by
Natasha Zack
I’m a professional journalist with 10+ years of experience. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with various kinds of media — print, online, broadcast. Currently, I write copy for brand media and teach English part-time. I also have my own edtech passion project dedicated to teaching English via Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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