An Introduction to Behavioural Email

Some call it triggers, some re-marketing, and others call it behavioural email. Whatever you want to call it – it’s the same thing.

Simply put behavioural email is the delivery of emails to specific segments based on the actions they took on a website. It’s about delivering emails to the user based on information gathered about their user habits, for example, when a user abandons a cart.

Over the past few years behavioural email has become one of the most effective forms of email marketing, resulting in ROI figures of 750% and open rates of 70%.

Time for a history lesson

The practice of targeted content was first introduced around 10 years ago, by a UK based gambling company who targeted users after they had registered but not deposited any money. Since then it has been adopted by multiple sectors – insurance being the next one to really jump on board, when users abandon or don’t complete a quote online.

The travel sector followed suit before finally the retail sector joined the club. Whilst retail is one of the final sectors to grasp the concept – it’s important they have because of the market potential.

It’s not mainstream – yet

Although most sectors have caught up with the gambling company, there is still a long way to go before it’s a standard element of every email programme.

A study by econsultancy found that 12% of respondents use some form of behavioural response marketing and only 31% use automated campaigns. However, the study wasn’t all doom and gloom – it also found that 47% of respondents were planning to go down this road and implement behavioural emails.

All of this information should tell you that whilst behavioural email is growing fast, there’s still plenty of time for you to get ahead of your competitors.

Go beyond cart abandonment

The next important step is to go beyond the simple initial triggers and help you build a full program of emails that link your entire online strategy.

One way to do this is by looking through your website and thinking of ways you can improve a user’s experience. Here are some key examples of popular behavioural emails across different sectors: cart abandonment, incomplete forms, quote not purchased, saved quote follow up, deposited not spent, purchase anniversary emails, back in stock emails etc., the list could go on and on.

Automated response and process abandonment triggers are the most popular ones being used at the moment, which is unsurprising as they don’t require much in the way of data and are easier to implement.

One sector that does this very well whilst cross selling is insurance. Aggregator sites like can use behavioural emails very well. If you’ve ever been on an aggregator site (and chances are you have, stats say at least 80% of us have used them), you’ll have had emails 1 month before renewal time, emails about travel insurance and home insurance in an aim to cross sell to you.

Looking ahead the next step would be to look at where people go when they’re on the site and send messages based on what they might look at next. For example, if a user has been on a catalogue site, like Argos, and has been looking at bikes, it would make sense to communicate quickly and efficiently with them about bikes.

Listen to your customers

As the email marketing world moves towards triggers based on behaviour, the control will be taken out of the marketers hands and put into the customers – social media is a prime example of this happening right now.  The future of email marketing will be about sending less and making more money from targeting email based on the consumer’s choices.

Whilst this won’t happen in the immediate future, more companies will start to think like this as they understand the power of behavioural email.

One area that makes behavioural email important in the future is deliverability. As email service providers clamp down on spammy senders, getting into the inbox is getting harder and harder. The only way to guarantee that your emails will be received is to send emails that are wanted by your customers.

Timing is crucial

One important element of behavioural email is timing. When is the best time to send these types of emails?

Unfortunately one size does not fit all in this case. What you need to do (of course) is test, test and test again. Whilst testing is the only way to truly know what you need for your site, audience and program, some best practices can be followed:

- Be timely. If you leave your response for a few days your user will have forgotten what they were doing on the site.

- However, don’t turn into Big Brother. Give enough time for the user to get off the site before the email is sent. 5 minutes after they have abandoned the cart is too soon, and you may receive complaints.

- Send relevant content, but don’t be scary. ‘You were looking at item XYZ 8 minutes ago…’ is creepy.

- Don’t throw money away. Avoid giving out offers in the first email, save them for the follow up.

- Send a program of emails. The first should be sent on the same day (within the first hour) and the second 1 or 2 days later based on their first response.

It’s not just for the big boys

If this post has persuaded you to give behavioural emails a try, but if you’re concerned about the cost, expensive kit or lots of expensive suppliers and sophisticated web set ups – don’t be. Solutions like this don’t cost a fortune and can be implemented easily.

Looking to the future

The key to sending successful behavioural emails is the user. They will need to work with you and remain engaged so that you receive all the necessary information which you can then respond too.

Here’s a checklist to ensure you are maximising your conversion:

1. Assess your site and any trigger points.

2. Calculate how much money it’ll cost to implement and how much you’ll get in return.

3. Get some simple programs in place.

4. Keep the emails short and to the point.

5. Don’t give away offers and discounts to quickly.

6. Test, test and test again.

Pic source: Till He Comes

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