Connect with Your Customers via Transactional Messaging

Transactional messages used to be simply an amenity in business-to-consumer communication. Customers appreciated getting a confirmation email for their online purchases; text reminders let cell phone subscribers stay on top of usage and billing; and notifications alerted someone when a friend posted a message on their Facebook wall. Now, with the explosion of smartphone and tablet computing, more transactions are happening online, and customers have come to expect relevant and timely messaging in all aspects of their daily dealings.

Why transactional messaging works

Many of the techniques and practices that marketers have traditionally relied on to drive customer engagement have become less effective in recent years. Bulk email marketing, life-cycle messaging, and loyalty programs used as standalone strategies no longer cut it in today's technology-driven world. Transactional messages, on the other hand, take conversations from bulky to believable. An "everyone" email, text, or alert is much easier to ignore than a tailored response to a conversation a customer has already started.

Below are six reasons transactional messaging increases customer engagement:

It's expected. Transactional messages have higher open rates than bulk emails because customers already expect to hear from you. The messages are insightful and satisfying. They are an effective way to thank customers for an order, ask them for feedback, and point them toward additional products and information that meet their needs—before they ask.

It's personal. Transactional messages continue a conversation the customer already started when they ordered a product or asked for help. They build dynamic and lasting relationships based on closely followed customer behavior, preferences, and data.

It's seamless. Individual transactions can turn into a rich conversation and can be sent to one or many devices at the same time, depending on the needs of the customer.

It's helpful. People appreciate those who make their lives easier. Businesses that are quick to adapt to the trend of API-driven, multiplatform transactional message workflows have the ability to offer opportunities for preference, letting customers choose the device with which they want to receive on-time messages and alerts.

It's relevant. The goal of embedding promotional material into transactional messaging is not to outsmart readers, but to create and nurture a believable relationship with your client using information that is pertinent, timely, and genuine.

It's profitable. Since it is expected, transactional messaging is a great channel for upsell and cross-sell opportunities. For example, according to an Experian Marketing Services report, shipping confirmation emails have a 20.8 percent click-through rate, compared to 3.1 percent for bulk mailing emails sent by the same companies. Furthermore, average revenue per email is $.80 for shipping confirmations versus $0.26 for bulk mailings sent by the same companies.

Six secrets to success

While transactional messaging has the potential to boost your company’s ROI, it is important that you do it right. Consider implementing these best practices to ensure you are getting through to your customer:

  • Deliver messages in tandem across both SMS and email.
  • Vary channels by topic, location, or time of day based on customer preference.
  • Adjust channels as customer needs and circumstances change.
  • Use automated, scripted responses guided by structured decision trees to ensure customers receive the care they need.
  • Provide clickable options for follow-up or elevation.
  • Send follow-up messages via email or SMS, direct recipients to landing pages online, or elevate a messaging interaction to a phone call.

The rules of the road

Your transactional email program needs to abide by the CAN-SPAM guidelines set by the Federal Trade Commission. Also known as the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, CAN-SPAM is an attempt by Congress to protect consumers from unwanted marketing emails.

Follow these key provisions of CAN-SPAM to maintain a healthy online reputation:

  • Don't use false or misleading header information.
  • Don't use deceptive subject lines; identify the message as an ad.
  • Tell recipients where you're located.
  • Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future emails from you.
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly.
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.

Your company must keep up with its consumers' needs and wants. As consumers increasingly use apps to carry on brand relationships, access customer services, and more, they expect to be updated on the status of their transaction from start to finish. If done correctly, transactional messaging has the ability to instigate long-lasting, meaningful relationships with your customers.

Tom Mairs is the director of client solutions engineering at Message Systems.

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