It can be all too easy to become trigger happy with email marketing.

Triggers, also known as automations, are the automatic emails fired off to customers as soon as they interact with your site or meet certain criteria. Once you’ve mastered the technology, sending automatic emails becomes easy and highly effective, but how do you tread the line between striking when the time is right and bombarding the customer?

We’ve put together our top tips on becoming comfortable with using email automations, whilst making sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Put yourself in their shoes

Any email communication you send should serve a genuine need. That need should be the customer’s, not driven by any internal business pressure or responding to the feeling that you ‘should’ send an email. If the automation you’re sending doesn’t help the customer then don’t send it. Don’t talk for the sake of talking otherwise your email will just become wallpaper in the inbox.

Plan out the journey

Look at when, how and why your customer might interact with you. Plan out one journey your customer is likely to take with your brand. It could be from discovery, research, repeat purchase to telling a friend about you – within that journey there will be a variety of opportunities for helping your customer. Use post-it notes to brainstorm the ways you can support them along their journey to develop your automation strategy. From here you’re likely to go on to create multiple journeys. As time goes on, you can run automations simultaneously for different types of customers or segments.

Be on time

The beauty of automation is that you’re sending an email when the time is right. A real-time message triggered by the customer’s actions. Automations receive the highest open rate of any email marketing campaign so make sure you’re harnessing that. Make sure you iron out delays in getting information from your CRM systems that may cause delays in sending the automations. This can happen when you’re trying to get all information into one CRM system such as offline, online and browsing behaviour which can sometimes cause delays.

Build relationships not efficiency

Just because automations are automatic, it doesn’t mean you have to talk to your customers like a robot. You might be trying to cut down the amount of human interaction required, but not the humanity in the interaction. Use warmth and humour; ask for your customer’s opinions and feedback. Yes, automations are automatic in terms of the technology but the reasons for talking to your customer is to invite a genuine conversation.

Be bold and beautiful

Automations can be as impactful as your mainstream campaigns. Some of our favourite campaigns in terms of design and wording are automations. They’re simple, to the point and there’s no need justify the campaign when you know you’re contacting the customer at exactly the right time.

Be consistent and inclusive

Customers will interact with you across multiple platforms – website, mobile and offline. Don’t limit automation opportunities to just customers interacting on your website. In retail a customer may well visit your high-street shop first, browse product reviews on their mobile and then make a final purchase on a desktop or tablet. Make sure your automations not only work on multiple devices but are also sent regardless of how your customer interacts with you. There’s no reason why an existing customer shouldn’t receive a product review request if they purchased the product offline and a cart abandonment email should always work on mobile devices.

Be insightful

Use what you know about the customer in your automations to build trust. If a customer has browsed a product then include information on that product in the automation. If the customer has made a purchase recently then include the product name in the subject line. If you don’t have the product information then simply ‘Your recent purchase’ will also catch the eye of the consumer. There’s nothing wrong with talking about recommendations of complementary products in your automation – you’ll get a great open rate as its relevant, timely and shows you have an existing relationship.

Analyse, review and test

When you’ve set-up your automations the work shouldn’t stop there. Review and test your campaigns to make sure they’re fully optimised in terms of design and timing. A well-known British beauty brand recently increased their conversion rates 12% by simply A/B testing their abandonment campaign. By sending half the browsers their abandonment email after 30 minutes and the other half after 2 hours, they could see that there was a 12% increase in conversion in the recipients who received an email sooner rather than later. The same brand then also discovered they could further increase conversion by sending an additional cart abandonment email 48 hours after. This automation included suggestions for alternative purchases if the first item abandoned was not purchased.

Remember these principles and you won’t need to worry about pressing the trigger or doing any damage to the relationship between you and your customer.

Download the Advanced Email Series: Automation Guide