The 11 Types of Triggered Email You Need to Know

And how to use them to unlock more revenue

When this thing happens, do this action. “If this, then that” logic is the backbone behind triggered email marketing. An email being sent, or triggered, is the action that follows a specific “trigger” or data point your email automation system uses to then fire that email. 

Trigger emails allow you to communicate at scale, fast. This leads to more marketing-influenced wins and engagement with your customers, who, in turn, receive more personalized, helpful messages. 

Triggered emails deliver 24x more revenue per send. With that knowledge, most marketers are easily persuaded to invest. Still, the question remains, how should you first try these emails and when? What types of available triggers do they need to look for when evaluating a trigger email marketing tool?

In this article, we’ll discuss both the types of triggers and types of triggered email marketers can leverage to drive more revenue and close more customers. 

Types of Triggers:

Trigger emails are either sent based on 1) a time or date, 2) an event registration, 3) a customer success activity, or 4) a user (or buyer) action. 

1. Time or Date Triggers

Time/Date triggers refer to when you send an email that executes based on the time since or before a specific date that an action occurred. For example, you could send an email based on a time since a contact last interacted with your website or became a customer. If the customer hasn’t contacted your brand in 30 days, then you could send a triggered follow-up email to try and re-engage them. Or, you could send an email to customers 30 days after they first purchased to ask for feedback. 

The trigger in these examples is the amount of time since a date-centered action occurred. 

Example 1: 

  • Trigger: If [Became a customer date] is more than [30 Days Ago]
  • Action: Then Send [Customer Feedback Email]

Example 2:

  • Trigger: If [Subscription Start Date] is exactly than [1 Year] Ago
  • Action: Then Send [Anniversary Email]

Example 3:

  • Trigger: IF [Upcoming Bill Date] is less than [2 Days Away]
  • Action: Then Send [Bill Reminder Update] Email

2. Event Triggers

Sometimes you want to send an email based on a specific event that the contact has signed up for, like a customer event, trade show, or webinar. These emails are event-based triggered, because the trigger is the contact’s registration to an event. You might use an event trigger to send someone an event’s registration details or reminder emails for upcoming events. 

Example 1: 

  • Trigger: If Contact has submitted [Customer Event Registration Form X]
  • Action: Then Send [Customer Event X Registration] Email

Example 2: 

  • Trigger: If Contact has submitted [Webinar X] form
  • Action: Then Send [Webinar X Reminder] Email

3. Customer Success Activity 

Brands often send triggered email when a contact first opens a support ticket. Doing so is an example of a customer success activity triggered email. It gets triggered based on a new or existing conversation (or ticket) with the customer. The customer starts a conversation, and an email is triggered based on that activity existing in a system.

Customer success activity triggered email can help you confirm the customer’s ticket number or status, set their expectations about wait time, and provide instructions on how to pursue the matter further. 

Example 1:

  • Trigger: If [Ticket Opened]
  • Action: Send [We Received Your Request] Email

Example 2:

  • Trigger: If [Ticket Closed]
  • Action: Send [Customer Satisfaction Survey] Email

4. User Action

Contacts will take many actions on your website or with your product that will warrant an automatic triggered email.  For example, you might send an order confirmation, order shipped, and/or onboarding email after a customer places an order on your website. Emails triggered by user action are a good way to build customer affinity while providing necessary and expected information. The trigger is the user’s specific action. 

Example 1: 

  • Trigger: If [New Order] has been created
  • Action: Send [Order Confirmation] Email

Example 2:

  • Trigger: If [Order] is [Shipped]
  • Action: Send [Shipping Confirmation & Tracking] Email

What is a triggered email marketing campaign?

A triggered email marketing campaign is a planned email or series of emails that gets sent to specific contacts based on a specific trigger action. 

Triggered email marketing campaigns should be planned based on the trigger and should have measurable goals. For example, you might plan an abandoned cart triggered email campaign with a goal of converting 15% of abandoned carts into completed checkout. The user action of having an open, unclosed cart would be the trigger behind your abandoned cart triggered email. You can then measure against those goals within a specific time frame to understand how a specific abandoned cart email marketing campaign performed over time. 

Below, we discuss 11 types of triggered email marketing campaigns you can try out in your own efforts.

Types of Triggered Emails:

1. Browser Behavior Emails

Trigger: User Action

One of the beautiful things about visitor analytics is the ability to respond to users’ actions on your website with tailored messaging based on users’ browser history. For example, you can send a triggered email and remind a contact of their browsing history with a gallery of similar products in the email. Or, you can follow up with contacts who view your primary product’s details and pricing page to see if they have any questions for sales. 

For example, this email from McKinsey & Company seems to be triggered based on visitor’s browsing interests. Think of the articles like products. Leverage lookalike modules to recommend products to your customers based on their past browsing behavior. 

Examples of Browser Behavior Emails: 

  • Viewed a Category of Products 
  • Viewed a Product 
  • Viewed Product Details
  • Subscription Welcome Email
  • Form Submission (Follow Up) Email
  • Site Errors

2. Abandoned Cart Emails

Trigger: User Action

One of the most effective triggered emails to use is the abandoned cart email. When a browser visits your site, then adds an item to the cart, that’s conversion gold. You already have an idea of what products they’re interested in buying. If you have or can get their email, then you can send a triggered email containing the contents of the abandoned cart and encourage them to complete the sale. 

This email from Lulus’s includes the viewed products from the abandoned cart in the email, aiming to encourage order completion. 

3. Product Behavior Emails

Trigger: User Action

Triggered emails are an excellent way to manage giving your customers necessary details or updates about the products they’re interested in. For example, say you have new stock available, like in the example below from Gravity Blankets. You can send a triggered email to contacts who are known to be interested in that product, whether through abandoned cart data or another mechanism you have set up. 

Examples of Product Behavior Emails:

  • Stock running low on a product
  • New product variant available 
  • Out of Stock / New stock available 
  • Subscription Change

4. Buyer Behavior or Transactional Emails

Trigger: User Action

When a customer places an order, send a triggered email to confirm their order or notify them when it shipped. These are called buyer behavior emails, because they’re based on the buyer’s transaction with your company. One transaction could trigger several emails, like your onboarding or welcome email in addition to the order confirmation email you already sent. 

Below, Uber sends follow-up transactional emails with receipt information after a trip has been completed, based on the order having occurred. 

Examples of Buyer Behavior/Transactional Emails:

  • Order Confirmation
  • Payment Received Email
  • Welcome Email
  • Onboarding / Instructions Email
  • Order Shipped

5. Reactivation Emails

Trigger: Time/Date Based

If it’s been a while since a contact engaged with your website or brand, you may want to send an email based on the time it has been since they last engaged with you. This type of triggered email is called the reactivation email, because your goal is to rengage or reactivate the contact. For example, if someone hasn’t visited your website in 6 months, you might send an email to say hello, introduce them to your recent products, and maybe even offer a small discount to return to your store.

Grubhub leverages discount codes in their reactivation trigger email campaigns to try and drive customers back to their site and into a new cart. 

Examples of Reactivation triggered emails:

  • Time Since Last Visit
  • Unengaged from your brand (no marketing activity after X amount of time) 
  • Product Usage

6. Anniversary Emails

Trigger: Time/Date Based

A great time-based trigger to engage with your customers, and delight them while doing it, is the anniversary email. Record when contacts became your customers, then offer them a free gift or reward on that anniversary. Delighted customers come back again. 

Some brands have such regular customer engagement that they can build anniversaries based on the actions users take throughout the year. For example, you could send a triggered email and remind them of the gift they purchased on the anniversary of their order this year. 

For example, Betterment uses the anniversary email to encourage product usage and customer goal check-ins. 

Examples of Anniversary Triggered Emails: 

  • Brand Engagement Anniversary
  • Became a Customer Anniversary 

7. Subscription Renewal Emails

Trigger: Time/Date Based

If your product or service is sold as a recurring service, subscription renewal triggered emails are a great way to give your customers necessary information while leveraging that triggered email as a marketing opportunity. The email is sent at a specified time before their subscription is due. In addition to the payment reminder, you might showcase add-on products that you offer or find some way to drive customer engagement with your email. 

Here’s an example of a subscription renewal email from Asana. 

Examples of Subscription Renewal Emails: 

  • Upcoming fee reminders
  • Subscription Renewal Reminder

8. Event Registration Emails

Trigger: Time/Date or Event Based

If a contact signs up for your event, trigger a reservation detail email with all of their personalized information included. Then, set up triggered emails to be sent before the event to remind the contact of the event. The trigger would be either the action of signing up for the event, or the amount of time before the event.

Here’s an example of an event registration detail email from HubSpot. 

Examples of Event Registration Triggered Emails:

  • Reminder Emails
  • Registration Details (Transactional) 

9. Support Status Emails

Trigger Action: Customer Success Activity

If a customer opens a ticket with your support team, send a triggered email to confirm the ticket has been opened and set your customer’s expectations for what will happen next. For example, include their ticket number, how long they can expect to wait, and what they can do as a follow up in the meantime. You can also triggered emails based on the status of the ticket. For example, once a ticket is closed, you can send a triggered email asking for feedback on the support received. 

Here’s a pretty typical support status email that you receive when you submit a support ticket on Grow.com.

Examples of Support Ticket Status Triggered Emails:

  • New Support Ticket Opened
  • Support Ticket Status Updated
  • Support Ticket Closed
  • New  Website Chat Started
  • Website Chat Missed
  • Missed Phone Call 

10. Feedback Request Emails

Trigger Action: Time/Date or Buyer Behavior 

After a contact has been a customer for a certain amount of time, you likely want to ask customers how they feel about your product and services with a method like NPS score or customer satisfaction rating. Send a triggered feedback request email based on the time since the contact has been a customer or based on how they’ve engaged with your brand. 

Here’s an example of an NPS Feedback Request email from an online retailer. 

Examples of Feedback Request Triggered Emails

  • Ask for a review
  • Request the customer to fill out a survey
  • Request for feedback request (NPS score or Customer Satisfaction)

11. Birthday Emails

Trigger Action: Event Based

Everyone has a different birthday that can be used as a trigger. Delight your contacts with a birthday surprise. For example, if you have a reward loyalty program, send a triggered email offering a birthday gift or bonus. If not, leverage accessory or customer swag.

Below, you can see an example of Disney leverages the birthday email and a personalized coupon to encourage a sale. 

Examples of Birthday Emails:

  • Customer Loyalty Program Birthday Reward
  • Free Birthday Gift
  • Happy Birthday note from your account manager

What Triggered Emails Should You Prioritize?

Hopefully, you have examples in mind of how you’d like to first try these emails in your marketing strategy. Now, how do you decide what emails will generate the most revenue for your brand? Here are some ideas to help get orient you.

  • Do you have a brand rewards or loyalty program? Rewards programs are especially well suited for holidays, birthdays, and other events or times where you can award points to drive customer engagement.
  • Are you an eCommerce store? Buying intent patterns can be captured on your website store, allowing you to send personalized triggered email at scale to potential customers based on their own buying preferences. Use a module in your emails that surfaces your contacts’ past cart history or viewing patterns, then encourage conversion to a sale using smart marketing. 
  • Do you sell a Software as a Service? Leverage website forms and follow ups to engage with your contacts based on content they consume. During customer onboarding to your product, triggered email to educate and engage your customers while encouraging the upsell. 

Now, what to focus on in the content of your emails?

First and foremost, make sure these emails use personalization to make your messages feel custom to your customer. For example, if your eCommerce website visitor viewed certain products of categories, you can use that information to recommend products, introduce them to customer reviews, or offer discounts to complete the conversion. 

A final important part of any triggered email marketing campaign is to make sure you’re analyzing the results of your campaigns, and using that data to make decisions. For as many types of triggered email that there are, that doesn’t mean your brand should or is ready to use every type available to you. When you start firing off too much triggered email, you can easily start over-emailing your database, leading to high unsubscribe and lower engagement rates on your emails across the board. Instead of trying out everything all at once, make sure to close the loop on your triggered email marketing strategy by tracking and analyzing your experiments. 

Author

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Elliott Moore

Elliott Moore is Wunderkind’s Senior Marketing Manager, overseeing content, PR, partner marketing, and social media. Elliott brings over 5 years of MarTech experience working for firms in New York, San Francisco, and Helsinki, across product, sales, and content teams to bring the most actionable marketing experiences to his clients. A resident of Brooklyn, Elliott spends his free time running, visiting local shops, or testing new IPAs with friends.