Accounting for more than three-quarters of email revenue, triggered messages — think welcome, cart abandonment and post-purchase messaging — are an effective way to combine automation and personalization. They’re behavior-based, making them inherently personalized, increasing the likelihood they’ll catch customers’ attention in the increasingly crowded inbox.

That level of personalization also makes triggered messages crucial this holiday season, which is already underway. During our most recent Food for Thought webinar, we talked about how to tailor your triggers with Erin Vitero, Director of CRM for JustFab and the TechStyle Fashion Group, and Steve Costanza, Senior Performance Marketing Manager at SNIPES USA. Here are six key takeaways:

Make the Most of Confirmation Emails

Emails such as order and delivery confirmations have far higher open rates than the average marketing message. And yet, many retailers fail to maximize on that valuable real estate, a perfect place to upsell and drive further engagement. SNIPES recently redid its entire post-purchase messaging stream, paying extra close attention to transactional messages. Steve points out that not everyone opts into your marketing emails.

“Transactional post-purchase messages are an underutilized way to drive demand because this is the only access that you really get to those customers,” says Steve. “Why not take that opportunity to drive them back to the site? You can make them understand, this is what you’re missing. If you sign up for our newsletter, these are the kinds of cool products and the kind of cool content you’re going to see.”

Combine Post-Purchase Messaging with Welcome Series

Welcome series are your opportunity to capitalize on the strong engagement of new email subscribers, making a strong first impression and turning a welcome mat into a red carpet. Sometimes those new subscribers are also first-time customers, who made their first purchases quickly. They don’t necessarily know much about the brand. Give them a warm welcome you would any other new subscriber — just not the same one.

JustFab used to treat every customer the same, sending multiple emails every day. Now, the retailer messages customers according to tenure and engagement level, which has decreased attrition over time. For example, JustFab messages its newest VIPs less frequently so as not to bombard them with emails right away, while they could still be waiting for their first orders to arrive. “We’re going to keep new customers engaged and prioritize the most relevant emails, but we reduce the number of emails for first-time purchasers to ease them in,” explains Erin.

Combine Post-Purchase Messaging with Re-Engagement, Too

Post-purchase messaging can also double as re-engagement for those customers who make that first purchase and then disappear. Combine re-engagement tactics and post-purchase messaging to recapture those one-and-done customers from last holiday season or even earlier this year. According to a Bazaarvoice survey, 39% of consumers bought from new brands during quarantine. Steve points out that many of those shoppers had poor experiences, given all the shipping delays that were rampant during the early days of the pandemic.

“We just want to make sure that people didn’t have such a horrible experience that they’re never going to shop with us again. If it takes a coupon code to get them to come back and give us another shot, we will definitely look at things like that,” he says. “Winning back those post-quarantine first-time purchasers is a really big part of our holiday undertaking.”

Include Abandonment Items With Abandon

Cart abandoners are high-intent purchasers. They liked an item enough to add it to their cart, even if they don’t want to buy it right this second. That high intent makes cart abandonment emails especially effective; Barilliance estimates more than 40% are opened. It also makes cart abandonment messaging perfect for testing, which has always been a major part of JustFab’s email marketing success.

“We’ve tested plenty of different subject lines. Right now, our winner actually includes the name of one of the items that you left in your cart. We have also taken our abandoned cart messaging and then brought it to our push notifications and our SMS notifications, and we see the same kind of efficiencies there,” says Erin. “We are trying to incorporate the abandoned cart items in front of our customer as often as we can. And we’ve seen that drive additional revenue.”

Leverage Your Other Channels

Steve is particularly fond of browse abandonment, a triggered message that targets mid- to upper-funnel shopper. These emails often focus exclusively on a customer’s browsing history and focus exclusively on previously-viewed items. Instead, SNIPES’ strategy is to take landing pages and work backwards from there. What are your most valuable pages? That can help prioritize your most important browse abandonment segments.

“I view browse abandonment as a really good way to get people to come back and not just for a single product, but to actually see the entire assortment of the things that we have. They can see similar items and maybe browse around, and find a better fit than the first time,” says Steve. “Any time that you can use data from across your entire website, and not limit yourself to a single channel, you’re going to be much more successful.”

Be Flexible

If the events of this year have taught us anything, it’s the importance of agility. This spring, supply chain disruptions meant SNIPES didn’t necessarily know when new products would arrive. As a result, the brand promoted items as part of different collections, while JustFab did photo shoots for new products at team members’ homes.

What have you been testing already? And what could possibly go wrong? Erin recommends having multiple contingency plans in place, just in case. “Leading up to your biggest campaigns, think about anything that you are going to be questioning. For example, the best subject line to use on Black Friday,” she says. “Now is the time to figure that out and test it. And so I would just work backwards from what questions you think you might have on that day and make sure you’re prepared right now.”

Our next Food for Thought webinar, featuring marketers from BuzzFeed and Business Insider discussing how they’ve adapted to changing reader behavior, will be on November 5.