The challenge of transactional emails: achieving context

I’ve been doing a piece of work to improve the transactional emails that we send to customers.

The challenge of transactional emails: achieving context

At first glance transactional emails seem simple. They are just about providing simple information to update a customer, right? Actually, the more you think about it the more complex it becomes. Does the email contain the right information? Is it presented in the right way? Does it clearly indicate if the customer needs to do something, and if so does it explain how to do and what will happen because of it? Is the email sent at the right time? Does the email contain too much information or not enough? Do customers want to receive an email as soon as an update on the status of their order is available or would they prefer it at the most convenient time, especially if they need to do something? Should the email be trying to seamlessly fit into the customers life and just be there when they need it or should it be trying to interrupt them and get them to pay attention to the message in the email?

Trying to understand the context of transactional emails for all customers is really interesting and difficult. I don’t know if it’s something you could ever get right for everyone. That’s the challenge of context.

Understanding customers for car washes

A Car Wash becomes successful by converting one-time customers into repeat customers who come back regularly. Cars continually get dirty but getting people to become your repeat customers rather than your competitors is the challenge. If you were in the business of washing cars there are a few things you might want to understand about your customers:

  • Buyer behaviour is closely linked with the value of the car so that is how you should segment your customers
  • People with more expensive cars are more likely to get their car washed than people with cheaper cars.
  • This is either because people with more expensive cars value their car more highly and so want to take better care of it, or/and people with more expensive cars associate positive self-image with having a clean car, or/and people with more expensive cars have more money to spend on non-essentials like car washes.
  • If it’s a question of how people equate the value of an object with how much time, money and effort to spend on looking after that object, then offering extra special service with more options/benefits reserved for people with more expensive cars would be a good way to keep them coming back.
  • If your customers are getting their cars washed because it fulfils some emotional need to be seen in a positive light (by driving an expensive and clean car) then offering something like a regularly booked timeslot where they were expected and greeted personally would help to fulfil those emotional needs.
  • If you wanted to expand into the lower value car market you would have to offer a reduced price service and clearly demonstrate the benefits of having a clean car.
  • If you compete with other car washes solely on price you are misunderstanding what motivates your customers and what problem you are solving for them, and you are undermining your profitability.
  • Differentiating yourself in tailored service that closely matches the needs of each customer segment would be a more successful strategy.