Demystifying Triggered Emails & Best Practices

Published On: 29 Mar 2023


Triggered emails are an automated real-time response to a customer’s activity or action such as browsing the website, adding items to the cart and so on.

"If Social Media is the cocktail party, then email marketing is the meet up for coffee. The original 1 to 1 channel."

  • Erik Harbison

Email marketing and triggered emails in particular are one of the most effective marketing tools in a marketers arsenal. When done right trigger emails have the potential to drive conversions and generate revenue to the tune of millions of dollars for ecommerce businesses annually. In fact, trigger emails are 3X more efficient when compared to batch and nurture emails. The open rate for trigger emails is 70.5% higher and CTR is 152% higher in comparison to emailed newsletters.

Wondering what we are talking about here. In this blog, we will discuss everything related to triggered emails. What to expect?

  • Meaning ofTriggered Email
  • Importance
  • Benefits
  • Type of triggered emails
  • Best practices

Without further ado let's get started!

What are triggered emails?

Triggered emails are an automated real-time response to a customers activity or action such as browsing the website, adding items to the cart and then abandoning it, subscribing to a newsletter, signing up with the brand, and so on. Based on the customer's action an email is triggered and sent with relevant information in response to the activity which triggered the email. Given their nature, they are also known as behavioral emails.

Triggered vs Segmented Emails

Trigger emails are triggered in response to specific behaviors. They can be programmed by pre-defining the triggering events and setting up the response for that trigger. Triggered emails once set up, run in the background, and respond automatically to customer behavior with relevant information.

Segmented emails are based on customer segments (a group of people with similar characteristics/interests/demographics).

Importance of triggered emails

A well-thought-out and designed triggered email does more than one can imagine. It has the power to entice a customer into revisiting their abandoned cart and completing a purchase (think offering lucrative discounts), recommend products complimenting their recent purchase, and even accomplish key marketing goals. Lets look at the goals that marketers are able to achieve with trigger email campaigns:

  • Elevate customer experience and engagement: People tend to engage with content that resonates with them. Trigger emails are sent in response to a customer's reaction. They are designed to take into account a customer's buying behavior, choices, and actions.
  • Drive customer loyalty: Trigger emails are an effective way to reach out to at-risk shoppers. Certain trigger emails such as cart abandonment emails ensure customers complete their purchase. Replenishment emails and product catalog emails ensure that active buyers keep coming back and continue to purchase from the brand on a regular basis.
  • Revenue growth: Trigger emails are sent typically in response to a customer's reaction. If a customer has added items to their cart and is contemplating whether to buy or not, an email with a discount coupon nudges the customer to complete a purchase at that moment. Thus, trigger emails sent in response to various customer behavior ensures higher sales and more revenue in the long run.
  • Process efficiency: Since triggered emails are automated they eliminate repetitive tasks, time-consuming processes, and cumbersome activities that marketers tend to associate with traditional marketing emails.

Trigger email campaigns when executed and implemented effectively have the potential to convert one-time customers into brand advocates by addressing and responding to their needs in the heat of the moment.

Benefits of triggered emails

If you think that triggered emails are only about saving the marketer from the hassle of manually sending emails, think again. They bring a lot more to the table, let's find out how.

  • Ensure higher open and click-through rates: Automated triggered emails have a 35.64% opening rate and a 5.31% click-through rate. This can be attributed to the fact that triggered emails are in response to a customer's behavior. The emails are a response to something that the customer is interested in rather than what the company wants to promote.
  • Better conversion: Research suggests automated campaigns triggered emails drive 18x more revenue when compared to regular email blasts. It leads to immediate customer engagement, ensures customers complete their abandoned cart purchases, contains the most relevant CTAs to ensure customers are engaged at the next level and is a great opportunity for cross-sales.
  • Customer retention: Automated triggered emails help brands retain customers by delivering stellar customer experiences by way of prompt responses, timely follow-ups, product recommendations, timely reminders, and more.
  • Data gathering: Brands can leverage triggered emails and gather information over different landing pages or forms by asking different questions and gathering more detailed information depending on customer behaviors before, during, and after a purchase.

Types of triggered emails

1) Welcome Emails

Welcome emails are triggered when a customer visits your website and signs up or subscribes for say your newsletter or monthly subscription of products/services or makes the first purchase. By doing so, they become a part of your mailing list. A well-designed welcome email carries a message thanking the customer, welcomes them, gives them more information, lists details and benefits, and in some cases also includes discount codes for future purchases or promo codes for friends and family.


Everyone loves discounts and cosmetic brand Tarte knows this well. They have made the discount being offered on the next purchase of the hero in their welcome email. Designed in shades of pink and purple the email design is eye-catching, the text is on point and makes the recipient feel special. They immediately see value in signing up with the brand. The CTA is strategically placed below the discount coupon.

In conclusion, Tarte's welcome email ticks all the right boxes and is a perfect example of a well-put-together welcome email.

2) Cart Abandonment Emails

One of the best examples of triggered emails is cart abandonment emails. These are sent to customers who have added products to their carts but still haven't completed their purchase. Usually, when a brand triggers an email in response to an abandoned cart it is designed such that it enables the customer to make a decision about the purchase and in most cases, they end up completing the purchase. The email may include a discount code for the purchase or alternate suggestions for the product added or a freebie.


Chubbies is a clothing brand that specializes in men's weekend clothing. They have shorts in every size, color, and material you can imagine. Their target audience - is calm and happy-go-lucky people. Their cart abandonment email here is as interesting and quirky as their products and will compel the recipient to act. The convenience of clicking anywhere on the email to go to the shopping cart is a genius idea (think comfort and ease of use).

3) Re-engagement Emails

Re-engagement emails are a great way to reconnect with customers who haven't shown any sign of engagement for a long period (3 months to 1 year). These emails are a reminder of what value the brand has to offer or a request to start communication. It may also talk about a new product launch, exciting offer, or even a special coupon code to nudge the customer to visit the website, spend time, and probably make a purchase. Re-engagement emails are also a good way to purge your mailing list by identifying and removing any inactive/spam email IDs and subscribers who are clearly no more interested in engaging with your brand.


BirchBox is a brand that curates beauty product boxes to suit your preferences. We love the way they have designed their re-engagement email by giving customers a choice between two boxes. There is a feel-good factor and an element of surprise that has been put to good use here.

4) Recommendation Emails

Customers often get overwhelmed and confused when a brand has a huge product catalog. So, what is it that you can do as a brand to help them choose products from your catalog? Recommendation emails are a great way to help them steer away from confusion and also a great opportunity to cross-sell or upsell. Based on the customer's purchase history, wish list, and items lying in the shopping cart an ecommerce store can curate related or similar products and trigger a recommendation email.


Warby Parker does a brilliant job with recommendation emails. Getting on board a popular stylist and costume designer Heidi Bivens to curate recommendations keeping the latest trends is a great idea. It sure leaves a remarkable impression on Warby's customers and they perceive it as a brand that's not hard-selling its best-sellers.

5) Win-back Emails

There are loyal customers and then there are casual shoppers – they engage with a brand once, make a single purchase, and don't return. Win-back emails are sent to these casual shoppers with the intent to encourage them to re-visit and engage with a brand's ecommerce store and make a new purchase.

Win-back emails are personalized emails acknowledging and thanking the customer for making a purchase in the past. It also includes a special offer or information on current exciting offers nudging the customer to make a new purchase. In many cases, win-back emails also include a survey asking for reasons the customer didn't come back after the first purchase.

Glossier, a cosmetics brand takes an unconventional route to win-back customers who have stopped buying from them. They are offering a free gift with a new purchase rather than a discount. The offer is clearly called out in their subject line:

Free mini Milky Jelly


Glossier's approach in designing a win-back email is to excite and amplify a customer's interest. Customers see more value here in the form of a free product rather than a measly discount. A freebee always has a better impact compared to discounts.

Triggered Emails – Best Practices

1) Personalize Content

"Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand." - Confucius

In a world that's all about digital connections, virtual relations, social media, and information overload - personalization brings in the much-needed human touch. In fact, recent research suggests that emails with personalized content have a higher open rate than emails that do not have an element of personalization.

Though trigger emails are automated it is a good idea to give some thought to personalizing emails by using customer names, giving recommendations based on past purchase history, thanking them for choosing your products, and so on. The email content should resonate with the reader, be relevant for them, and make them feel special. Personalization ensures that customers engage with your email and take action as you expect them to.


Nordstrom is an online departmental store that started the Nordstrom Trunk Club, a curated styling service that sent products for trying at home before the customer made the final purchase. The service was discontinued in 2022. However, the initiative combined subscription and loyalty programs into a single offering and engaged customers by offering them a personalized curated apparel selection to try before buying.

2) Right timing

"As a company, you need to get to the future first, ahead of your customers, and be ready to greet them when they arrive" - Marc Benioff

Taking action at the right time is crucial for any marketing campaign to succeed and trigger emails are no different. Sending an email as soon as a customer acts is important. For example, a customer signed up for a monthly subscription box. Send confirmation details along with recommendations for complementing products within the first hour. This will help achieve two things:

  • The customer is reassured about your services and this will help forge a long-lasting association
  • They might get enticed to check new products and may end up buying a few more products or subscribing to a few more product bundles.

3) Segmenting target audience

Sending emails that are relevant and of interest to your target customer is the key. Segment your customers based on past buying behavior, age group, buying frequency, and overall browsing behavior and preferences.

4) Use attention-grabbing subject lines

"Treat your subject line like the movie trailer – give a preview so they know what to expect."

An attractive subject line is important as it is the first thing your customers will see. A whopping 65% of marketers assert that subject lines have the biggest impact on email open rates. Therefore, make sure to craft attractive subject lines such that it grabs eyeballs and compels the recipient to open your email.

5) Include clear calls-to-action

Triggered emails should be designed keeping in mind your marketing goals. When drafting one ask yourself what is the purpose of this particular email. Do you want the recipient to shop from your new catalog or do you want them to complete a purchase? Once you have identified the purpose add a call-to-action (CTA) as this will guide the customer to take the desired action. If your trigger email is in response to an abandoned cart, the CTA should be "PROCEED TO CHECKOUT".

6) Use Multiple Channels

Multi-channel implies using different communication platforms to engage with your customer. Send a trigger in response to a customer's action not just through emails but also through trigger messages, chats, push notifications, and more. Doing so ensures you are reaching out to customers through all possible communication channels and reaching out to a much larger audience base.

This strategy is all about giving customer convenience the topmost priority by connecting with them on a communication channel of their choice.

7) Monitor Performance

You set up an email trigger flow but that's 50% of the job done. Monitoring the performance of your email trigger campaign is important. Keep a tab on important email metrics like how many recipients are opening your emails, click-through rates click on CTA, and finally the number of recipients converting into buyers. Monitoring the performance will help identify red flags if any and enable you to make changes to the campaign on time making sure the campaign is effective.

8) Leverage Automation

Utilizing automation to run your triggered email marketing can be a game-changer. Automation tools utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to craft emails taking into account the reaction to the last triggered email. Brands can leverage automation and automate an onboarding process or drive sales or create email campaigns that are triggered by previous purchases or website triggers such as add to cart.

Automation enables brands to create powerful email campaigns that result in high sales, growth, and revenue generation. Try automation flows by MODA and supercharge your brand's growth journey. Sign-up for a 30-day free trial or schedule a demo.

9) Keep it simple

In this digital age content consumption is at an all-time high and attention span really short. Brands have to compete for every second of their target audience's time. Long emails pack in a lot of information but one can get repetitive and dilute the message that needs to get through. It is a good idea to keep your emails short and simple in an easy-to-understand language. The email must guide the recipient to take the desired action.

10) Test and optimize

This is a golden rule. Always create two email versions and do A/B testing to determine what works better. Components of an email one can play around with to see what works better for the audience could be:

  • Email formats
  • Subject lines
  • Call-to-action

Optimize your emails based on what works best for your audience.

Closing thoughts

The best practices listed here can play an instrumental role in designing effective triggered email campaigns that make an impact. When implemented right, trigger emails can be a great way to keep customers engaged with your brand. You can utilize these campaigns to thank customers, brand recall, recommendations, and more. In short, trigger emails are an integral part of customer retention and lead nurturing strategy. However, as a marketer, you and your team need to plan and test your triggered email sequence. Only a well-planned and tested email strategy will help you achieve the desired outcome of creating a large loyal customer base that is happy and engaged enough with your brand.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) What are the most common types of triggered emails?

The most common types of triggered emails are:

  • Welcome emails
  • Order confirmation emails
  • Birthday and anniversary emails
  • Win-back emails
  • Re-engagement emails
  • Recommendation emails

2) How do I design an effective triggered email that will resonate with my audience?

  • Identify the purpose of your campaign and target audience
  • Choose a relevant email list
  • Design an easy-to-read email with a catchy subject line
  • Personalize your content
  • Test and optimize to see what works
  • Monitor your campaign

3) How can I measure the effectiveness of triggered emails?

You can measure the effectiveness of your triggered email campaign by keeping a tab on the below metric:

  • Email open rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Number of unique users who opened the email
  • Revenue generated
  • Conversions

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