Behavior-Based Email Marketing: Should You Pull the Trigger?

Behavior-Based Email Marketing: Should You Pull the Trigger?

By Karen TaylorJul 21 /2017

behavior based email marketing pull the triggerYou’ve likely engaged in classic drip email campaigns. They’ve been a mainstay of content marketing because they provide an opportunity to prospect through automatically scheduled emails sent one at a time (dripped) over a specific period of time.

One benefit of the drip campaign is establishing a trusted relationship between a brand and prospects and customers. But drip campaigns are not the only effective email tactic. Behavior-based email marketing may be an even more powerful option.

Behavior-based email marketing (also called trigger-based emails) identifies buyer behaviors regarding your website, emails and social media—then interacts with them based on those behaviors.

According to multiple studies, behavior-based email marketing is delivering impressive results for the companies using it. However, so far, only a small percentage of companies are engaging in the strategy. According to a MarketingSherpa study, 39 percent of marketers said “automatically sending emails based on triggers” is the most effective tactic for improving email engagement. Yet an eConsultancy survey that asked marketers, “Which of the following practices are a part of your email marketing efforts?,” found that only 20 percent of email marketers use behavioral targeting.

Should you consider engaging in behavior-based email marketing? Here’s insight on the why, who and what of the strategy to help you decide.

Why Launch Behavior-Based Email Marketing?

Industry leaders like Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks are great examples of behavior-based marketers. Every day, they use personalized marketing campaigns and strategies to provide consumers with relevant experiences based on their behaviors. In fact, 60 percent of Netflix rentals stem from personalized messages based on customers’ previous viewing behavior and 35 percent of Amazon’s sales are directly attributed to suggesting products individuals might like based on their unique behaviors and purchases.

“By captivating their customers in the right moment and delivering relevant experiences, brands like these are witnessing higher conversion rates and increased customer loyalty,” stated Forbes.

In fact, there are many advantages to adding behavior-based email campaigns to your marketing mix, including:

  • Increased customer loyalty. Emails triggered by consumers’ direct actions exhibit great customer service, demonstrate that customers come first and shows that your company is paying attention and responding to their needs, wants and interests.
  • Increased brand relevance. Responding swiftly and relevantly to consumers’ actions boosts the relevance of your brand, because you’re delivering messages tailored to each person’s immediate and individual needs and interests. Even if they don’t convert right away, you’ve scored brand-affinity points that could pay off in the future.
  • Accelerated the buyer’s journey. From the top to the bottom of the funnel, triggered email campaigns offer endless opportunities to engage with prospects and customers at the precise time when they’re thinking about your brand. As a result, they move more quickly toward becoming customers.
  • Competitive advantage. Despite the many benefits, only 20 percent of companies are using behavioral-based emails. As a result, you’ll gain a competitive advantage when you employ this tactic—until more companies realize what they are missing.
  • Increased revenue. It stands to reason that if you increase customer loyalty, improve brand relevance and accelerate the buyer’s journey, your bottom line will improve by successfully executing behavior-based email marketing.

Who Should You Profile for Behavior-Based Email Marketing?

Ideal candidates for behavior-based emails are people who recently have taken certain specific actions on your website, social media platforms or emails. As they take actions or don’t take actions, those behaviors are logged into their buyer profiles, helping you create richer and more meaningful data. Here are some examples of behaviors worth tracking.

Website visitors’ behavior-based interactions:

  • New visitor subscribes on your website
  • Prospect submits a form to download a white paper, video, case study or other free content
  • Prospect views specific product pages
  • Customer makes a recent purchase
  • Potential customer abandons shopping cart mid-purchase
  • Regular customer frequently makes purchases and spends specific amounts of money

Email behavior-based interactions:

  • Prospect opens or clicks on specific email content
  • Consumer does not open or click on your email
  • Prospect typically responds to specific offers
  • Prospect’s last email interaction was three months ago

Social media behavior-based interactions:

  • Customer mentions your company on Twitter
  • Prospect navigates to your website from Facebook
  • Prospect shares one of your social media messages

What Should You Email Based on Specific Behavior-Based Triggers?

While companies can take action on many consumer behaviors, not all will be action-worthy. You must determine what actions users take (or don’t take) that are worth responding to—in other words, which behavior-based emails will help you achieve your marketing and sales goals. Here are five examples of consumer behaviors that can trigger email responses, the relevant behavior data to collect and examples of actions you can take.

Trigger 1: Visitor Viewed Specific Website Content

Relevant Behavior Data — Examples of website browsing behavior data include web pages visited, links opened, products browsed, content viewed or downloaded, session duration, keywords searched, number of pages viewed and forms filled out.

Actions to Take — Collecting data about the content people view is invaluable for sending relevant tailored followup content such as:

  • If a visitor read several blog posts, send them a link to subscribe to your updates
  • If a contact viewed an eBook, send them a link to a case study on the same subject
  • If a contact viewed a case study, send them a link to customer testimonials
  • If a contact viewed high-value pages, such as About Us, Pricing or FAQs, send them an offer for a free consultation

Trigger 2: Prospect Exhibits Low Engagement

Relevant Behavior Data — Examples of engagement measurements include emails opened, emails not opened, offers responded to, last interaction, responding frequency, bounced and open times.

Actions to Take — Winning back inactive customers can be achieved by sending them re-engagement messages showing you care and value them, for example:

  • Send “we miss you” emails with strong offers and deals, an emotional appeal and a sense of urgency
  • Send an email informing them of your appreciation and ask if you can do anything for them
  • Send a survey and offer an incentive for completing it
  • Send an email with another CTA

Trigger 3: Consumers Interacted with Social Media

Relevant Behavior Data — Examples of social media interactions include message sharing, retweeting, Facebook mentions and navigating to website from social platforms.

Actions to Take — Following up on social media interactions gives companies an ideal opportunity to increase long-term relationship ROI by building and offering rewards. Follow this up with any relevant content that may further this interaction such as:

  • If a social media interaction related to your products, send the latest and greatest product insight
  • If a social media interaction related to comparing your products to your competitors, send comparison guides or reviews
  • If a social media interaction related to questions about your products, send educational content or case studies
  • Respond to any interaction with a special offer

Trigger 4: Customer Made a Purchase

Relevant Behavior Data — Examples of purchasing behavior data include what purchased, quantity purchased, frequency purchased and date purchased.

Actions to Take — Send customers a post-purchase series that shows appreciation for their purchase and a willingness to please them, such as:

  • Confirmation email and shipping updates
  • Upsell and cross-sell related products (“Because you liked this, you may also like this”)
  • Provide value-add content by offering information on caring for or using the new purchase
  • Emphasize customer service with warranty and return policies
  • Incentivize customers to rate and review the item or service to increase referrals

Trigger 5: Incomplete Purchase or Sign-up

Relevant Behavior Data — Examples of incomplete actions include purchase history, deposits, withdrawals, cart abandonment, session duration for a specific product link and form completion percentage.

Actions to Take — According to research, nearly 79 percent of people who initiate an order online don’t complete it and most of the time it comes down to cost and timing. Similarly, people often start completing forms, but never finish. Nudge consumers to finish the actions they started using trigger-based emails, such as:

  • Link to FAQs
  • Provide site assistance
  • Offer free trials or access to other information
  • Offer price-match guarantee and free shipping
  • Offer discounts for completing the purchase

With behavioral email marketing, the customers are at the steering wheel choosing when and where to interact with your content. Your job is to track their relevant behaviors and create strategic responses designed to help achieve your business goals. By leveraging prospect and customer activity and responding with behavior-based email marketing, you gain the opportunity to boost prospect conversion rates, improve customer retention and grow your profits.

However, you can only launch an effective behavior-based email strategy if you have the right marketing and sales software in place. Find out how to get more out of your HubSpot investment in this information-packed eBook.

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Karen Taylor
The Author

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor is a professional content marketing writer with experience writing for over 100 companies and publications. Her experience includes the full range of content marketing projects — from blogs, to white papers, to ebooks. She has a particular knack for creating content that clarifies and strengthens a company’s marketing message, and delivers optimum impact and maximum results. Learn more at