Practical Ecommerce

5 Tips to Improve Email Order Confirmations

The holiday season is gearing up. For ecommerce merchants, it’s important that their triggered and transactional emails are functioning correctly. The objective of these emails should be to help customers through the purchase process, and to encourage repeat orders after the process is complete.

In fact, one of the most important transactional emails is the order confirmation. In this article, I’ll offer five tips to improve ecommerce order-confirmation emails.

Optimize your Creative

Many consumers will keep order confirmation emails for months, and sometimes years, after a purchase. I once analyzed clicks and sales from order confirmations when I was email marketing manager for a large ecommerce retailer. I noticed that customers would click through on an order confirmation email a year or more after receiving it. This is especially true for seasonal products or for holiday shopping. Pair this with naturally high open rates that order confirmations typically receive, and it is a powerful opportunity for merchants.

Order confirmations should contain relevant information to be effective. Below is an example of a helpful order confirmation from Babies”R”Us.

This order confirmation from Babies"R"Us contains helpful, detailed information and links to additional products to consider.

This order confirmation from Babies”R”Us contains helpful, detailed information and links to additional products to consider.

This order confirmation does many things correctly:

  • Mimics the site navigation at the top, allowing people who would like to continue shopping to do so with a direct click;
  • Summarizes all of the purchase information and links back to the order on the merchant’s website;
  • Contains a sidebar of up-sell products based on my purchase and browse history;
  • Includes a banner at the top for various offers or other information.

Use Rotating Content

One interesting element of the above order confirmation is that the banner rotates every time I open the email or click the “View in Browser” link at the top. Here’s the same email (below) with a different banner.

This order confirmation from Babies"R"Us includes a rotating, horizontal banner at top.

This order confirmation from Babies”R”Us includes a rotating, horizontal banner at top.

This is an effective tactic for ecommerce merchants because it allows you to change content or promote a specific sale without having to alter the actual HTML template to reset the triggered email.

This tactic can also be used to control the products that are displayed on the right hand side. For example, suggesting seasonal products to override the natural algorithm that is dictating the current product choices may help. In addition, since order confirmations have a long shelf life, any offers that are included may expire before recipients have the chance to use them. By swapping out the content via a rotating banner or image, these offers can easily be changed.

Send Emails Timely

Order confirmations are typically sent in real-time, shortly after the customer places an order. Delays in sending the confirmation could cause customers to believe that their orders did not process correctly. Test your order confirmations to ensure that the emails are being generated timely.

In addition, to ensure delivery of the emails, keep track of the IP address these messages are originating from and check the IPs often on a system like Return Path’s Sender Score to ensure their scores are high.

Emphasize Mobile

Most customers now check their email order confirmations from their phones. More than ever, your confirmation emails should render well on a mobile device. In doing this, remember these pointers:

  • Reduce the amount of text and increase the font size for legibility;
  • Use responsive CSS design;
  • Ensure any links or buttons are large enough to click with a finger and are not too close to other links, to avoid click errors;
  • Use click-to-call on customer service phone numbers to make it easy for customers if there is an issue with their orders. Consider, for example, the email, below, from AAA, which I received on my phone. After clicking on the “Call an Agent” link on the bottom left, a prompt appears with the number to call. This is an effective way to easily drive calls from a click.
This email AAA insurance contains a click-to-call button, making it easy to contact the company.

This email AAA insurance contains a click-to-call button, making it easy to contact the company.

Unfortunately in the Babies”R”Us example, the email (below) is difficult to read on my phone, and the links are not obvious. The email also does not include a click-to-call option, which would have been helpful.

The Babies"R"Us email confirmation is difficult to read on a smartphone.

The Babies”R”Us email confirmation is difficult to read on a smartphone.

Track Results

Do not forget to track the clicks and conversions that are generated from order confirmations. These emails are not just a customer service tool, but a crucial marketing communication. Tracking the clicks, conversions, and the timing that individuals are clicking and purchasing will allow you to better understand — and optimize — how your customers interact with order confirmations.

Carolyn Nye

Carolyn Nye

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  1. Karl September 16, 2014 Reply

    Awesome tips Carolyn! Do you have any recommendations for email providers that offer solutions that were stated in your article. Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • sam September 17, 2014 Reply

      yes i am looking for an email provider who does it as well please advise

  2. Carlos Camacho September 17, 2014 Reply

    Sorry, but the Toys-R-Us example is terrible. The main goal of the order confirmation must be for the customer to receive their confirmation. Hate to use Amazon as an example, but look at their emails. They use Plain Text for a good reason.

    If you want to do the cross-sells, you should consider doing that in a follow-up email. Not the order confirmation.

    (I run a $77 million dollar a year site)

  3. Carolyn Nye September 17, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Karl. Some of these tips you can easily accomplish on your own – such as linking a telephone number within the body of the email – this can be done just using the standard href tag:
    Image or text

    Replacing content can also be done easily by just replacing where the image is hosted for another image that has the same size dimensions. For more complex real-time content changes I suggest looking into a provider called Moveable Ink. Hope that helps!

    Carlos – thanks for your input. The Toys-R-Us example is not perfect, but displays some elements that may work well for certain sites. Testing what is right for your particular site and business is always a good idea, which is why tracking clicks and conversions from order confirmations will help to steer the strategy that best works for your business.

  4. Danny at LemonStand September 17, 2014 Reply

    This article definitely includes some helpful pointers.

    The Toys R Us example has some major detracting factors though.

    For example, why would Free Shipping be advertised in a confirmation email? Unless you’re asking them to add another $10 onto their order to qualify, the customer is not going to come back and place another order because you advertised free shipping. If anything, they’re going to be annoyed that they didn’t know about it before.

    Confirmation pages and emails are an opportunity to make the customer feel safe, and build trust. They should make it crystal clear that the order was received and it should set expectations as to what will happen next.

    Maybe that’s a shipping confirmation within 48 hours. Maybe it’s something else, but whatever it is, it should be crystal clear and build trust and therefore loyalty for your brand.

    After you’ve established that trust, you can get clever with the follow-up marketing emails.

  5. Elizabeth Ball September 30, 2014 Reply

    The Babies R Us order confirmation is a great one, Carolyn, and one that makes you remember customers have many ways to return to your website or specific product pages, which is another reason to be careful of changing URL strings.
    I’d also suggest online retailers use an obvious email subject title including their company or product name such as “Thank you for our [XYZ] order” as it can be hard to determine obtuse titles like “Order no 12756” or “Booking confirmation G5G789HJ” etc when searching for them later.

  6. Ron January 30, 2015 Reply

    Somebody should tell Amazon about this article, their order confirmations used to be great but now they only list 1 item that was purchased and say “and 12 more items”, which is totally useless.