Practical Ecommerce

Order Confirmation Emails Can Build Loyalty, Sell More

Order confirmation emails not only communicate facts about a recent order, but also can convey respect, trust, and encourage additional sales. <em>Image: Listrak.</em>

Order confirmation emails not only communicate facts about a recent order, but also can convey respect, trust, and encourage additional sales. Image: Listrak.

Shoppers love order confirmation emails. They open them repeatedly, click on links, and give them priority in the inbox. In fact, confirmation emails may help online retailers to earn trust and additional business.

About 64 percent of shoppers “consider transactional confirmation emails to be the most valuable messages in their inboxes,” according to a recently released whitepaper from Listrak, the email service provider. Order confirmation emails also have an almost ridiculous open rate of 114.30 percent compared to an average open rate of between 13 and 14 percent for email marketing campaigns.

Order confirmation emails should be transactional in nature. But this in no way means that online retailers cannot include information or even offers meant to strengthen the relationships with shoppers and encourage additional purchases.

“The order confirmation email is also the first touch point after a purchase, so it’s the retailer’s first opportunity to adequately support the sale,” wrote Listrak Director of Retail Solutions Julie Wahl in an email to Practical Ecommerce. “It can be used to present product recommendations and clearly communicate policies, make it easy to find information about order status, and can also be used as an acquisition opportunity to promote the retailer’s marketing campaigns.”

Enhanced Purchase Information

An order confirmation email informs your customers that the order has been received and your store will begin the process of picking and packing the items. But it can also built trust. When your online store shares better order information, you’re demonstrating your store’s professionalism and trustworthiness.

Consider showing:

  • An order number;
  • An estimated delivery date, even before the item has shipped;
  • A description of the item or items purchased;
  • Product price and tax;
  • Product photographs;
  • Shipping cost;
  • Links to your return policy;
  • Customer service contact information, including a phone number.
The order confirmation should describe nearly every aspect of the order. Make it a reference the shopper can return to whenever she has a question. <em>Image: Listrak.</em>

The order confirmation should describe nearly every aspect of the order. Make it a reference the shopper can return to whenever she has a question. Image: Listrak.

To emphasize the last point, email marketing provider Silverpop (which is now part of the IBM Marketing Cloud) pointed out that “when customers offer up credit card numbers in exchange for a product or service, you can expect they’ll want at least some level of comfort that their questions and concerns can be answered. It’s especially important if they notice a mistake in the order after reviewing the transactional message.”

Speedy Delivery

An online store’s order confirmation email is analogous to the printed receipt a brick-and-mortar shopper receives at the end of a transaction. How would the customer in the physical shop feel if, after taking payment, the clerk wondered off and took 10 minutes or more to produce a receipt?

In other words, speed matters. Seek to deliver this transactional message within seconds.

Offer Relevant Product Recommendations

Personalization is the key to product recommendations in an order confirmation email. Thus, these recommendations should not be hard coded into the email.

Offer two or three product suggestions based on the shopper’s order history and profile. This is not an upsell, wherein you offer a product similar to one just purchased, but rather a cross-sell, with the related item complementing the product purchased.

Consider onsite behavior, too. Did your website already show this particular customer some product recommendations during the shopping or checkout process? How did the customer react to those recommendations?

Don’t Treat Repeat Customers Like New Ones

To further fine-tune order confirmation email messages, do not treat all customers the same. There is a difference between a customer who has purchased from your online store for the first time and a customer who has made many purchases.

Consider delivering a different order confirmation email to repeat shoppers. Thank them for their loyalty and offer them something special for coming back. If your store discounts products, this might be a coupon code just for them. Or if discounting is not part of your business model, consider a free product or special customer-service options.

Design for Mobile First

Between 45 and 70 percent of email messages are read on a mobile device, according to most surveys. While these numbers may not correspond directly to order confirmation emails, almost no one would argue against designing email messages to be mobile friendly. In fact, given the current state of the email marketing industry, mobile first is already becoming the standard.

Make It Look Good

Finally, order confirmation emails should look good. They need to reflect your brand.

The formula for building loyalty and selling more with an order confirmation email is, first, to reinforce the trust you earned during the initial purchase and, second, to offer opportunities to purchase again via product recommendations.

Email design addresses the first point. A professional looking design implies your store is in fact professional.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Jenna July 19, 2016 Reply

    Hi Armando,

    I like the tips you’ve included here for ecommerce owners/founders/execs to start using confirmation emails as a sales channel.

    I can recommend some tools to use in combination with your tips

    Would love to know if you have any feedback on SendGrid or Bronto!

    • Armando Roggio July 19, 2016 Reply

      Jenna, I have personally used Bronto in the past. It is a solution with a lot of capabilities if you invest the time to use them.

      I have not personally had experience with SendGrid.


  2. Kiran Patel July 27, 2016 Reply

    Hi Armando

    Since customers are not explicitly opting in to operational messages such as order confirmation emails,if you decide to cross-sell, can you tell me at what point the message becomes a marketing message? Does the DMA have a recommended/allowable split between promotional and transactional content?

    • Armando Roggio July 28, 2016 Reply

      Kiran, the message is transactional. That is it’s main purpose. I am not aware of a DMA recommendation. Personally, I say one section.

      The email will have a greeting. It will have the main transactional information, and at the bottom, I put one section of promotional material.

      I hope that helps.