What are Triggered Emails and How Do They Work? 6 Examples to Consider

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

There's nothing worse for a marketer than missing out on a conversion at the final, decisive moment, but adopting triggered emails could be the solution.

Article 7 Minutes
What are Triggered Emails and How Do They Work? 6 Examples to Consider

There’s a moment when you’re ready to make a purchase.

You’ve probably had that feeling. You get your credit card out of your pocket. Then, for whatever reason, you stop. The moment passes. You decide, not today!

These moments happen all the time. People almost download a content upgrade, almost make a purchase and almost do a host of other things. With the right approach, you can turn almost into a conversion.

Marketers who use triggered emails understand this fact.

Triggered emails should be part of every business’s content marketing strategy. Chances are, you already send triggered emails such as order receipts. You just may not realize how valuable they are.

This post will break down what triggered emails are and how they work before. You’ll also discover six types of triggered emails you can use for your business.

What are triggered emails and how do they work?

Triggered emails are automated emails that are sent when a preset condition is met. Most of us are familiar with automated emails as we often schedule emails to send at a certain time, such as regular promotional emails for our clients. 

What’s the difference between automated emails and triggered emails?

Regular emails are usually planned by marketing and communications teams. Triggered emails, on the other hand, are sent when a subscriber performs a certain action. We’ll dive into some of these actions below.

Open rate of various types of content: Triggered, Autoresponder, Newsletters and RSS


Triggered emails are an important part of your content strategy. Here are some reasons you should start using them:

  • Triggered emails have a higher open rate: Research by GetResponse suggests that triggered emails have an open rate of 38.03%, compared to just 18.76% for newsletter emails. That’s more than double the open rate. It makes sense when you think about it, though. People who receive an email from a company they just engaged with are very likely to open the message.

  • Customers expect them: If you make a purchase, you expect to receive an order confirmation in your inbox. Many of us would worry if we never got an email confirmation when we made an online purchase. Increasingly, we expect triggered emails in other instances, such as when we sign up for a mailing list.

  • They lead customers down the sales funnel: From welcome emails to abandoned cart messages, there are many ways triggered emails can be used to lead customers down the sales funnel. Many of us simply accept that customers will subscribe and even put items in their online cart before simply walking away. Triggered emails help to close the circuit.

  • They offer affiliate marketing opportunities: If you don’t include affiliate marketing links in your triggered emails, you could be missing out on revenue. Just make sure you monitor those sales (or clicks) through an affiliate dashboard so you can track the results of your promotion. 

  • They provide a better user experience: Triggered emails create a personalized experience. They’re usually directed at individual customers and relate to their behavior, rather than being catch-all email blasts that every subscriber receives.

In other words, you can reap all sorts of benefits from triggered emails. It would be a mistake not to leverage them.

6 examples of triggered emails

Below are six types of triggered emails you could potentially use in your business to boost audience engagement and company profits.

1. Welcome emails

When a customer signs up for your mailing list, they should receive a real-time welcome email instead of a batch welcome email sent to all customers who signed up within a certain timeframe.

Graph illustrating open rate of triggered emails in comparison to promotional emails, along with revenue


A report by Experian shows that welcome emails are not only opened more often than promotional emails (57.8% open rate for welcome emails compared to 14.6% for promotional emails), but they have a higher revenue as well.

Triggered 'welcome' email example from MarketingSherpa


Why is this? An engaging welcoming email filled with links to your website is more likely to be opened and clicked on by your customers than a standard promotional email. More opens and clicks quickly translate to more purchases.

2. Reactivation emails

Users receive a reactivation email if they haven’t interacted with your brand, purchased a product or opened emails in a pre-set length of time. They’re also used to reach customers after they cancel a subscription.

Reactivation triggered email example from HubSpot


A reactivation email is your opportunity to win back customers who have purchased products or services in the past. Not only does this lead to sales, but it has a better return on investment (ROI) than seeking out new customers. 70% of respondents to one survey argued that retaining an existing customer is cheaper than acquiring a new one.

A typical reactivation email is the ‘we’ve missed you’ email. That adds a personal touch to the triggered email. It is also an opportunity to win back your customer by promoting a special offer for them.

3. Order confirmation emails

Order confirmation emails are a standard type of triggered email. Many businesses, however, aren’t realizing the full potential of order confirmation emails as a means to boost revenue.

Confirmation emails, according to one study, have an open rate of over 70%. This makes sense - we often check our confirmation emails to see what we’ve purchased and how much we spent.

Order confirmation triggered email example from Expressionery


The primary goal of a confirmation email is to ensure they know a purchase was completed. Customers are happy to receive emails letting them know their order is confirmed, dispatched and arrived.

Your confirmation message is also an opportunity to engage new customers and generate additional sales. For example, you could upsell a customer immediately after they make a purchase. Or, you might try and sell them additional products or promote affiliate offers.

4. Abandoned cart emails

It’s one of our worst nightmares. The customer finds our website, explores our products, fills their cart and everything is ready to go. Then they abandon their cart and never look back.

Abandoned cart email example from CaliFabrics


There are lots of reasons why customers abandon their online carts. Sometimes they need a bit more time to think about the purchase. Sometimes they want to compare products before making a final decision.

But we all lead busy lives, and sometimes abandoned carts stay abandoned.

Cart abandonment emails percentage rates


Abandoned cart emails are a proven way to bring customers back to the website to complete a purchase. A study by Moosend suggests that 50% of customers who click on an abandoned cart email go on to make a purchase.

If you aren’t already sending abandoned cart emails, now’s the time to start.

5. Birthday emails

Receiving special offers and promotions in our email inbox on our birthday is one of the many perks of the day. Birthday emails are another type of triggered email as they are sent on a particular date based on the birthday entered by customers when they sign up for emails or make a purchase.

Offering customers a special discount or gifting them with a voucher on their birthday is a surefire way to boost revenue.

Birthday email triggered email example from Adventure


That’s not the only reason to send triggered birthday emails. Birthday emails are a chance to send a personal email to your customers on their special day. With the right messaging and tone, these triggered emails can remind customers about your brand and improve brand loyalty.

6. Feedback and review emails

Sending triggered emails that ask for feedback and reviews is another excellent way to communicate with your customers and better understand them for your ideal customer profile.

Feedback and review mails let you invite your customer to leave a review or provide feedback after they made a purchase or interacted with you in another way. They can also be combined with reactivation emails if you’d like to find out why a customer hasn’t returned.

Feedback and review triggered email example from Unsplash


Whether you want to build up more reviews on your website or gain some insight into how your customers feel about your brand, feedback and review mails are some of the best ways to do so. In addition to this, encouraging your customers to leave feedback will make them feel like their voice is valued - a key way to foster brand loyalty.

Final thoughts

Triggered emails are utilized all of the time by businesses. We receive them whenever we buy something online, when we sign up to mailing lists and even on our birthdays.

With the high open and click rates of triggered emails, it’s important that businesses put as much care and thought into them as they would their promotional emails. Triggered emails offer a space for you to communicate with customers, encourage them to purchase products, and even include affiliate links.

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Domingo Karsten


Domingo has over 10 years experience in online marketing. He is involved with We Can Track. His writing has been featured in FastCompany and others.


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