3 Best Practices to Develop High-Converting Email Receipts

Guest Author

From Day One, CM Commerce (previously Receiptful’s) sole focus has been on helping our merchants increase their Customer Lifetime Value via their (now, supercharged) email receipts. As such, we’ve been building the tools to power this marketing and sales drive.

But just making the tools available is only half the battle won; the other half is down to the specific implementation of each merchant, considering their business, products and customers will all be unique.

So how does a new CM Commerce user implement our tools to leverage the marketing opportunity and earn additional revenue?

Luckily we have the benefit of having access to a mountain of data at CM Commerce to help us answer that question. 🙂

We spent some time researching how our Top 50 merchants (based on the dollar amount of additional revenue they’ve generated) have used CM Commerce to summarize some of the best practices involved with using our tools.

The best practices spans three parts of your receipts:

  1. Branding & design
  2. Upsells
  3. Structure

1. Branding & Design

First impressions last.

The very first consideration with regards to your receipts should be based on the fact that you have a very small window of time (our data suggests this is about 15 seconds on average) to make an impression on your customer.

In terms of the visual aspects of your receipt, here’s a couple of pointers:

  • Use a high-resolution copy of your logo and use it in a medium size, because you want this to be prominent as it helps to reinforce your branding and also make a connection with your customer.
  • Tweak the colors of your receipt to match your brand’s color palette. By doing this, you are creating a familiar environment and extending the experience that your customer had on your store.

Your branding efforts should however not only extend to visual considerations, but also to your copywriting.

The copy on your receipt is the determining factor of your success, because it is the clearest form of communication that you have. In this sense, it is most important that your copywriting matches the voice and tone of the copy on your website.

If that’s formal and sophisticated, stick to formal and sophisticated. If it’s quirky, fun & witty, then do that.

Your aim should be to be as consistent as possible in your branding, design and copywriting efforts. The last thing you want is to create an inconsistent, alien experience for your customers via your receipts.

We prefer to be informal and colloquial by including a short thank you message in all of our receipts. Something like this should do the trick:

“Thanks so much for your purchase, {{firstName}}. Your support means the world to us and we hope that you are happy with your purchase. If there’s anything that we can do to make you even happier, please let us know!”

Example Thank You Message
An example of your “Thank You” message

Remember that you want to make your customers feel at home as quickly as possible (during those 15-odd seconds they spend on average with your receipts), because that increases the likelihood that they’ll take action and spend more money with you.

Here’s a few resources that can further help you with this:

2. Upsells

CM Commerce’s most successful customers are using a combination of two different upsells:

  • A discount-based upsell; and
  • The Similar Products upsell.

This combo essentially lands a one-two knockout punch:

  1. The aim of the discount-based upsell is to incentivize a future purchase and essentially increase the frequency at which repeat purchases are made; and
  2. The Similar Products upsell – using our intelligent, recommendation engine – recommends products to the customer that they are likely to be interested in and thus helps them discover products they could’ve purchased as well.

The combo does helps with both that discovery and an incentive to take action (i.e. purchase) on any of those discoveries.

How do you decide on the parameters of the discount-based upsell?

Best practice in this regard is slightly harder, because it is much more store-specific. Here is however a couple of pointers:

  1. If you are offering a percentage discount, you naturally want this to be as high as possible, because the higher the discount, the greater the incentive. Consider though that a discount that’s too high will detract from your brand.
  2. The upper limit of the discount is your average profit margin of your products. If your average product margin is 10%, we’d be reluctant to recommend that you offer a 20% discount. (Unless you do this in a short-term campaign as a loss-leader to grow loyalty amongst your customers.)
  3. Our data shows that a discount anywhere between 10% – 20% seems to do the trick as more than enough of an incentive to take action.
  4. To make an informed decision about the expiry period, we’d recommend you look at your best customers and the frequency at which they make repeat purchases. If they’re purchasing from you once a month, then we’d recommend using 21 days as an expiry date, because you want to accelerate that rate slightly.
  5. Our top customers are using expiry period for 7, 14 & 30 days with similar success. 14 days is currently the most widely used expiry period. We would however recommend that you experiment with this to determine which works best for you.

How does our recommendation engine select the products to show in the Similar Products upsell?

The engine uses a few different techniques to create the recommendations based on the data that is available. These data points include:

  • What customers have bought / are buying on the store (orders).
  • What customers are looking at on the store (product page views).
  • Product tags.
  • Product titles.
  • Product type, brand and category.

There are two main techniques used for suggesting products. Association rule learning (or market basket analysis) and product ranking. The two techniques are related and are commonly referred to as item-based collaborative filtering.

What’s next and what’s the best way to get started with upsells?

These are just some best practices that we’ve noticed. This makes them a good place to start whereafter you should experiment with the parameters of these upsells to find out where your sweet spot is.

Depending on your transaction volume, we would recommend running your receipts and upsells untouched for at least 3 or 4 weeks before changing anything. Once you then change the upsells, be sure to measure them against your previous performance. Look at the data available in your dashboard (i.e. opens, clicks and conversions), but also reach out to your customers and ask them what they liked (or didn’t like) about your receipts.

3. Structure

By now you have mastered your design, copywriting and upsells. The last step is to put this all together in a way that tells a story.

Your most important consideration in terms of your receipt structure (or the order of the components), is the narrative you are trying to communicate. To this extent, most of our successful customers uses the following structure for their receipts (or a slight variation thereof):

  1. Your logo;
  2. Personalized “welcome” or “thank you” message;
  3. A discount-based upsell;
  4. The actual receipt data;
  5. The Similar Products upsell;
  6. Billing + Shipping Address and Order Notes (optional / where applicable); and
  7. The feedback module.

This is what this would then look like:

Default Conversio Receipt
Default CM Commerce Receipt

The narrative you are communicating here is one of initial impression and intrigue. We know that recipients of receipts are opening the receipts to view the actual receipt data (in #4). So everything before that should engage them and make an impression. To do this, you want to:

  1. Include a great-looking logo;
  2. Personalize the “welcome” or “thank you” message, which makes them feel special; and
  3. Provide intrigue and surprise via the discount-based upsell.

This literally greases the wheels in the sense that it adds momentum to the interaction. Beyond the receipt data, you then land your one-two knockout punch. If you were successful with your interlude, your customers will be clicking on these products now.

The latter parts of your receipt is about tying up any loose ends. If including the billing and shipping address of your customer is important, then you want to provide them with that information within your receipts. And finally by including the Feedback module, you’re giving them an easy way to give you feedback and engage with you.

Your receipt footer also supports this ending by giving your customers any of your legal and / or contact emails along as communicating a secondary prompt for them to contact you should they need any help.

This is your blank canvas

In early 2014, Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter and Square), challenged the status quo of email receipts and said:

“What if we see the receipt more as a publishing medium — a product unto itself that people actually want to take home, that they want to engage with, be fully interactive with?”

This is what CM Commerce (previously Receiptful) is today. We have built the tools to turn your receipts into a blank canvas that you can use to engage your customers and turn this interaction into a marketing opportunity.

Using our best practices above as your starting point, we trust that you will paint a profitable picture on your receipt canvas. 🙂