The missing opportunities in transactional email

Markedu talked to transactional email marketing expert Mia Papanicolaou from Striata. The interview is part of our interview series about people who matter in marketing.

Mia Papanicolaou from Striata transactional email messaging expert

If you recognize Mia Papanicolaou’s name, it might be because she was one of the selected email marketing experts invited to present at the Email Marketing Day @Your Desk.  We found her talk so intriguing that we decided to ask her a few questions. Read on to see what Mia has to say about transactional email messaging and other marketing related “stuff”.

How did you become involved in eMarketing?

I first experienced the world of email marketing when I managed the newsletter for a magazine I worked for as a journalist – I was hooked. I moved to an email marketing company called in 2001, as the business director. Our motto was simple “provide great solutions that meet customer goals.”

This approach allowed us to establish ourselves in the South African market , as an email marketing specialist and in 2006 the company was bought by Striata. I took on the role of Head of eMarketing at Striata and have had the good fortune to work with some fantastic brands.

Striata provides email solutions for both the eMarketing and eBilling environmentspushing the right message to the customer at the right time, thus positioning Striata as a leader in the field of transactional communication. In 2010 I relocated to the United Kingdom and took on the role of Head of Operations for the UK team, where I assist companies gain maximise response off transactional email communications.

How is social media impacting on the email marketing environment?

Email marketing and social media are two entirely different mediums, yet they complement each other, rather than work against each other – email content can be shared on social media, while social media can be effectively used to organically grow an email database.

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While social media has established itself as a mass platform for disseminating news and facilitating customer interaction, email marketing enables personalised, targeted communications based on customer profiles. It is a one-to-many medium that can act as a one-to-one due to the sheer amount of personalisation. Email is the app of choice, as it also informs and draws consumers back into social media – most notifications from various social networking sites arrive in a customer’s inbox.

How would industries such as financial services and perhaps energy & utilities benefit from email messaging?

Email messaging serves a massive gap in the market – that is, to switch off paper. Both these industries have relied on paper to get information to customers, as well as to their portals, where customers can find billing information.

They have struggled to switch off paper because of the registration process required for portal access (imagine how many logins one person has to have across these industries?) and so they continue to send paper, even though a portal is available.

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Email solves this issue – it delivers the document to the customer directly into their inbox. By sending documents/bills via email, customers have the information at their fingertips, without needing to login – a convenience for customers that shouldn’t be overlooked and a cost saving exercise that cannot be ignored by these industries.

I understand that you are considered an expert in transactional messages – what are type of messages are they and why are they important?

Transactional messages are those messages that are triggered based on an action or an event. A statement or an invoice would be considered a transactional message, as would order confirmations and retail receipts. Transactional messages are important as they supply important information to customers.

Is usability important when designing transactional messages?

Usability is important with all email marketing and transactional messaging is no different. These messages are often forgotten, appear as text and aren’t tracked. Designing these emails, testing them for effectiveness and tracking them is crucial.

The design doesn’t necessarily mean just adding the logo, it’s about writing the content and laying it out in a way that appeals to customers, without confusing them. It should also lead them to take the necessary action, like click on links, complete forms etc. Design becomes crucial when marketing is included, as it ensures that the email doesn’t detract from the message, but instead, achieves the desired results.

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It’s very important to remember that these are emails that customers are expecting, which makes marketing to these customers on related topics a fantastic way to increase spend.



How important is clarity of communication for transactional emails? And what do marketers need to consider in that respect?

Transactional messages provide a perfect platform to up- and cross-sell to customers who are engaged and expect to receive these messages. However, one shouldn’t forget that the customer should easily be able to read the expected message and so, it’s best to avoid including many disparate marketing messages.

The marketing should complement the transactional message (e.g. include links to purchase a different policy on an insurance email) and should always strive to improve the customer experience rather than detract from it.

Now take a look at your crystal ball and tell us how you see email marketing and in particular lifecycle marketing automation developing over the next 3-5 years?

That’s so difficult to say. Technology progresses at lightning pace and as a result, what we believe today, changes by tomorrow. Mobile will continue to evolve and become a vital part of our digital lives, which makes mobile email an important factor for email marketers.

Paper turn-off will hopefully be more prolific with customers opting to receive all manner of documentation via email, which can be saved in the cloud and recalled at any moment. Exchanges in stores – retrieve the email receipt from your phone. Applying for a mortgage and need the documentation? Simply retrieve the last three bank statements from your email, as well as any other utility bills required. Personal information will be even more accessible and at our finger tips.

Finally, if our readers would like to get in touch with you, how would they do that?

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Michael Leander

Founder & CEO at Markedu / MLCO
The founder of Markedu is an international marketing speaker, trainer and consultant. He frequently talks about direct and interactive marketing to marketers around the world and at Markedu webinars. He is a strong advocate for multichannel marketing and is currently on a mission "preaching" the importance of matching channel, message and audience
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