Essential email is the fast-growing category of non-marketing communications which we have seen increasing in Australia. In this guest piece, Melle Staelenberg, Business Manager – Lifecycle Marketing at Salmat, dives deep into essential email.
Much is written about email marketing and how email is the best digital communications channel in terms of return on investment. Less is published around essential email.
Also referred to as ‘e-invoicing’ or ‘e-billing’, essential email is the fast-growing category of non-marketing communications such as statements, invoices and policy updates that have made it to the inbox.
According to a 2016 study by Billentis, essential email adoption in Australia and New Zealand is on par with the US and UK (but behind the Nordics and some South American markets) with an estimated annual volume increase of 10-20 per cent.
‘Essential’ refers to the regulation and compliance requirements of the sender to provide the information to their customers. Although few customers would complain about missing out on a newsletter, not receiving your electronic bill on time can cause serious issues.
Here, we provide some background on what essential email is and tips on how you can execute it effectively.
Why essential email?
- Customer preference
It’s no secret that more and more customers switch to receiving their bills and statements via email. Essential email has clear advantages for customers: besides doing the right thing for the environment, it means no more stolen or misplaced statements.
With most bills being paid online these days, having your bill available on your smartphone, laptop or work computer is simply convenient.
With 17 per cent of Australians changing address each year and a large share of mail returned to sender, it’s becoming more difficult for companies to make sure customers receive their direct mail on time. When the right verification is put in place for online sign-up, it’s much easier to generate and keep a valid database of customer email addresses and mobile phone numbers.
In fact, Salmat’s essential email solution is proven to reach as many as 99.5 per cent of customers for a typical statement run or bill cycle.
- Improve speed, reduce costs
Businesses save more than trees and energy by switching to electronic statements. In November 2015, the Digital Business Council (DCB) was established to drive the implementation of e-invoicing across the Australian business community.
According to DBC, e- invoicing is estimated to be 60-80 per cent more efficient than traditional paper based invoice processing. The cost of printing and mailing a bill easily adds up to a dollar or two, whereas an email costs only a fraction of that.
Especially in large countries like Australia and the US, being able to provide all your customers with their bill overnight means you can optimise your payment due dates and receive funds sooner.
Tips to unlock the power of essential email
- Run an opt-in campaign
When your company starts offering electronic statements, run an opt-in campaign so your customers can make the switch from print to email. Don’t hesitate to incentivise the switch: running a promotion where one lucky person wins an iPad can do wonders in terms of awareness and uptake.
Continuously remind those who still receive paper bills by including a clear call to action on their printed bills with easy steps on how to switch to electronic statements.
- Use dynamic content
Dynamic content allows you to vary the content of your email based on user preferences, insights or behaviour. If your customer has direct debit set up, don’t bother them with a generic ‘payments are due by …’ line as that will only cause confusion and unnecessary calls to your call centre.
Instead, make it clear that you have their direct debit set up and their account will be debited on the due date.
Most email platforms will allow you to use dynamic content through rules or content blocks, resulting in more tailored messaging compared to printed statements. It is even possible to count down to the due date, showing that payments are due in ‘three days’ when opened on Monday and ‘today’ when that same email is opened (again) on Thursday.
- SMS as fall-back
Email is a much more efficient channel than regular mail but the real power lies in reporting. With direct mail, you often don’t know or find out late when your communication has not reached your customer.
Using email, you know within 24 hours which messages failed and why (it’s always good to let your platform retry deliveries for at least 12 hours). Was their inbox full? An SMS can be triggered automatically, asking your customer to clear their inbox.
Email account closed? Use SMS to ask clients to update their email address. The ability to use both email and SMS in an integrated way means there is always a way for you to reach your customer.
The essential email space is a rapidly growing delivery channel. With clear advantages for both consumers and businesses, essential email is the logical next step in the evolution of customer communications.
 Koch, B. (2016), E-Invoicing / E-Billing, Digitisation & Automation (page 22), Billentis.
 Experian, Does your mail move with your customers?, http://www.qas-experian.com.au/products/change-of-address.htm
 Digital Business Council, Wide-spread digital transformation will revolutionise the whole Australian economy