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Order Confirmation Email Basics: How to Get It Right

This weeks topic will look at the order confirmation email. More often than not this part of the shopping process gets too little attention compared to the effort that has been put into getting a customer in the first place. Sometimes we find it can even seem like the store has rushed this part and this doesnt help at all with reducing post purchase anxiety. For new customers this is the first time you have communicated with them after taking their money. The more professional this email is the more the customer will know they made the right decision in buying from you. Get it wrong and you’ll end up looking bad. New web stores can be especially vulnerable to this.

First things first

Before we even consider what is in the email - make sure your system is sending emails correctly. By this we mean make sure your server is setup right. This might seem obvious but email can go wrong with very little warning leaving you with a debugging nightmare. The first you will know about this part not working is when a customer calls you up complaining. For new customers this will be the first contact via email so you can not rely on being on any safe senders list.

To make sure your email gets delivered at a very minimum you should ensure:

  1. Correct DNS setup. Make sure you are allowed to send email from your chosen domain at the server IP address.
  2. Make sure the email headers are correct.
  3. Make sure the content is not spammy which may lead to the email being marked as spam by over sensitive spam filters. Have a look in your SPAM box in your email client to see what type of words and phrases to avoid.
  4. Make sure you are not sending from a blacklisted IP. DNSBL

If you want to be sure your email meets all these requirements why not outsource this part of your business. There are some good 3rd party companies who do the email for you. We’ve used both Postmark and Sendgrid and have been more than happy with both. Prices for peace of mind are extremely reasonable.

If we have not managed to persuade you yet and you are really determined to do it yourself read this piece on what good web developers should know about sending email and weep.

Excellent - now the interesting bit about content

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Email meta information such as

From Name. This might seem like common sense but make this clear. Normally the best option is to put your domain name or the name of your store. It need to be something the customer will instantly recognise. Don’t leave it as the group that apache is running as on your web server like in the above example.

Reply To. Always, always, always make this a real address. There are too many companies using ‘do not reply to this email address’ and we think this is bad. Why would you think it was a good idea to frustrate paying customers and make it hard for them to get in touch? This is an easy win and puts you ahead of competitors with very little effort. Just setup a new email address like support@yourcompany.com and let people use it.

Subject lines Try to summarise what is in the email. If this person also subscribes to other email from your company they need to be able to easily differentiate between the two. This will obviously differ depending on company but we think these are good email subject lines.

  • Your Order Confirmation
  • Your Monthly Invoice
  • Thank you. Your Order Summary is Here.
  • Your Order Summary. This is What Happens Now.

Inside the email

Ask yourself what you like to see when you have just purchased online. You normally need the answers to a few simple questions and to be reassured of a few things. These are nearly always the same for all customers.

1. Summarise what has just happened

Reinforce the purchase with the customer. They may not be looking at this email for a few days after the purchase and it is always good to summarise the purchase.

2. Show the order

This is now the only reference the customer has of buying from you. You must provide them with a list of what they purchased and how much they spend on each item. Amongst other things this helps you if you decide to change your pricing and the customer queries the amount.

3. Describe what to do in case of an error

Mistakes happen and people change their minds. This can even happen 2 minutes after buying something. You should provide easy instructions or a link to page that describes how to change the order. This section might also describe your refunds and returns policy.

4. Describe what will happen next

Tell the customer when they might expect the product based on the shipping they have purchased. If you are selling digital goods, explain where to go to download the product.

5. Sign the email from a real person or team.

We love this one and whenever this happens to us we get a warm and fuzzy feeling! Provide a name and phone number of someone you can speak to if you need. It is as simple as that. Reassuring your customer that there is someone there to talk to will give them massive confidence in your business. If the customer is a regular shopper why not go one step further and attach a support Vcard. I know we love it when this happens.

6. Give your customer an incentive to buy again straight away

We are all in business to sell. Why not include a coupon code with a discount if this customer buys again within a week. If its a big enough discount people will jump at the chance.

If you have anything to say or have any improvements for this article please leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading.

ecommerce, emails, ux