Ah, mid-summer. That delightful, relaxing time of year when people turn their thoughts to vacations, swimwear, sports equipment, patio furniture, gardening tools, and a slew of other merchandise that can help them maximize the warm weather.

Consumers recognize this as an excellent time to snag the first markdowns on summertime goods. And for retailers, that translates into a chance to battle “summer slump” by fine tuning their autoresponder emails to maximize potential sales. Messages that follow up on transactions customers have already initiated, research shows, produce an average open rate of around 50 percent, more than twice that of online newsletters.

The real beauty of autoresponders? As their name suggests, they’re automatically triggered by the shopper’s own actions or digital information you have on file, meaning they require very little attention on your part.

You likely already have autoresponders in place for basic functions like printed receipts, email confirmations and delivery updates. But studies indicate some 75 percent of businesses are under-utilizing autoresponders. For example, only 25 percent send post-purchase messages requesting product reviews; just 25 percent use them to recommend other products; only 24 percent send suggestions for date-based renewals or reorders; and a mere 18 percent send messages triggered by website visits or browsing behavior.

Your email-automation tools may just require a bit of tweaking to allow for the powerful automatic messages that add the proverbial frosting to the cake. Three varieties to consider:

Surprise and delight

This category encompasses any message designed to elicit a positive emotional response from the recipient, triggered either by a date or a purchase. Examples include recognition of the one-year anniversary of a customer’s first purchase or a happy greeting acknowledging the customer’s birthday or anniversary. Producing an even greater impact may be a discount or gift certificate from your business, or a gift card from a complementary brand you think they would enjoy. In short, go for the heart in keeping with the old adage “Customers may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

Here’s an effective example of a surprise and delight email that online treats vendor Shari’s Berries sent to repeat-business VIPs:

Countdown event

This category builds awareness and excitement, creating a sense of urgency automatically triggered by a pending sale, promotion, product launch, or celebration. Only 18 percent of businesses now use such methodology. Macy’s did a nice job conveying urgency here:

Abandoned cart

Messages triggered when a shopper leaves your site, either before or during the checkout process, can greatly increase your conversions. Interestingly, though, only 9 percent of businesses are currently using such follow-up strategies. Though convincing such customers to make the final leap is a whole other topic, in general you can increase conversions by making check-out super easy; requiring minimal buyer information; remaining as transparent as possible; listing FAQs; offering multiple payment options; displaying clear contact info (not just a P.O. box); maintaining a clear return policy; and emphasizing your competitive advantage. Below is one straight-to-the-heart example:

Don’t let the dreaded “summer slump” get your bottom line down. Set up some fresh autoresponders to save your business time and money.

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