On the back of an RS Components business card, you’ll see the following:

Those numbers must bring all sorts of (exciting) challenges, not least for CRM and email. 

Firstly, to continue with numbers, RS has more than 1m active email contacts, and sends over 3m emails every month, in 20 different languages. So, RS must have known that getting email right, with a sensible programme of triggered messages, could lead to a serious increase in sales. 

And, indeed, RS’ objective was to increase conversion through increasing relevancy of communications with email automation.

New opted-in users enter the campaign contact flow, and receive different emails depending on their position in the lifecycle. The key parts to this contact flow are the ‘welcome’, ‘nursery’, ‘maintain’ and ‘lapse’ programmes.

RS began with some key automated emails, and moved on to slot more triggered messages into the customer lifecycle.

First campaign: basket abandoners

The first fully-automated event-triggered email implemented was the abandoned basket email. There were 27 versions sent daily, worldwide. Here’s one in the language of love (a clue, it’s not HTML).

The rules of this communication were as follows:

  • Sent to contacts that have abandoned a basket within the last 24 hours. 
  • Must not have purchased anything from RS in the last two days. 
  • Must not have received an email from this programme in the last 15 days.  

What’s really interesting is that RS efficiently combines its offline sales data with its online data, in its sales system. Once this data is in, RS can ensure that anyone that has abandoned their basket online but also purchased recently offline doesn’t get an email asking them to purchase.

This simple but effective set of rules increased conversion by 7%.

The lapse pilot

The idea with this campaign is to prevent customers from lapsing, rather than having to win them back. Criteria as follows:

  • Sent to contacts that are likely to lapse based on their individual aggregate objective function (AOF).
  • Must not have received an email from this programme in the last month. 

This simple email programme increased incremental conversion by 1%. 


Further programmes: success targeting behaviour not content

The table below shows the criteria for automated emails that were slowly introduced. Everything from ‘quoted offline, but not converted’ to ‘encouraging product review’ to ‘browsed online but didn’t buy’.

Obviously with the addition of these programmes, further segments became apparent, as it was important to ensure that programmes didn’t interfere or cross over unproductively, creating mixed messaging.

An interesting point arises here. RS was more successful when targeting behaviours i.e. browsing or abandonment, than when targeting specific products.

This is because the recipients of the emails are not always the end-users of the products, but buyers within a business, and so content related to an obscure electrical component isn’t always enticing or persuasive.

Brave new world

For a catalogue electronics company, however big, the move to a sophisticated online retailer is a fascinating one.

It’s clear that the idea of event-triggered email automation is simple, and the campaigns mentioned here make sense. Doing it hasn’t always been easy. The arrival of cloud-based technology such as Responsys Interact means many retailers are starting to join the dots with their email, and the results show that it’s an incredibly powerful form of marketing.


  • Welcome Email Programme: open rate 47%, click rate 13%.
  • Nursery Email Programme: open rate 34%, click rate 6%.
  • Product Reviews Email Programme: open rate 29%, click rate 4.5%.
  • Abandoned Basket Email Programme: open rate 38%, click rate 19%.