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Maria Giulia Ganassini
30 March 2016
Reading time: 7 min

Birthday Email: Best Practices, Tips & Tricks

One of the simplest, most frequent and most effective types of triggered emails is the Happy Birthday email. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to structure and schedule it, as well as the best practices you should never forget.

We often emphasize the importance of knowing how to use automation tools to create a one-to-one dialogue that’s personal and relevant to the email recipients. Say no to mass, unsegmented messages, and yes to precise profiling, yes to engagement building and yes to brand interactivity.

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But how do we turn this theory into a practical plan? A good starting point is the birthday email, which we’ve all received at some point – it’s a type of triggered message that’s easy to implement and offers excellent results, both in terms of brand reputation and conversions.

email buon compleanno regali 01

Why send a birthday email?

Because it’s good for business. The figures do the talking: according to Experian data, birthday emails are a great investment for any company. Compared to promotional DEMs, they have:

  • 481% higher conversion rates
  • 342% higher revenue per message
  • 179% higher unique click rates

Figures like this are hard to ignore. Especially because, once you’ve set up the parameters and content of your messages, the automated system works autonomously, needing only light, occasional maintenance.

What’s more, this type of email has the irrefutable advantage of serving various business goals at the same time:

  • Reinforce customer delight by pampering your recipients and making them feel special. Who doesn’t like to receive kind wishes on their special day?
  • Generate conversions (for retail and e-commerce) by including a discount coupon, special offer or a selection of specific products. A great way to encourage an unplanned purchase.
  • Engage inactive users with unusual, personalized and non-routine content. Even the least active users will be pleased to receive a personal email and intrigued by the promise of a gift.

E-commerce is able to push discounts and special offers and is the type of business that gains the greatest economic return from this type of communication. Yet contrary to popular belief, data tells us that only 5% of retailers send birthday wishes, as opposed to 16% of brands in other sectors.

Birthday emails are extremely useful for those who don’t have anything ready to offer: a simple greeting builds brand reputation (which is already no small thing) and can be accompanied by an invitation to visit the store, book an appointment, browse the website or read an article.

How to send birthday email, automatically

Birthday emails can be sent using automations with various degrees of complexity. The starting point is setting up the data that triggers the automatic flow, which is the recipient’s date of birth (we’ll show you how to obtain this information legally and transparently in the next section)

1. A single email on the day

The simplest strategy is to set up a single email to be sent on the birthday itself. The message can contain birthday wishes and, at your discretion, a discount coupon, another type of gift or simply an invitation to take any other action. The limitation of a single email is that if the user fails to open this single message, you lose 100% of your communication potential. That’s why creating a drip campaign (or a series of multiple related triggered messages) can give you the best results.

2. Run-up workflow

Everyone (or almost everyone) likes the build-up to their special day. So why not set up an automated workflow that starts before their birthday (e.g. 30 days before) and continues up until their special day? Birchbox, below, set up a dedicated drip campaign for the “birthday month”, with a specific discount to use throughout the month. The experts at Email Vendor Selection tested how easy it is to create a birthday automation. Check this MailUp review to see what they have to say.

3. Recall workflow

In addition to the “run-up” strategy, it can be a good idea to ride on the wave of the birthday in the days after. For example, you can create:

  • An automatic recall that’s sent to users who didn’t open the birthday email to give you a second shot at conversion.
  • With the same objective, you can send an automatic recall to users who opened it but did not use the coupon.
  • Send an upselling automatic email to those who used the coupon, to encourage an additional purchase.

4. Cross-channel workflow

For a thousand and one reasons, the recipient might not open the email in time, or not open it at all. To get around this, why not integrate your email greetings with a dedicated SMS? The data tells us that this channel’s penetration and open rate potential is unrivaled. Thanks to the Marketing Automation tools provided by MailUp, you can create a multi-channel workflow in a matter of minutes.

For example, you can set up your email to be followed by an SMS 24 hours later if the email is not opened. Or 7 days later as a reminder to use the coupon. And so on.

How to collect the data

To start the automatic flow, you need the data that triggers the messages: the date of birth. There are several ways to obtain this information in a strictly transparent, legal and ethical way.

  • In the newsletter subscription form.You can insert a field (mandatory or optional) requesting this information from the outset. Just keep in mind that the more fields there are to fill out, the higher the chance the user will quit.
  • On the subscription confirmation page.If you use the double opt-in, you can ask for this information at the next subscription stage.
  • Encouraging auto-profiling.There’s always time to ask for more personal data even after registration, thanks to a dedicated email that you can link to an auto-profiling form, as in the example below. Here are the best practices.
notyourbirthday2 600x424 1

What to say in birthday email?

Every business has its own style and something different to offer, so it is important to tailor the tone and content of your birthday email in terms of the tone of voice, graphics and target audience. Here are some tips on what to include in these types of communications.

Your warm wishes

It might seem basic, but it is already a huge step forward compared to what most businesses are currently doing: sending a simple and emotional email to wish your recipient a happy birthday is sure to bring a smile to their face. This is what Facebook chose to do for example. The message has a warm and personal touch, conveying the style of a handwritten card signed by the Facebook team, rather than by the company itself.

Happy Birthday Customer Email from Facebook

A discount coupon

E-commerce and retail can take advantage of this unusual opportunity to encourage a new purchase thanks to a discount coupon or time-limited special offer. You can present the coupon as a gift to the recipient from the brand, or play on self-indulgence – for users to give themselves a special treat on occasions like these. This is what Topshop does for example:

email buon compleanno coupon 04

As an alternative to the discount, you could also offer other exclusive benefits, such as free delivery or a physical gift to take home for free.

An invitation to visit the website

Not only discount coupons catch people’s attention. A well-structured, eye-catching and well-worded birthday email is also ideal for driving traffic toward the website or reminding users about the service you offer. JetBlue, for example, uses this opportunity to push what it has always promoted: booking a flight and jetting off. It does this with a friendly and effective communication, enriched with an animated GIF.

email buon compleanno jetblueemail

Here’s the GIF in motion:


A gift guide

As mentioned earlier, the gift guide is a great way of interpreting birthdays. The premise is simple: if you’ve subscribed to our communications, this means that you like the products we offer, so what better way for your recipients to receive gifts from their friends and family? Stitch Fix, for example, is diversifying its communication strategy: the first box aims for self-indulgence, while the second box invites users to create a gift wish list. Obviously, this type of email requires the message to be sent in advance ahead of the special day.

email buon compleanno regali

Once again, a nice animated GIF is the finishing touch:


Premium or interactive content

Birthdays are an excellent opportunity to create non-routine content that can be used as a “special treat” for loyal users. NYU, for example, has created a specific video for the birthdays of its former students to be reused throughout the year, thereby optimizing the efforts invested in it. An alternative may be to give away a video-course episode or send an exclusive eBook to download in preview.

email buon compleanno interattiva

Best practices for birthday emails

Here are some good rules to never forget, and some extra ideas that are worth experiencing with for this type of email.

Hone your graphics (yes, more than usual)

A beautiful gift that’s badly packaged loses half its appeal. The same applies to this type of email: it has to get straight to the heart, which it can only do with well-designed, cheerful, colorful and stylish graphics. We really like this example from Zocdoc:

email buon compleanno zocdocemail

Keep copy short and sweet

The birthday email looks more like a greetings card than a newsletter. So it’s better to keep the copy to a minimum and give the right emphasis to your coupon or gift where present, so that users don’t get lost in unnecessary frills. Here’s a good example of DSW – it’s extremely simple, yet refined and very clear to read.

email buon compleanno coupon 03

Pay attention to the call-to-action

The CTA button, as we often say, is key for ensuring high click rates for your emails. For birthdays, why not experiment with an out-of-the-ordinary copy that underlines the uniqueness of the day? Rent the Runway, for example, gets it just right: “Get the party started”. What could be more inviting than that?

email buon compleanno coupon

Animate the message with GIFs

Inserting an animated GIF in the email message is simple and has an extremely effective visual impactOld Navy uses a friendly and funny GIF: the classic cake with candles, accompanied by a dedicated coupon code that’s valid both in store and online.

email buon compleanno coupon 01

Here’s the animated GIF: an email birthday cake with candles!

coupon 01

Go personal with the content

In email, personalization works. Whether it’s in the subject line (“Jennifer, here’s your birthday present!”) or in the email body, the results are guaranteed: according to the most conservative estimates, it results in at least +2.6% higher open rates (Retention Science data). Birthdays are the ideal “personal” moment: so using this intimate and personal hook to create an even more direct contact with the user can only be a good move. Here’s the example of Wine.com:

email buon compleanno personalizzazione

Repeat the pattern on other occasions

People only have a birthday once a year, but there’s no reason why you can’t replicate the pattern of email greetings also for other occasions or anniversaries. Look what Twitter does by sending a “happy twitterversary” email. As you can see, the entire message follows the birthday email’s best practices, from the image to the copy, from a simple style to the CTA.

Customer Anniversary Email Design from Twitter

Wrap up

Sending a Happy Birthday email to your subscribers is simple and brings great results to all types of businesses. With the tools provided by the MailUp platform, creating a cross-channel automated workflow is easy and intuitive. Give it a try by activating your 30-day free trial!

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Maria Giulia Ganassini

As content creator at MailUp, my mission is to make email marketing strategies accessible, useful and interesting for everyone, newbies to experts. Behind every 'send' button there is a complex world, and my goal is to unravel it for marketers. I am an avid reader, a restless traveller, a self-confessed grammar nazi and a proud cat owner.

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