The digital marketing world loves to use jargon and acronyms to when discussing many daily marketing activities. You’ve probably stumbled across a few email marketing terms that had you turning to Google. And we know that sometimes convoluted explanations about trending marketing terms can just leave readers more confused. If you’ve been scratching your head, wondering about the meaning behind ‘transactional email’ or similar terms, this post is here to help! Find out what they are and how you may be able to use transactional emails for your agency or business.

What are Transactional Emails?

This type of email is actually used by most companies, many simply don’t realize it. A transactional email is sent to a single contact, lead, or customer to help facilitate or follow-up on a commercial action the user has taken with the company.

Examples of transactional emails include:

  • Order confirmations
  • An email delivering a content asset like a whitepaper or eBook
  • Event tickets or reservation confirmations
  • A “thank you” email for completing an action such as booking a call or renewing a subscription
  • Account details or activity (such as password resets)

Unlike bulk or marketing emails, which are sent to a list or segment of people, transactional emails are a single-send to a specific user that is triggered by that user’s action or inaction. For example, requesting a password reset or being notified when you’ve left items in a cart.

Marketing vs Transactional: What’s the Difference?

Transactional emails are automated emails used to pass along critical information to a customer. But that doesn’t mean they should sound like they were written by a robot! Many companies are missing the mark by using boring, templated copy in their transactional emails and missing marketing opportunities. With a little creativity, these emails can even become an avenue for revenue generation.

The main difference between marketing and transactional emails comes down to permissions. To send bulk marketing messages, someone needs to explicitly opt-in to your list and agree to receive messages. Transactional emails do not require explicit opt-in. But they do require that a user complete some kind of commercial transaction or event (like purchasing tickets or signing up for an account).

An important thing to note about transactional emails is that you’re allowed to continue emailing the user only as long as the information is directly related to their commercial transaction. For example, you can send an attendee reminder for a webinar they registered for and a follow-up with a link to a recording or survey. But you cannot simply continue to send them updates about new webinars unless they specifically subscribed for marketing updates.

Also, it is very important to check into local jurisdictions before adding marketing messaging to transactional emails. Different regions have their own definitions of what’s considered a transactional email, so be careful to consider any applicable laws before including promotional content.

Missed Marketing Opportunity

All that being said, there are tons of missed marketing opportunities when it comes to transactional emails. Transactional emails have some of the highest engagement rates because they’re sent after a customer takes an action with your business either in person or on your website. They are actively asking to be emailed!

What they too often get in return is a poorly formatted, 3 sentence long email in tiny font with a generic ‘thank you’ and no graphics, design, or logo. You know the ones — we’ve all gotten confirmation emails like that. If your company sends transactional emails, it’s time to get creative with the content that goes in them!

It’s amazing how many teams send transactional emails that they’ve never even put eyes on! Because so many ESPs offer standard, templated transactional emails, many companies set and forget them. To improve upon this, step one is simply to start with the basics. Do your emails include essential information like your company logo, links back to the company site, links to your social media, and/or links to relevant FAQ pages? Place yourself in the customer’s shoes and check the workflow. Was the transaction seamless and the email sent right away? Review if any additional information would have been helpful for the customer such as order status, a calendar reminder, or links to an account dashboard.

Remember that these emails are being used to directly nurture your relationship with active and engaged customers. Don’t they deserve a little more than a plain text follow up?

Examples of the Best Transactional Emails

If you’ve been asking “what is a transactional email?” because you’re not sure if your business should be sending them, the quick answer is – yes, it probably should. More than just password reminders and abandoned cart emails, most businesses today send these types of emails. Whether it’s to pass along account information, send content (like tickets or downloads), or provide feedback, nearly every business can benefit from improvements in their transactional email process.

Next, we broke down some effective examples of types of transactional emails to inspire you to take yours to the next level and make them work harder for you!

Account Set Up

This is a huge moment! A user signing up for an account is a potential life-long customer. Use this first confirmation email to shine!

Especially with an account set up, new users will be excited to get started and take advantage of your goods or services. Make it super easy for them to dive back into the website and get started like in Slack’s email. They keep it short and to the point so that you can jump right into the workspace but include tips for making Slack easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

Order Confirmation

Gone are the days of a one-sentence confirmation email. Order confirmations are getting a facelift and becoming more and more on-brand and a helpful all-in-one tool where customers can see order details, track shipping information, contact support, and snag offers.

The perfect first step to creating order confirmation emails that build brand affinity is to…well…brand them. MeUndies is one company who makes sure their branding stands out. And they took that straight to their order confirmations with graphic and copy that fit the rest of their marketing materials. The lesson? Time to get branded content in those emails!

Product or Service Feedback

The most effective way to know what your customers think of your business is to ask them. Simple, right? Yet, marketers get so in the weeds on daily tasks that most businesses forget to ask for feedback. Transactional emails are the perfect space for this because they’re automated to send while the interaction is still fresh in the customer’s mind.

Retail companies do this by sending a follow-up after an order has been delivered with the ability to rate the products purchased. Target also includes a clear link to resolving any issues, creating a friction-free experience for customers who might be upset. If your business is not in retail, think of sending a simple yes/no question to gauge their level of satisfaction.

Abandoned Cart

Did you know that businesses who have an AOV of $100 to $500 recover 4% to 5% of their abandoned carts on average? That’s a good reason to start using them if you haven’t already. Fender does a really good job of turning a nudge into a hard sell with reminders of financing, bonuses included with the purchase, and easy access to customer support.

However, abandoned cart emails have privacy policy backlashes in certain parts of the world. Be sure you are in line with your local ordinances before sending.

Transactional Emails: Best Practices

When it comes to best practices for transactional emails, marketers have to put on their sales and customer service hats. These types of emails won’t use the same standards as best practices for bulk sending. Remember that this conversation isn’t your usual mass blast to a group of people. These really are a one-on-one conversation with an engaged customer.

When it comes to best practices for transactional emails, it’s important to keep in mind:

  • Always include branding – make sure all the auto-generated system emails match the company’s brand and tone so that customers feel secure ordering.
  • Make them helpful – these emails are part of the customer-service experience so they should offer the receiver everything they need to easily complete their transaction with you whether that’s a purchase, registration, or appointment booking.
  • Create functional follow-ups – use this opportunity to survey or ask for reviews after products or services are completed.
  • Make use of specific landing pages – transactional emails are limited in how much marketing material can be in them, but you can include links to more information. Create landing pages specific to these customers that can include upsells and heavier marketing messages.
  • Pay attention to the rules – there are privacy limitations on transactional emails, as with all emails. Make sure you know the limitations before creating a new strategy.

Bottom Line

As inboxes get more and more stuffed, taking time to optimize automation efforts is where marketers are increasing returns and nurturing customers. If your email service provider doesn’t offer opportunities to add transactional automations or customize transactional emails, it’s time to start thinking about a solution that can grow with the changing landscape.

Talk to one of our experts at SharpSpring and get a demo on how you can change your entire strategy with a few simple automated programs.

Lisa Rios