The Ultimate Transactional Email Guide Every Marketer Should Read

Transactional emails can be amazing and confusing all at the same time.

When you hear the word transaction, your mind first might jump to money.

If you buy or sell something, that’s a transaction right?

But in email marketing, transactional emails are so much more.

They’re the workhorse of marketing automation and drip email campaigns.

But for too many businesses, these emails are an afterthought.

If you don’t know what a transactional email is, or want to learn how to optimize your basic transactional messaging, this is the guide you’ve been looking for.

What Are Transactional Emails?

Transactional email, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is defined as follows:

“Any message in which the primary purpose facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing transaction.”

That doesn’t sound like an email solely about buying or selling.

That’s because it isn’t!

Sure, online retailers use them all the time for order confirmations, abandoned shopping carts, and so on. But universities, tourist attractions, ticketing vendors, banks, and digital marketing agencies can use them too.

Think of these as automated emails sent out after someone takes a direct action, or an action they were the target of–or even an inaction on their part.

Some other types of transactional emails are:

  • Email address confirmation
  • Purchase receipts
  • Thank you emails
  • Password resets
  • Event registration
  • Support requests
  • Monthly invoices
  • Change in policy or privacy rules
  • Account balance updates
  • App error alerts (site down, etc.)
  • Shipping confirmation
  • Location check-in
  • A live chat transcript
  • Delivery confirmation
  • Feedback emails
  • Reactivation email

Ultimately, these emails are all about communicating action or inaction.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of transactional emails so as to lay a solid foundation before we move on.

Types of Transactional Emails You Need to Know

While there are many different types of emails every business sends, they all fall in one of four categories.

  • Welcome
  • Confirmation
  • Notification
  • Request emails

Welcome Emails

The humble welcome email is the first transactional email you will send out. As such, you have to make sure that you make a very good impression in order to keep your subscriber coming back for more.

Despite their name, welcome emails do more than just welcome new subscribers. They're a great way for on boarding new customers, offer helpful resources, and demonstrate the benefits of your newsletter, product or service.

You can also use your welcome email to move prospects further along the buying journey.

Confirmation Emails

As your customer interacts with you, there are many actions they take that require you to send a confirmation email.

Simply put, a confirmation email is a type of transactional email that is sent to achieve three things:

  • Assure your customer that an action they took is successful. This can be a purchase, download, submission, or any other action you may have required them to take.
  • Guide your customer on the next step to take. After performing the desired action, what’s next? Your customers may not always know what to do. Make it a point to send them a transactional email that informs them of the next step to take.
  • Furnish customers with contact details. One way of assuring your customers after any transaction is to give them a means of communicating with you. Doing so will make them feel confident in your ability to keep your promises.

Notification Emails

As their name suggests, notification emails are sent to notify you of an event or activity that affects your account. Typical examples of notification emails include:

  • Deadline reminders
  • Social media activity notification emails
  • Subscription renewal reminders
  • Shipping notifications

These are just a few of the many notification email types businesses use. No matter what type of notification email you send your customers, here are some elements each should have:

  • Clarity. Make sure your emails are simple to read and easy to understand.
  • Move the reader to take action. Design your notification emails in such a way that they elicit a response from the reader.
  • Maintain brand consistency. By ensuring brand consistency, not only do you make it easy for your recipients to know who the email is from, but it also helps readers become more familiar with your brand.

However, you design and send your notification emails, make sure they are easy to read and not intrusive.

Request Emails

If there’s one thing every business can’t do without, it’s feedback or information from customers. This is where request emails come in to play. In most cases, this type of transactional email benefits you more than it does the customer, leading to low response rates.

However, because request emails play an important role in your relationship with your customer, it’s important that you do everything in your power to ensure good response rates. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Be clear about what you need from your customers
  • Outline the benefits to the customer
  • Let your customers know how long filling the form will take
  • Remind them of the value your business or product brings

Success in creating and sending out request emails enables you to build a better experience for customers and thus increasing your revenue.

Understanding each of these transactional email types and its place in your email marketing is important if you are to run successful email marketing campaigns. You also need to understand the basic yet important components that make transactional emails effective.

Basic Components of Highly Effective Transactional Emails

Just like any email you send, these emails are very personalized.

That’s because they are commonly triggered by someone’s unique behavior.

Here are a few best practices to consider for any kind of transactional email campaign you build.

Use Recognizable Sender Name

When someone goes to their inbox, they want to know who sent the email to them before they’ll even open it.

Nothing is worse than seeing an email from do-not-reply@somedomain.com, right?

Don’t botch the “from” name with something that looks spammy or untrustworthy.

Provide assurance the email you sent them is coming from the right company.

Use Straightforward Subject Lines

There’s a big difference between transactional emails and a typical marketing email or newsletter you would send out.

Marketing kinds of email will intrigue the recipient.

Here, the primary purpose is to inform.

Don’t try and trick the reader into opening it.

Acknowledge Their Activity

CAN-SPAM does allow you to be promotional, but it’s best to stick with being informational.

Keep the nature of the email specific and relevant to the reason it was sent.

  • “Your Order Has Shipped”
  • “We Received Your Request”
  • “Account Alert”
  • “Confirming Your Updated Preferences”

Include Recognizable and Clickable Brand Logos

This might seem a bit straightforward, but it’s important to mention.

The more you can make the email look official the better.

In addition to your logo and keeping the email within branding, include your company postal mailing address.

That is if you don’t already include it in your footer.

Keep Messaging Digestible

We already mentioned that these emails are different than your typical marketing emails.

Make the message about the transaction itself.

If you want to add in some marketing messaging, don’t take up more than one-third of the email with this copy.

Remember to be friendly, informative and timely.

Recap the transaction and make it super clear what the next steps are, if any.

Use Helpful Links

Don’t fill up the email with a ton of links that are not relevant to the transaction itself.

If it’s a shipping confirmation, link to delivery tracking.

If it’s related to an account of some kind, link to the account login page.

If something was abandoned, whether it was a survey or a shopping cart, take them back to complete the action.

Leave the blog links and webinar registrations to your marketing mailings.

Convey Customer Service

Remember to keep the customer’s satisfaction in mind.

This is especially important if the email relates to inaction or something negative in nature.

If there’s an alert of some kind, tell the reader how to contact support or that they can expect another alert email soon.

Provide contact information in case they need to directly communicate with you outside of the inbox.

Benefits of Transactional Emails

If transactional emails are not just about selling, then what other benefits can your business derive from them?

Let’s take a look at the top 5 benefits.

1. Build Strong Relationships

Marketing, particularly email marketing, is all about building relationships with your customers. By including important information that is beneficial to your customer in every transactional email you send, it shows that you care. In your customers’ eyes, this will show that you are not just about selling them a product but about improving their quality of life.

Examples of some types of transactional emails that help you achieve this include:

Survey Emails

Used well, you can use survey emails not only to gather data that helps you create better services and products but also to help you improve customer experience.

Source: Really Good Emails

Be sure to use language that conveys your concerns about better serving your customers. It helps improve the response rate. By using the feedback you get from your customers, you are better able to improve your product and delivery systems. The result is increased conversions and happy customers.

Thank You Emails

Many businesses don’t invest time in creating optimized thank you emails. Believe it or not, this simple transactional email has the potential to build up your business. Instead of simply including a thank you note, use your thank you emails to build a base of loyal customers.

How do you do that?

  • Include a discount code for the next purchase
  • Direct customers to resources that relate to the product
  • Ask for social media connections

Transactional emails are a great way of ensuring that your relationships with your customers are solid and mutually beneficial.

2. Make Customer Support Easy

While you may have many communication channels that you use to serve your customers, email is the one your customers prefer the most. Research conducted by Marketing Sherpa shows that more than 72% of American adults prefer to communicate with brands via email.

When it comes to giving customers the support they need, email is the best channel for you and your customers. Not only is it an easy communication channel, but it provides both parties with a reference in case one is needed. For example, if a customer needs help in troubleshooting your product, they can always refer back to the instructions they received in an email without having to reach out to you again.

3. Give You an Opportunity to Increase Brand Awareness

Transactional emails are a great way of getting your customers more accustomed to your brand. Brand awareness is crucial as it has been proven that people are more likely to do business with brands they are familiar with. In other words, each transactional email you send helps you increase customer confidence in your brand and product.

Source: Really Good Emails

Research shows that it takes a minimum of 7 (in some cases more than 13) touches before a customer truly internalizes your content and acts upon your calls-to-action. Transactional emails give you the opportunity to increase those touches so your brand is the one that immediately comes to mind when your services or product are needed.

4. Help with Lead Nurturing

Taking your customer on a customer journey that is memorable and impactful is impossible without transactional emails. Each transactional email you send is an important element in guiding your customer along the buying journey. Especially if you use a powerful email marketing service like Delivra, you can send out a transactional email based on a customer’s behavior at each stage of the journey.

Even after the purchase, you can use transactional emails to nurture a relationship that leads to repeat purchases and brand loyalty.

5. Increase email deliverability

One good advantage of transactional emails is that they are triggered by an action a customer takes. Triggered emails have an increased chance of landing in mailboxes and being opened by the recipient. These 2 factors are important in increasing deliverability and your sender score.

Now that you know the what, why, and how of transactional emails, let’s quickly take a look at what not to do with your transactional emails.

Common Transactional Email Mistakes to Avoid

So, we’ve hit on some best practices to consider in your transactional emails.

But now we need to cover several mistakes many companies are making.

When you really look at these common mistakes listed below, you’ll see they’re very avoidable if you just focus on leveraging a transactional email as an intentional, proactive customer communication tool.

1. Not Communicating Often Enough

Businesses need to keep in mind that their customers actually want to be informed about things they care about.

Their account, or orders, or contact information are all vital to any customer relationship.

It’s better to over communicate on these matters rather than leave customers in the dark.

If anything, offer different notification tiers in their preference center so you leave them in control.

2. Marketing Doesn’t Own the Email

Even though these emails aren’t marketing-related, marketing needs to control the message.

Operations, IT, or some other department isn’t going to think about the customer experience.

They’ll just focus on providing the information with little thought.

Control these messages but work with other departments to ensure a quality experience for customers.

3. Lack of Timing

These emails should be instantaneous, or as close to it as possible.

Customers won’t feel comfortable when they try to login to your system, only to receive an email alerting them the system is down an hour later.

Same goes for order confirmations that come uncomfortably later after the customer made the order.

Timing is everything when it comes to transaction.

4. No Personality

Maybe your brand resembles DOS and sends text-based emails with dull colors (if that’s your speed).

But every touchpoint a customer experiences should reinforce their decision to do business with you.

Use these emails to strengthen the relationship you’re constantly working on, and not some cold note that resembles a message from Notepad.

5. Hard to Read

More consumers are reading emails on their mobile devices, and businesses shouldn’t make it difficult to convey information about their transaction.

If it’s information the customer would want to see, make sure they can see it without hiding it in some sidebar.

When you bury the primary information, you may actually do more confusion or harm that the email intended.

How Delivra Handles Transactional Emails

Delivra’s email marketing software makes it easy for businesses to build and send transactional emails.

We have the tools and tracking capabilities to make what may seem like a daunting challenge effortless, and fun.

Activate your customer data and integrate it with Delivra, so you always have your latest data to segment and send based on behaviors or actions.

When you send emails of any kinds to your customers, you’re having a conversation with them in their most personal digital environment – in their inbox.

Wrap Up

Transactional emails are the backbone of your email marketing. Without them, your revenue generation is actually next to impossible. Knowing everything there is to know about them will not only make you a better marketer but will help you achieve phenomenal results in your campaigns.

Remember, transactional emails are any kind of email which is triggered by your customer’s action. These can be classified in four categories, being:

  • Welcome emails
  • Confirmation emails
  • Notification emails
  • Request emails

Looking for more insight on how you can create transactional emails that drive engagement? Then be sure to check out our article that discusses how you can leverage data to create highly engaging emails.

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