Creative Edge Consultants

What Is a Transactional Email? Types and Best Practices (2023)


Transactional emails that are automatically sent to customers when they take a certain action are crucial to building customer relationships and maintaining your brand image at scale. 

With incredibly high open rates, hovering between 40% and 50%, and click-through rates upward of 10%, transactional emails provide the perfect opportunity to make more sales and improve customer happiness. 

What is a transactional email? 

A transactional email is an automated email that’s triggered after a customer takes a specific action with your brand. It contains information about the transaction they have taken and is a unique email sent to each individual customer.

Types of transactional emails

Common examples of transactional messages include:

  • Order confirmation emails
  • Shipping confirmation emails
  • Account activation emails
  • Password reset emails
  • Subscription renewal reminder emails
  • Cart abandonment emails
  • Invoice and payment receipt emails
  • Event registration confirmation emails
  • Account notification emails
  • Customer feedback or survey emails
  • Double opt-in emails
  • Social media update emails

How is a transactional email different from a marketing email?

Transactional emails contain information unique to the receiver, which makes them different from marketing campaign emails. 

Transactional emails are triggered by an action. They are 1:1 broadcasts rather than mass emails sent to a group of users at the same time, like a newsletter. For example, purchasing a product will trigger an order confirmation email to that specific customer—no one else.

The best part is that transactional emails are easy to automate. Most email marketing tools have a feature that triggers transactional emails when customers take a specific action. 

Why are transactional emails so important? 

Transactional emails let you deliver the right message at the right time. Timely and relevant communication builds trust between your brand and buyers, but it can also be a great way to provide personalized offers to promote more sales.

Think about it: If a shopper has added an item to their cart, there’s a high chance they’re interested in your products. If a shopper has made a purchase, there’s a strong possibility they might be interested in other products from your line. If a shopper has just received their shipment, they might be ready to make another purchase.

Transactional emails target shoppers with relevant emails based on where they’re at in the purchasing cycle. Consistent communication like this improves customer relationships and keeps your brand front of mind.

Transactional email best practices

Transactional emails have become a crucial part of communication strategies for business. To help you succeed in this area, We’ve outlined six best practices that can elevate your transactional emails and create a better customer experience.

1. Make it personal

Personalization in transactional emails means customizing the content to make it relevant and tailored to the individual recipient. You can achieve this by creating emails with the recipient’s name, their purchase history, or other unique information that makes the email feel more like a one-to-one conversation.

For example, you may send a follow up email that says: “Hi [Customer Name]. We hope you enjoy your new [Product Name]! If you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our support team.”

2. Upsell and cross-sell your products

Upselling and cross-selling involve promoting additional products or services that complement or enhance the customer’s initial purchase. In your transactional emails, you can add product recommendations, special offers, or discounts to encourage customers to make additional purchases.

Say you sent an order confirmation email, you can add a section that says: “Since you’ve purchased the [Product Name], you might also be interested in our [Related Product] to make the most of your new purchase. Enjoy a 15% discount on your next order!”

3. Understand anti-spam laws

Anti-spam laws are regulations designed to prevent unsolicited emails from reaching recipients. They are different depending on the country you operate in. Familiarize yourself with laws like CAN-SPAM (US), CASL (Canada), and GDPR (EU) to ensure your transactional emails comply with these regulations.

To adhere to most anti-spam laws, make sure your transactional emails include:

  • A clear subject line
  • Accurate sender information
  • A valid physical address
  • An easy-to-find unsubscribe link

4. Excite customers

Creating excitement in transactional emails means engaging customers by providing valuable information and generating enthusiasm about their purchase. Use engaging copy, enticing visuals, and showcase the benefits of the product or service.

Example: “Congratulations on your new [Product Name]! You’re now part of an exclusive community who enjoys [Product Benefit]. Get ready to experience [Unique Feature] like never before.”

5. Include order tracking links

Order tracking links provide customers with real-time updates on the status of their order and an estimated delivery date. Embed a tracking link within your transactional email, allowing customers to follow the progress of their shipment.

Example: “Your order is on its way! You can track the status of your shipment by clicking on this link: [Order Tracking URL]. We estimate it will arrive on [Estimated Delivery Date].”

6. Send emails fast

Prompt delivery of transactional emails ensures customers receive important information as soon as possible. You want to make sure welcome emails, password reset requests, and order confirmation examples go out immediately. 

  1. Choose a reliable ESP: Select an email service provider (ESP) with a good reputation for deliverability and performance. Providers like Klaviyo, Amazon SES, and Mailchimp are known for their high delivery rates, reliable transactional email service, and fast sending capabilities.
  2. Use dedicated IPs: A dedicated IP address ensures that your emails are sent from a unique address, which can improve email deliverability. This helps prevent your emails from being affected by the sending reputation of other users sharing the same IP.
  3. Monitor your sender reputation: A good sender reputation is essential for fast email delivery. Regularly check your sending domain’s reputation using tools like SenderScore. Maintain a good sending reputation by following email best practices, such as using double opt-in and maintaining a low bounce rate.

By implementing these transactional email best practices, you can boost customer satisfaction, enhance customer loyalty, and ultimately drive business growth. 

Remember, each transactional email represents an opportunity to nurture the relationship with your customers—make the most of it.

Best transactional email examples

Shopping cart abandonment

Abandoned cart emails reach customers who have recently added items to their cart but haven’t yet made it to checkout. They act as a reminder, but you can also increase the chances of conversion by adding an incentive to the mix—like 20% off or a freebie if the customer purchases within the next hour. 

Perigold includes a “Top picks for you” section in its abandoned cart emails to introduce shoppers to other items. 

 transactional email example

Order confirmation

Order confirmation emails confirm that an order has been placed. This gives customers peace of mind and marks the start of their post-purchase relationship with you—one of the most pivotal points in the customer journey. Get this moment right and you can secure a customer for life. 

Allbirds keeps things light and on-brand with its order confirmation emails. 

 allbirds email example

Let your order confirmation emails shine: 

  • Send order confirmation emails as soon as a customer has made a purchase.
  • Showcase your brand personality in the copy, images, and design of your order confirmation emails. 
  • Add relevant content, like product reviews, upsells, and customer photos and videos. 
  • Include relevant product suggestions to introduce shoppers to other items in your catalog.

Shipping confirmation

Shipping confirmation emails are sent out when a product is dispatched to a customer. They are valuable because your customer is already excited about receiving their order—their anticipation and excitement mean they’re likely to engage with the email. 

They’re also an underused opportunity to get creative and delight your customers. This email from Native is a stand-out example:

 shipping confirmation email

Think outside the box if you want to convert more customers. How can you use your shipping confirmation emails to drive action and deepen a customer’s relationship with your brand? Instead of asking customers to make another purchase for themselves, encourage them to buy a gift for someone else.

Tradesy uses the shipping confirmation email to promote its referral program, encouraging customers to gift their friends and family $20 off.

Shipping confirmation emails are especially effective when the CTAs are personalized to the customer’s purchase. If, for example, a customer purchases a pair of men’s slacks, product recommendations could focus on matching shirts and ties, instead of something less relevant, like a full suit or women’s clothing.

Customer feedback

Customer feedback emails are triggered once a shopper has received their product and had enough time to use it and enjoy it. 

Getting feedback in this way can help you improve the customer experience and ensure shoppers are satisfied. It can give you detailed insights into areas you can improve, as well as where you’re succeeding, so you can continue to optimize the fulfillment process

Here’s an example survey from Death Wish Coffee:

death wish coffee email

You can also send customers to a survey available on your website. This makes it easy to prompt a satisfied customer to start shopping once their review is complete.

What about those who are less than happy with their previous purchase? Follow-up is essential here—first to prompt a response and next to figure out how you can improve the experience for future customers.

How marketing automation helps transactional email sending

Marketing automation has changed the way we manage transactional emails. You can streamline the process of sending these emails, guaranteeing they are relevant and timely for the recipient. 

A few ways marketing automation helps is:

  • Advanced personalization. Harnessing customer data, you can tailor email content, tone, and delivery time to better resonate with the recipient. With API access, you can integrate with your CRM and use outside data in your transactional emails, too.
  • Robust analytics. You can easily optimize future campaigns by monitoring the performance of transactional emails. That way, you can see higher open rates, engagement, and satisfaction from your campaigns. 

Automation not only makes emails more engaging, it also helps build a more meaningful relationship between your brand and its subscribers. 

Creating transactional emails in Shopify

Shopify Email has all the tools and features you need to automate these important transactional email messages. 

To get started: 

  • Log in to your Shopify store and go to Marketing
  • Click on Automations and create a new automation
  • Choose one of the many pre-made templates or upload your own

Once you’ve created an automation, you can choose what action triggers it in real time, like a purchase, an abandoned cart, or a successful delivery. 

While Shopify offers the ability to optimize your transactional emails for sales with features like automatic abandoned cart discounts, you can also integrate your favorite email service provider for even more powerful capabilities. 

Shopify integrates with the best ecommerce email marketing platforms available, including KlaviyoOmnisend, and Mailchimp

A/B testing through these tools can help you identify which variations of your transactional emails get the best results. You also get access to transactional email templates, automated workflows, and SMTP APIs to trigger emails and incorporate third-party data. 

Pricing varies, but you can get started with Shopify Email for free. 

Transactional email FAQ

What is an example of a transactional message?

An example of a transactional message is a shipping notification email that informs a customer that their order has been shipped, provides the tracking number, and the estimated delivery date.

What is the difference between transactional and promotional emails?

Transactional emails are sent to provide information related to a specific event, while promotional marketing emails are designed to market or promote products, services, or events. Transactional emails are triggered by user actions, whereas promotional emails are sent as part of an email marketing campaign.

How do I use transactional email?

To use transactional email, you need to sign up with an email service provider (ESP), set up templates for various events, and configure triggers to send emails based on specific actions, such as account creation, password reset request, or authentication.

What are the rules for sending a transactional email?

The rules for sending transactional emails include getting the recipient’s permission, providing accurate and relevant information, ensuring timely delivery, and including a valid reply-to address and unsubscribe option. It’s important to follow anti-spam laws and regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act in the US and GDPR in the EU.


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