A transactional email is a communication that is sent to a customer following a specific engagement, such as account activation, subscription, purchase, or password reset. They can also be used to highlight the various stages of the shipping process, including the moment an item has been dispatched, package tracking information, and final delivery confirmation. 

As email communications go, your transactional emails could be the most important emails that you ever send. Moreover, in an era defined by regulations, including GDPR and CSAL, when businesses can no longer rely on implied consent to add customers to their marketing lists, transactional emails might be the only emails you ever send to a customer.  

Unlike traditional marketing emails, a transactional email doesn’t require the recipient to opt in or provide an unsubscribe link.  This is because they are only sent after a specific event, and the customers’ details are not added to any lists. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot get creative with your transactional emails. 

What makes a great transactional email?

Just like traditional email marketing campaigns, there are many elements that make great transactional emails. If you include many of the following points in your transactional email sends, they will have the potential to be transformed from functional communications to serious marketing assets. 

  • Speed of delivery: Successful email communication is all about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. This is especially true when it comes to transactional emails. When people have bought something that may have limited availability, like a ticket for a concert or sporting event, they want to know that their transaction has gone through immediately. Similarly, when someone is resetting a password, they want to do it now. A delay can cause anxiety and lead to additional pressure on your customer service and support teams. 

  • The right email address: Email marketing best practices dictate that you should never use a no-reply email address for your email marketing campaigns. The same statement is true for your transactional emails. You should always use a monitored email address using an easily recognizable “from” name, such as orders@ or passwordadmin@. In addition, you should never send your transactional emails from the same address as you do your marketing campaigns. Every email address will have its own sender reputation tied to it, which will dictate how it is delivered. While marketing emails will typically end up under the promo tab, you’ll want your transactional emails to arrive directly in the primary inbox.  It’s also vital that transactional emails are sent from recognizable domain names and not odd sub-domains which might appear unsecure or fraudulent to your users. 

  • Concise subject lines: Your subject lines need to be informative and reference the purpose of the email. If someone has just registered for an event, mention that event in the subject line. If someone has booked a hotel in a specific city, note the destination. When you write concise subject lines, you make it as easy as possible for people to search and find your email. People might not remember your business’s name, but they will remember what they purchased, and this will be useful for generating repeat purchases. 

  • A fully branded experience: Logos and corporate colors are just as crucial in transactional emails as they are in marketing campaigns. This is all part of the multi-channel experience where a consistent and recognizable brand identity helps build trust and retain business. Using familiar navigation tabs and links makes it easy for recipients to jump straight back to your website or visit your social media channels.  

  • Upsell and cross-promote: Don’t leave that second purchase to chance. Transactional emails offer a great place to position upsell and cross-promotional offers. A great example of this could include an airline using a transactional email to confirm a flight booking and then also offer car rentals, hotel bookings, pre-paid inflight meals, seat upgrades, travel insurance, and any other relevant items. Transactional emails also provide the perfect venue to share promotional codes and countdown deals to drive additional sales. 

  • Solve problems: By providing links in your transactional emails to return policies, FAQs, and customer service portals, you’ll improve the customer’s experience when they need reassurance or in the event of something going wrong. Providing your customers with clear instructions on how to resolve issues is an important customer retention strategy and vital for keeping customers coming back time and time again. 

  • Think mobile: In 2021, this should really go without saying, but with more than 54% of eCommerce sales now coming from a mobile device, your transactional emails need to be mobile responsive.  

What you cannot do with transactional email

As the name suggests, a transactional email should be connected to a specific transaction. Once that transaction has been completed, that’s the end of the relationship you have with that contact.  

It’s not appropriate (and may even be illegal) to add customer details to your regular lists. So please don’t do it. 

Blurred Lines — Cart Abandonment Emails

There are some blurred lines between transactional emails and marketing campaigns. For example, cart abandonment and browse abandonment emails are two areas where it gets tricky, particularly when sending to users who fall under GDPR legislation (and it’s not always easy to figure out who those people are). 

It can be argued that an email triggered by the act of abandoning a purchase after adding items to a cart shows legitimate interest, making cart abandonment emails okay to send as transactional emails. However, browse abandonment emails, where a user stops browsing before placing any items in their cart, are not compliant as the user hasn’t shown a legitimate interest. 

Best practice suggests you play on the safe side and treat abandonment emails as marketing campaigns and not transactional emails. This means you only send them to people who have opted in to receive marketing communications, and you include an unsubscribe link with every send. 

Is it time to optimize your transactional emails?

While transactional emails are not technically marketing emails, that doesn’t mean marketers cannot use them to their advantage. So if you are still thinking of transactional emails as electronic versions of customer receipts, it’s time to think again and get creative.  

Do you need help optimizing your transactional emails? Contact us at expert@emfluence.com

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