Transactional email is an easy, hands-free way for you to build relations with your customers and increase brand loyalty. 

While marketing emails are traditionally used to boost awareness of your brand and your products, transactional emails are more about nurturing established customer relations, improving customer service, and increasing trust in your business.

Email marketing boasts a myriad of benefits — and transactional emails have unique benefits that you can’t get from traditional email marketing alone. These personalized communications show your customers that you see them.

What is transactional email? 

A transactional email, also known as a triggered email, is a personalized email that is sent to an individual, in direct response to an online interaction initiated by the recipient.

They typically have a functional purpose, like confirming email subscriptions, shipping notifications, or updating customers about their orders.

In this way, transactional emails serve as a customer service tool, anticipating potential concerns your customers may have and answering those in a confident, reassuring way. This practice of communicating well through email builds trust.

What is a transactional email vs a marketing email?

While most people think that the only difference between marketing emails and transactional emails is the number of recipients, there’s more to it than that.

Marketing emails are traditionally sent to a group of individuals with the sole focus of enticing the reader to take action. Generally thought of as commercial, marketing emails include anything that promotes a business or nonprofit and asks the recipient to make a purchase, donate, or even read more. Basically, they ask the recipient to do something.

Transactional emails, on the other hand, are sent to an individual in direct response to an action the recipient has taken and require no further action from the recipient. Simply put, transactional emails confirm an action the recipient took.

For example, a newsletter is a marketing email. Even if it’s personalized, it’s still considered a form of marketing. This is because it’s sent to all recipients at the same time. It’s not based on what your customers are doing but on what you’re doing as a company. It often contains promotional material. And, it focuses on getting readers to take an action.

A password reset email, on the other hand, is a transactional email. This email is only triggered by a customer stating that they’ve forgotten their password. Even though you have the same general template for all password reset emails, the exact content being used is unique to each customer and only sent upon request.

The other major difference between transactional emails and marketing emails has to do with how they’re regulated.

Transactional emails can be sent to customers even if they haven’t subscribed to your email content, whereas marketing emails should only be sent if customers have subscribed. This means that, unlike traditional marketing emails, transactional emails do not require an unsubscribe link.

What are the benefits of sending transactional emails?

The key benefit of sending transactional emails is improved customer loyalty. 

Simply put, if you provide quality customer service, your customer retention also improves  —  a key target for many businesses, since acquiring new customers is five times as expensive as retaining your current customers.

Transactional emails do three things that will help you provide quality customer service.

  • Prevent confusion
  • Create convenience
  • Boost engagement

Prevent confusion

One of the greatest benefits of transactional emails is that they can keep customers from being confused about their orders. For example, transactional emails can:

  • Tell customers if their order has gone through successfully
  • Update customers about changes to their orders
  • Inform customers about unexpected log-in attempts on their accounts

Create convenience

80% of customers rate speed and convenience as two of the most important factors for high-quality customer service. Transactional emails are convenient because they allow customers to take care of many of their own needs, including: 

  • Password reset
  • Purchase confirmation 
  • Order tracking
  • Abandoned cart reminders

Boost engagement

Transactional emails boost engagement simply by: 

  • Providing your customers with timely confirmations of their transactions
  • Keeping your customers informed with status updates
  • Encouraging your customers to return to your website to follow up on their orders or track shipments

How transactional email works

Sixty-nine percent of customers agree that consistent customer service is key to their loyalty to a brand. Transactional emails provide an easy way for you to be in constant communication with your customers, providing quality service without sacrificing extra man-hours to do it. 

The key to sending timely, individual emails is to automate the process by utilizing email integrations. This ensures that each time a customer performs a specific action, they quickly receive an email that’s personalized to them and their specific transaction  —  each and every time  —  even while you’re sleeping.

How to send transactional emails

Using a platform like Constant Contact, set up the transactional emails you want to send and denote which actions customers need to take to trigger those emails.

Once your transactional emails are established, sending them is easy. You don’t need to do anything further — the email integrations will do all the work for you!

Types of transactional emails for ecommerce

There are a number of different transactional emails you can create. Most ecommerce companies have certain ones that are standard, such as: 

  • Order confirmations
  • Shipping updates
  • Account alerts
  • User status updates
  • Welcome emails
  • Abandoned cart emails
  • Customer service requests

Order confirmations and updates

Order confirmation emails are triggered by your customer purchasing an item from your ecommerce shop, and the email should appear in their inbox immediately after purchase.

Your order confirmation email can double as a purchase receipt for your customer if you provide a list of the items purchased, each item’s price, and the total cost, including taxes and shipping charges.

A strong order confirmation email should include an estimated shipping time frame and a link to where they can follow up on their order’s status.

If there are changes to your customers’ orders, it’s important to send updates that include information on how customers can follow up with these changes, contact customer service, or even change their order  —  if that is an option you provide.

example of a transactional email for a change order
This email from Little Spoon provides a great example of how to follow up on a change to an order. The message is polite, offers all the information the customer needs, and offers a link so the customer can log in and make updates if desired.

Shipping updates

To keep your customers informed of any updates during the shipping process, your company can use transactional emails to add value to the buying experience. When an order ships or is delayed, for example, you can use it as an opportunity to share personalized, timely information with your customer.

transactional email shipping notification
The Home Depot does a great job with their shipping updates by not only including order numbers and dates (removed for privacy and security) but also including a list of affected items along with images. All the while remaining clear, concise, and tastefully branded.

Automatically sending pertinent information about deliveries to curious customers can relieve pressure on your customer service team.

Account alerts

Transactional emails can protect your customers by alerting them whenever there is suspicious online activity. Account alerts can be triggered to inform customers about activity happening on their accounts. One common form is a notification when customers log in from an unfamiliar device.

The goal is to ensure a customer’s log-in information hasn’t been compromised. Most of these emails include information on how to reach out if the customer has a concern about the activity while also reassuring the customer that no action is needed if the log-in was theirs.

account alert example
Here’s an example of an account alert email from Amazon. Note how this succinct email provides all information necessary for a customer to determine how to take action, including a link where they can approve or deny the interaction.

Another typical account alert email is triggered when a customer tries — and fails — to log in multiple times.

Just like the unfamiliar device email, this is triggered in part to ensure customer information hasn’t been compromised. However, it also provides an opportunity for you to direct customers to reset their log-in information.

Password reset information can be a great tool for helping customers who have forgotten how to log in to their accounts.

User status updates

User status updates are great for ecommerce companies that provide loyalty perks to their customers. You may send these updates at certain times of the year or when your customers hit certain milestones.

For example, if you have a points program for your store, you might send an update every time your customer hits 5,000 points. If you offer rewards on specific dates, you may instead choose to send out status update emails whenever your customers have earned them or when rewards are about to expire.

Reminding a customer they have a freebie or bonus to use, rather than allowing them to expire unnoticed, goes a long way in making your customers happy  —  and making more sales.

Of course, sending information about a points program isn’t the only type of user status updates that your business might want to send.

status update transactional email example
If your product is information, then sending status updates when your user’s information has changed is a great way to stay top of mind while providing great customer service.

Get ahead of the game by sending the first user status update when a customer signs up for your program. This membership confirmation email can remind them what they’ve signed up for and promote a few of the perks of membership with your brand.

Welcome emails

Although not every email in a welcome series counts as a transactional email, the first one certainly does. This is because customers only receive your welcome email when they sign up for your newsletter.

The best way to structure this transactional email is to include a pleasant introduction with some information regarding the type of emails they can expect to receive from your company, as well as an easy way to opt-out of your email list if they didn’t mean to sign up.

While this opt-out option may seem counterintuitive, having one that’s easy for customers to find can reduce bounce rates and increase future email engagement.

welcome email example’s welcome email not only lets you know that you created an account with them but it provides additional security by requiring the recipient to confirm their email address. This builds trust and reduces bounce rates and spam reports.

It’s also a good idea to use your welcome email to teach customers how to safe-list your company for maximum deliverability in the future.

Abandoned cart information

No matter how great your product is, sometimes people will abandon their cart before making a purchase. Whether it’s because they’re still deciding, they’re price shopping, or because the shipping costs were higher than expected, they’ve left their cart full of products they may never purchase.

Abandoned cart emails can help you recapture those sales.

abandoned cart email example
While this abandoned cart email example doesn’t have clear branding, it does a great job of creating FOMO (fear of missing out).

While all transactional emails should be personalized, it’s even more important for abandoned cart emails.

To make sure your abandoned cart emails are successful make sure they:

  • Are personalized to the recipient
  • Provide an incentive to return and complete the purchase
  • Offer a way to contact customer service if they have questions about the items in their cart
  • Contain a clear call to action button where they can complete their purchase

They should also include a list of items that were left in the cart and any policies or disclosures your company has about how long you’re willing to leave items in the cart before your system clears them out or if items can be sold to someone else despite being in the potential customer’s cart.

Customer service requests

The final major type of transactional email is one delivering requested information. Typically, this is a follow-up to another interaction, such as a phone call, email, or chat conversation.

When possible, these emails should include the user’s case number and a reminder of the fact that they requested the information you’re sending. This can come in the form of a typed line or a log of their chat with your customer service representative.

customer service email example
While a transactional email like this one can’t be fully automated, the template can be branded and customized with auto-population fields like the customer’s name and the agent’s signature.

Transactional email best practices

While I’ve interspersed some transactional email best practices above, the goal is to communicate information as effectively as possible. This means that strong transactional emails don’t need to be flashy — but they do need to be informative. Best practices for transactional emails include: 

  • Staying succinct
  • Being specific
  • Providing links
  • Maximizing your branding
  • Offering customer service information

Staying succinct

You can reduce the bounce rate of transactional emails by limiting their size and providing only the information your customers need. Although images are recommended for email marketing, they’re often unnecessary for transactional emails.

Being specific

Personalization should be your number one priority. Customers are looking for specific, helpful information. An email that confirms an order’s items, price, and estimated shipping date is much more helpful than a generic, “Your order has shipped,” message.

Providing links

Links to specific information not only personalize your transactional emails but also help customers find what they’re seeking. For example, you may provide links to where to track shipping, the order status page, or where to update their order.

Offering customer service information

Since the goal of your transactional emails is to provide excellent customer service, it’s always a great idea to finish your emails with information customers can use to follow up with your company if they have any questions or concerns. This may include your email address, phone number, a link to your online chat room, or a combination of all three.

The easier you make it for customers to follow up on your transactional emails, the more likely they are to see these emails as part of a strong customer service strategy.

Maximizing your branding

Transactional emails are the perfect opportunity for you to increase brand awareness and loyalty. If the platform and integration you’re using allows for it, boost your brand recognition by including your company’s colors and logo on all transactional emails to customers.

Transactional email in Constant Contact

Constant Contact provides easy-to-use transactional email technology that integrates with your Shopify Store.

Drag-and-drop technology ensures that you don’t have to be a coding guru to create transactional email templates that will work for your brand. In fact, Constant Contact has preconstructed customer journeys with fully customizable email templates you can simply modify for your brand.

Setting up an automated customer journey ensures that your Shopify customers receive relevant emails based on interactions with your brand.

Once they’ve received transactional emails, they can also be directed to sign up for your email list and continue engaging with your brand. Integrated with email list-building tools, email automation makes it easier than ever for you to grow your newsletter, nurture leads, and help guide customers through your sales funnel.

Improve customer relations by using transactional emails

Sending transactional emails shows your customers that they matter while allowing you to preempt many of their questions or concerns. Over time, this helps your customers build trust with your brand.

Start by creating a list of transactional emails you would like to incorporate into your brand’s overall email communication strategy.

When you’re ready to add more automation to your marketing strategy, contact us to learn more about Constant Contact’s email automation tools.