14 Transactional Email Best Practices & 20 Email Types

14 Transactional Email Best Practices & 20 Email Types

Over 300 billion emails are sent every day, and transactional emails account for a significant percentage of them.

These are emails sent to facilitate commercial transactions such as an online purchase or password reset request. They have significantly higher click-through rates than marketing emails, which are sent to entice the recipient to enter a commercial transaction.

It is important to know what a transaction email is, how it works, and the various types of transactional emails there are. This article will show you just that.

What are transactional emails?

Transactional emails are automated, real-time messages sent between a sender and a recipient triggered by a specific action executed within an application or a website.

They are a common and indispensable technique utilized by businesses worldwide to preserve customer relationships. They are usually sent programmatically either by using an email API or SMTP server.

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Why are transactional emails so important?

Transactional emails are a great opportunity for you to build superb customer relationships. Not only are they automated, which avoids any manual input, but they also have particularly high open rates and click-through rates, since customers expect their arrival. 

Sending a well-timed email that confirms a successful transaction made by your customer helps to boost their trust in you and therefore promotes a long-term relationship. Always remember: a happy customer is a long-term customer.

What are the different types of transactional email?

There are just so many types!

1. Welcome emails

Welcome emails are believed to be one of the most crucial types of transactional emails out there.

Being that these are the very first impressions you are making on your customers after signing up to your service or product, they have a considerable amount of influence on the interactions going forward. You can learn more about welcome emails and how to write the ultimate one in our post: Welcome Emails: 8 Best Practices to Follow.

welcome email

2. Receipt emails

E-receipts are sent to customers following a transaction and contains all the relevant information about it.

Having high open rates, e-receipts have significant potential to improve customer relations and increase revenue, establishing reliability and a sense of security. You can learn more about receipt emails and how to write the best one for your business in our post, Email Receipts: 8 Best Practices to Follow.

3. Dunning emails

Dunning emails are account-related messages sent to remind customers about failed payments, card expirations, or overdue invoices.

While these aren't a joy to send out or receive, they are a necessity for any business, since customers must be aware of any billing issues they might be having. You can learn more about dunning emails in our post: Dunning Email: 9 Best Practices to Follow.

4. Password reset emails

With all of the passwords we are expected to remember, forgetting one happens all the time. This makes password reset emails quite the popular type of transactional email.

Since customers can't access their accounts without a password, they will be anticipating the immediate arrival of a password reset email. You can learn more about password emails and how to write a great one in our post: Password Reset Email: 7 Best Practices to Follow.

5. Feedback request emails

Feedback request emails can be an excellent way to help create a positive customer experience, help keep businesses on course, and shed light on how others perceive their performance.

The end goal is to obtain an honest response from customers regarding their experience with your service/product. You can learn more about the importance of feedback request emails and how to write a remarkable one in our post: How to Write a Winning Feedback Request Email: 11 Best Practices.

6. Renewal emails

Renewal emails are sent to customers in order to remind them that their subscription, contract, or membership is about to expire. Renewal emails are crucial to customer retention and loyalty.

The customer should feel as though they are being thought of and their business is valuable, to both parties of course. You can learn more about renewal emails in our post: Renewal Email: 6 Best Practices to Follow.

7. Referral emails

Loyal customers are your best advocates. Referral emails are a great way for organizations and companies to spread the word about their products using the help of established, satisfied customers.

Those kinds of emails usually offer referrers a variety of incentives to encourage them to get new customers on board.

8. Confirmation emails

This is an email sent to a user to notify them of the completion of an action that they initiated. For instance, someone signs up for your newsletter, and you send them a message confirming that they are now formally registered and will start to receive emails from you.

This type of email can help with your marketing efforts, as you can use it to spread the word about your brand and let customers know what to expect from you.

getting a confirmation email

9. Cart abandonment emails

This is an email that an online retailer sends to a customer that added goods to their cart but didn't proceed to buy them. The idea of this email marketing strategy is to convince the customer to proceed with the purchase that they abandoned earlier.

The sender could even include some discounts or coupons to entice the recipient. This is one of the most important types of transactional messages for online retailers.

10. Product availability email

Sometimes, a shopper selects a product from an online store and tries to purchase it, but discovers that it is no longer in stock. This can be discouraging and reduce the shopper's desire to buy the product, but you can encourage them by sending an email alert whenever that item becomes available again.

You could even add an "email when in stock" option on your product page so that customers will be automatically informed when you restock the item. This is a type of transactional email that can drive sales for your business.

11. Account activation email

If you have a website that accepts user registrations, you can send an email to anyone who opens an account. The email contains a link that the user should click to confirm their account registration.

If they click on it, registration is confirmed, and if they don't, the registration is null. This is also known as a double opt-in email and is necessary to avoid spam registrations.

12. Terms of service update email

The "terms and conditions" section is one of the important sections on every website. It outlines the contractual relationship between a website provider and the users, and the terms must be agreed to by the user.

Examples of important terms include rules related to the cancellation or suspension of accounts, copyright, and rules that user interactions must abide by.

Because of its importance, it is advisable for a website owner to send an email to users anytime they make changes to their terms of service. This way, the user will always be aware of what to expect from the website. This is one of the most essential types of transactional messages because it provides key information to users.

13. App activity emails

Users may receive automated emails about their activities on an app or web platform. For example, if you use a chat app and have not logged in for a week, you may receive a notification about having unread messages that you need to respond to.

Such transactional emails let the user stay on top of their activities and ensure they don't miss out on important stuff.

14. Refund emails

A refund is a common occurrence in e-commerce dealings. People buy stuff and decide that they don't it for various reasons, and the seller needs to comply with the buyer's wish.

When a customer requests a refund, they typically get an email to confirm that the refund has been made. This way, they won't worry about whether they'll get back their money or not.

15. Invitation email

When users get invited to a group chat, upcoming event, team project, etc., it is advisable that the platform sends an email to that user notifying them of the invitation. Otherwise, they could forget about the invitation despite its importance.

An invitation email should clearly state what the user has been invited to and should have buttons that let them accept or decline the invite in one click. They should also include details about the person sending the invite so that the recipient can judge its validity.

16. Account security alerts

Web services usually monitor user accounts for signs of fraud or suspicious activity. When they notice any, the right step is to send the user an email notifying them and directing them on what to do if they think their account has been compromised.

Google is a platform known for sending these types of email messages.

17. New payment method alert

People take significant risks when they hand over credit or debit card details to a company.

Thus, it's necessary for the company to remind users that their financial details are safe and make them aware of what steps the company takes to keep the card details secure. An email is a perfect way to do this and ensure transparency, which, in turn, inspires brand loyalty.

18. Event reminder/update

A simple email can remind customers about upcoming events or changes to the details of the event. For example, if a customer has booked a flight, the airline can send a reminder one or two days before the flight to ensure the customer has the right details.

Likewise, if there have been any flight changes, e.g., airport and scheduled time, then an email is necessary to make the customer aware. This type of transactional email makes things easier for the customer and also draws their attention to your brand.

19. Privacy policy update

The privacy policy section of a website explains how the website's owner handles user information. It discloses how the platform gathers, stores, and manages user data and whether or not some data is shared with third parties.

Because of how important this policy is, any change in it should come with an email notifying the users. This way, the users can be sure of how you're handling their data and voice any objections.

20. Likes and shares

Positive reinforcement is a plus if you're offering a social product. Thus, social platforms usually send emails to users whenever they get a significant amount of likes and shares on their social media links or posts.

These email messages do well to promote the social media platform and make users want to log back in and use it more. It's one of the most creative types of email marketing campaigns.

follow like share

7 metadata transactional email best practices

Email metadata is the information that appears in the header of an email for the purpose of simplifying the sorting and identification process by highlighting attributes of the data it describes.

It contains information such as the subject, date, sender's address, and receiver's address. An email's metadata forms the first impression the recipient will have of your business and has a direct impact on whether the customer will even open the email or not.

1. Email authentication

Taking the proper steps when it comes to email authentication is necessary in order to avoid malicious spam/phishing attempts and improve your delivery rates.

Email authentication is the process of validating an email's authenticity through a set of security systems composed of three main email authentication protocols: DKIM, SPF, and DMARC.

The purpose of the security system is to make sure that the email message came from the claimed sender and wasn't forged somewhere along its way to the coveted inbox.

  • DKIM—(DomainKeys Identified Mail) is an email security protocol that provides a way to confirm a domain name identity that is associated with a message by using cryptographic authentication. You can read more about DKIM in our post: Email Authentication Methods Part #1: What Is DKIM?

  • SPF—Much like sunblock, this SPF (Sender Policy Framework) also protects. It is an email authentication technique aimed to assist the receiving server in detecting forged sender addresses. It does so by cross-checking a DNS record that lists email servers that are permitted to send email on behalf of your domain. You can read more about SPF in our post: Email Authentication Methods Part #2: What Is SPF?

  • DMARC—(Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) is an email authentication standard made to protect both email senders and recipients from attackers who send spam and phishing email by spoofing a domain. You can read more about DMARC in our post: Email Authentication Methods Part #3: What Is DMARC?

2. From and reply-to addresses

The first thing recipients see within an email is who sent it. Your email address should match your brand name so that the recipient will not question its authenticity. In addition, the email signer at the end of the message should also be the sender.

Most importantly, you should not send your emails from a no-reply address because this may frustrate your customers and create a lack of communication if they do happen to have questions or require further assistance. Besides, you'd actually be glad to hear back from them.

setting up transactional email

3. Subject line

Adding relevant information in your subject line will increase the chances that recipients will open your email. A transactional email's subject line must notify customers of what the email is about and why they should open it.

Stay away from misleading subject lines that can easily confuse the recipient, or even get your email marked as spam.

4. Pre-header

A pre-header is a brief text that appears after the subject line when displaying an email in the inbox. This text gives recipients a slight hint regarding the content of the email prior to opening it.

A good preheader can encourage recipients to either open your email or ignore it, so be as straightforward and relevant to your content as possible.

5. To/cc/bcc

Including all recipients in the main To field of an email might be the easiest way to go, but it's not necessarily the right one.

The To and Cc fields can be used to filter and organize emails, so if you want to make things simpler for your customers, you should insert the primary recipients in the To field and any other recipients should be added in the Cc field.

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6. Setup Gmail inbox actions

Gmail inbox actions allow users to interact with your service right inside the Gmail platform. They are a great way to improve your transactional emails and give them even more use.

These actions can make life easier for your users by enabling them to perform actions, such as resetting passwords or leaving a review, without even having to open the email.

7. Optimize for mobile devices

According to Statista, the majority of emails worldwide are opened on mobile devices instead of desktops. Thus, it will be wise to ensure that your emails are optimized for mobile displays. 

Ensure the content fits well on a mobile device before sending the email—pictures shouldn't be out of boundaries, the fonts should not be too large or too small, pictures should not cover text, etc. This will boost engagement for your transactional email.

Design and content best practices for transactional email

1. Use a responsive design

Responsive email design is all about creating customized content for your user's chosen device. While your transactional email can look outstanding on a laptop, it may be a complete mess when opened on a small mobile screen.

Make sure that your transactional emails are optimized for desktops and mobile devices alike so that customers will be able to open and read them on the device of their choosing. Your design has to be proportioned correctly to fit a mobile screen, and resized accordingly when opened on a desktop.

2. Use plain text + HTML

When sending transactional emails, you should always aim to increase the chances of your email reaching its destination.

HTML-only emails don't often pass spam filters, which is why it's recommended to include both HTML and a plain text version when sending transactional emails. Keep in mind that the plain text version's content should be similar to the HTML one, so that it won't give spam filters any reasons to raise red flags.

3. Make it personal

Make your customers feel valued and unique, starting with a personalized greeting. Emails that have the customer's name in them are much more likely to be read.

Additionally, if you happen to have some extra information about this customer from the sign-up page, you can use it to improve the email and provide the user with information that's specifically interesting for them. 

Furthermore, keep track of your user's activity and only send emails that are relevant. For example, don't send a feedback request email to a user that has yet to use your application, but rather something more along the lines of “Need help getting started?”

personal emails

4. Use absolute times

When including dates and times in your email, don't use shorthand versions for relative times. There is no telling when your email will be opened (some lucky people do go on vacations from time to time) so it's best to mention absolute times instead of “only today.”

5. Explain why users received this transactional email

The purpose of the transactional email you're sending is not always obvious to your customers. While Welcome or receipt emails are expected, there are some cases in which your customers might get confused as to why they are receiving them so be sure to clarify.

For example, when sending a feedback request email, you can write something like “As part of our efforts to improve our customer offering, we would like to get your view on what works for you and what doesn't within our platform by answering a few questions.”

6. Allow notification management

It's true that all of your transactional emails have a purpose, but some of your customers might not want to receive each and every one of your updates.

Help those customers maintain an organized inbox by allowing them to easily manage their notification preferences.

7. Choose a trustworthy email service provider

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In closing

We have explained what transactional emails are, their importance, and provided numerous examples. We also listed the transactional email best practices that you should follow to ensure high engagement.

Follow our tips, and you likely won't have any problems in sending transactional emails that your recipients will love to engage with. This type of email is essential for every online retailer and business, and doing it right will help you boost sales.

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Frequently asked questions

What's the difference between marketing emails and transactional emails?

The purpose of a marketing email is to entice the recipient to take an action suggested by the sender. In contrast, the difference between transactional and marketing emails is that a transactional email contains relevant details about an action that the recipient has already initiated with the sender.

Promotional emails are sent on a one-to-many basis, while transactional messages are sent on a one-to-one basis. The latter tend to have much higher open rates because they are personalized and contain information that the recipient is already familiar with.

What are the regulations for transactional emails?

Transactional emails do not require explicit consent to send, unlike promotional emails. They may not even include unsubscribe links. However, you must be careful to ensure that it doesn't contain content deemed professional, or else, you can be subject to spam reports and spam complaints.

Should transactional emails have an unsubscribe link?

Transactional emails are different from marketing emails, so they do not need to contain unsubscribe links or opt-out instructions. However, to err on the safe side, you can include the unsubscribe link and other relevant links that enable recipients to control the type of emails they get from you.

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