Transactional Emails vs. Bulk Emails: What’s The Difference?

Transactional Emails vs. Bulk Emails: What’s The Difference?

Effective communication between businesses and their customers is instrumental to the success and growth of any organization. Email has emerged as a popular and efficient means of establishing and maintaining this communication.

 Businesses often employ two main types of emails to engage with their customers: bulk (or marketing) emails and transactional emails. In this article, we'll unpack the details of each type and explore their differences, so you can figure out how to use both for your business.

What are bulk emails? Reaching a wider audience

Bulk email (also referred to as mass email, marketing email, or marketing messages) is typically sent by a company to a large group of recipients simultaneously as part of their email marketing strategy. 

The primary objective of this form of communication is to promote the business, sell products or services, and foster customer relationships, and it usually follows an automated email marketing campaign sequence.

Bulk emails offer a simple, fast, and cost-effective way to inform recipients about news, updates, and offerings that are relevant to both customers and the sending business.

One way to spot a bulk email in your inbox would be to find a marketing email that includes an unsubscribe link, usually near the bottom of the page.

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What are examples of bulk emails?

Some common examples of bulk (marketing) emails include:

Promotional emails

These emails serve as a powerful tool to advertise a particular service or product. Their purpose is to create awareness, generate revenue, and foster customer loyalty, and they include all sorts of enticing promotional material. 

As a marketing manager, it's important to adhere to anti-spam laws when implementing your promotional email campaign. Failure to adhere to anti-spam laws could land you in the spam folder, impact your sender reputation, and result in penalties and email restrictions.

promotional emails

Retention emails

These emails are sent to existing customers with the aim of retaining their loyalty and encouraging continued engagement.

retention emails


Newsletters are frequently used to keep an audience well-informed about updates, news, and releases related to products, services, or companies. They serve as a platform for sharing feature updates, interviews, roundups, blog posts, and other valuable information.

newsletter email

Event invitations

When businesses organize events, whether virtual or in-person, they often send bulk emails to invite a large number of recipients. These emails contain event details, including the date, time, location, agenda, and registration information. 

Event invitations can help generate interest and drive attendance, so they qualify as a type of marketing email, and they often include an RSVP button. When RSVPs are ignored a follow-up email may be sent. The follow-up acts as a reminder and also includes the RSVP.

event invitation email

Seasonal or holiday promotions

During specific seasons or holidays, businesses send bulk marketing email to promote seasonal offers, discounts, or limited-edition products. You'll likely see snowflakes, Christmas trees, and Santa emoji in the subject line. This promotional content will capitalize on the festive spirit and encourage recipients to make purchases for themselves or as gifts.

santa xmas sale

Surveys and feedback requests

Bulk emails can be used to gather valuable feedback from customers through surveys or feedback forms. These emails ask recipients to share their opinions, experiences, or suggestions, which businesses can then use to improve their products, services, or customer experience.


Bulk emails come in various formats and cater to different purposes. These email messages are designed to efficiently convey information to a wide audience, which is why they're so useful for marketing email campaigns.

What are the benefits of bulk emails?

1. Reach a wide audience

Bulk emails allow businesses to communicate with a large number of recipients simultaneously, increasing the reach and potential impact of their messages.

2. Cost-effective

Sending bulk emails is generally more affordable than other forms of advertising and communication, making it an attractive option for businesses with budget constraints.

3. Marketing Automation

Bulk email campaigns can be automated, saving time and effort for businesses. With the help of email marketing tools, businesses can use marketing automation to schedule and send commercial messages at predetermined times to multiple recipients, ensuring timely delivery.

4. Trackable and measurable

Bulk email campaigns can be easily tracked and measured to evaluate their effectiveness with the help of tracking links. Businesses can analyze open rates, click-through rates, and other metrics to gauge the success of their email marketing efforts.

What are transactional emails? Personalized and action-based

So, what is the difference between transactional and marketing email? 

To understand that, you first need to answer the question, "What is transactional mail?"

Transactional emails are automated, real-time messages sent to individual recipients following a specific action performed within an application or website. These emails play a crucial role in maintaining customer relationships and should be an integral part of any marketing strategy.

So, while transactional and marketing emails are not the same thing, transactional mails do have a secondary, marketing function, and they support your customer service team by enhancing the customer experience.

For further insight, check out this video from RedFork Marketing.

Similar to bulk emails, transactional messages can encompass various types, each serving a unique purpose.

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What are examples of transactional emails?

Here are some examples of transactional email:

Welcome emails

Welcome emails are an important type of transactional email sent to new users or customers after they sign up or create an account. Welcome email serves as the initial point of contact and provides an opportunity to make a positive first impression. 

A typical welcome email includes a personalized greeting, an introduction to the brand, onboarding instructions, and a call to action. It aims to guide new users through the initial steps, showcase the value of the product or service, and encourage further engagement.

welcome email

Receipts and confirmations

One of the most common transactional emails is an order confirmation, sent to customers after a transaction has been completed. 

This type of transactional email, including email receipts and other transaction confirmation emails, includes details about the transaction and the purchased product or service, reassuring customers of the successful completion of their purchase. 

receipt email

Referral emails

Many businesses utilize referral emails to expand their customer base by leveraging existing customers. This type of transactional email is designed to incentivize customers to refer friends or acquaintances, thereby introducing new potential customers to the business. 

Feedback requests

Feedback is invaluable for businesses as it helps build customer loyalty and provides useful insights for product or service improvements. Feedback request emails are a great way to get actionable insights fast.

Transactional email can be used to solicit honest customer feedback from customers regarding their purchases, customer support experiences, or overall user experience. To differentiate from surveys and promotional emails, these feedback requests are sent out in response to a transaction, as in the case of the email below.

feedback request email

Order confirmations

After a customer completes a purchase, an order confirmation email is sent to provide details about the transaction, including the items purchased, the order total, and shipping information. 

This type of transactional email assures customers that their order has been successfully placed and provides them with important information related to their purchase.

Confirmations are also sent when orders are collected, as in the case of the email below.

order collection confirmation

Shipping notifications

Once an order has been shipped, a shipping notification email is sent to the customer. Shipping confirmation emails include details such as the tracking number, estimated delivery date, and a link to track the package.

Shipping notification emails (or shipping confirmation emails) are a type of transactional email that keep customers informed about the progress of their order and provide them with the necessary information to track their package.

shipping notification email

Password reset emails

When a user requests a password reset for their account, a password reset email is sent containing a secure link to reset their password. Most of our readers will have received a number of password reset emails in the past.

Password reset email is a transactional email type that ensures account security and helps users regain access to their accounts in a secure and convenient manner using built-in password reset links and more.

password reset email

Account creation emails

After a user successfully creates an account on a website or application, an account creation email is sent to welcome them and provide account-related information. This email typically includes details such as username, account ID, and instructions for getting started. 

Account creation emails and welcome emails are a type of transactional email that helps users familiarize themselves with the platform and encourage them to engage with the provided services.

account creation email

Account notification emails

Unlike emails explicitly requested by customers, account notifications are triggered by changes or updates within their accounts. 

These emails inform users about relevant account-related information, such as reaching or exceeding account limits, event reminders, shipping updates, website maintenance, and more.


There are numerous other types of transactional emails and transactional email best practices that you can read about in our latest posts. 

All types of transactional emails are highly personalized, as they are directly tied to specific events or actions taken by the recipient. Consequently, these emails should contain information directly relevant to the event or transaction that occurred.

What are the benefits of transactional emails?

1. Personalization

Transactional email offers a high degree of personalization, addressing the recipient by name and providing relevant and timely information based on their specific actions or transactions. This personalized approach helps businesses build trust and establish stronger customer connections.

2. Timely and relevant

Transactional email is triggered by specific user actions or events, ensuring that recipients receive information that is directly relevant to them at the right time. This real-time communication enhances customer engagement and satisfaction.

3. Order and account management

Transactional email plays a vital role in order and account management, providing customers with updates on their purchases, shipping details, and account-related information. These emails contribute to a seamless customer experience and help businesses streamline their operations.

4. Regulatory compliance

Transactional email, such as order confirmations and account notifications, often contain important legal and regulatory information. By sending these emails, businesses ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations, fostering transparency and trust.  

Bulk emails vs. transactional emails: what’s the difference?

Several key aspects distinguish bulk emails (or marketing emails) from transactional emails

1. Purpose

Marketing emails are intended to promote and inform, while transactional email primarily fulfills the customer's communication needs that are essential to business processes. 

2. Personalization

While marketing emails can be personalized by incorporating the recipient's name or tailoring content to specific segments of leads or customers, transactional emails are even more personalized. 

Transactional emails are directly related to specific events or transactions affecting the recipient, necessitating the inclusion of information directly relevant to the event.

3. Opt-in/subscription requirements

Unlike transactional email, bulk emails must adhere to opt-in and subscription requirements to avoid being classified as spam. These emails should only be sent to individuals who have willingly subscribed and provided consent to receive communications from the company. 

Data protection laws, such as the European GDPR and American CAN-SPAM Act, govern the sending of marketing emails and necessitate opt-in methods and opt-out options. In contrast, transactional emails do not require an explicit opt-in or opt-out, as long as the sender can demonstrate legitimate interest in sending the emails.

4. Legitimate interest

Marketing emails require consent from each individual recipient, as stipulated by spam and privacy laws worldwide, including GDPR and the CAN-SPAM Act. 

However, if a legitimate interest can be established for sending transactional emails, individual consent is not mandatory. Legitimate interest refers to the proportional use of email as a means of delivering vital information to customers or users. 

Transactional emails, such as billing receipts or "forgot your password" emails, are examples of communications that customers are likely to value. It is important to avoid mixing marketing and transactional content within a single email to maintain compliance with relevant regulations. 

5. Unsubscribe buttons

All marketing emails must provide recipients with an option to unsubscribe, typically through an unsubscribe link. In contrast, transactional emails are not legally required to include an unsubscribe button or link. 

Nevertheless, it is good practice to explain to transactional email recipients in the email footer why they are receiving a specific email. For instance, a footer statement might clarify that the email is a required notice regarding a particular matter and is not a marketing or promotional email.   

Automating bulk and transactional emails with Mailer To Go

Mailer To Go is an email service designed to streamline and automate the sending of bulk emails as well as all types of transactional emails directly from your domain. 

It caters to the marketing and transactional email needs of developers and marketing professionals, offering a simple setup process and support for standard interfaces, allowing users to start sending emails promptly.

Whether you're looking to enhance your transactional email capabilities or optimize your marketing campaigns, Mailer To Go can assist you, as it covers bulk messaging, marketing email, transactional email, and regular in-app email. 

The service effortlessly integrates with your app's verified domains, enabling you to send transactional email and bulk email from your own domains within minutes. Mailer To Go's transactional email products auto-scale, offering the flexibility to optimize performance, and cost, or find a balance between the two.

Experience the convenience and efficiency of Mailer To Go to revolutionize your marketing and transactional email management.

In conclusion

Bulk emails and transactional emails serve different purposes in the realm of business communication. Bulk emails are designed to reach a wide audience and promote products, services, or overall brand awareness.

On the other hand, businesses send transactional emails as personalized, action-based emails that provide recipients with specific and relevant information based on their interactions with an application or website.

By understanding the distinctions between these two types of emails and utilizing the right tools and strategies, businesses can enhance their communication efforts, nurture customer relationships, and drive growth.

Whether it's through bulk email campaigns or personalized transactional emails, businesses can leverage the power of email to engage with their audience effectively, especially with a streamlined, scalable email service provider like Mailer To Go

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a transactional email?

Transactional emails are automated messages that are sent in response to an action a user takes on a website or application. They are unique, one-to-one emails that are usually related to account activity or a commercial transaction. For example, they can be sent following a purchase in your online store or a password reset request.

What is the purpose of transactional emails?

The purpose of transactional emails is to facilitate an expected transaction between a sender and a recipient. They are triggered by the recipient and contain information that the recipient needs or wants. This could be a confirmation of a purchase, a password reset link, or a notification about changes to a user's account.

What are some examples of transactional emails?

Some common examples of transactional emails include order confirmations, shipping notifications, password reset emails, and account activation emails. These emails are triggered by specific actions on a website or mobile app.

What is the difference between transactional emails and bulk emails?

Transactional emails are automated, one-to-one messages that are triggered by a user's action on a website or application, such as making a purchase or resetting a password. On the other hand, bulk emails, also known as marketing emails, are mass communications sent to a large group of recipients at once.

These are typically used for newsletters, promotions, or advertising and are not triggered by a user's action.

When should I use transactional emails versus bulk emails?

Transactional emails should be used when you need to send important, individualized information to a user, such as a receipt for a purchase or a password reset link. Bulk emails should be used when you want to communicate the same message to a large group of people, such as a newsletter or a promotional offer.

Remember, the key difference is that transactional emails are triggered by a user's action, while bulk emails are not.

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