How to use transactional emails
Transactional emails are a type of automated email, but unlike many other automated emails, transactional emails are relevant only to the intended individual recipient and not a group of people. And, they’re based on the relationship the recipient has with the sender.
An example of a purely automated email would be a bulk message about a promotion to all your subscribers, followed by another email to everyone who didn’t open the first message. These could also be tied to activities in other channels, such as a sales event at a retail store. Basic automated emails are scheduled to send something a person subscribed to or registered for, like daily newsletters.
Transactional emails, on the other hand, are sometimes called “triggered emails,” because they’re set off by a need or behavior that’s more specific and timely. There are many situations in which transactional emails are expected. Some examples of transactional emails can be found in the following scenarios:
- Confirmation emails: People expect confirmations when they make a purchase, update user account information, or sign up for something online with account creation emails.
- Notification emails: Activity in an app, such as a purchase receipt of a recently purchased item or an update on user activity, requires immediate account notifications.
- Reminders—like shipping notifications, an abandoned cart*, upcoming event dates, or new comments on a post someone is following—are always appreciated.
*Note that, in some jurisdictions, abandoned cart emails may be considered marketing emails. Take applicable law into consideration when deciding who can receive these emails.
Even though these types of transactional emails are very different from marketing emails that typically go to an audience of many people, you can, if allowed in your jurisdiction, include a marketing message and a limited number of marketing elements in these triggered communications.
Just remember that there are legal restrictions on if and how much marketing content you can put in a transactional email depending on your location and that of your contacts. As the FTC details, a transactional email contains information that confirms or facilitates a transaction the consumer has already agreed to, or gives information about an ongoing commercial relationship. In the US, for example, the majority of the transactional (or relationship-based) information in the email needs to be at the beginning of the message to be legally considered a transactional email. It's fundamental that you ensure your emails take this into consideration.
“If you book an airplane ticket, the confirmation email could have messaging about other related activities,” Chris explains. “This could include things like renting a car or buying travel insurance.”
Transactional emails often share 3 elements:
- They’re typically sent in response to an action or user request. Transactional emails are directly related to the way the recipient does business with you, and they’re often waiting for the information, like an account verification, password reset, an update that their food delivery has arrived, or a confirmation of a ticket purchase.
- They may have an element of security or privacy, and the information is only for the eyes of the intended recipient, such as a bank statement or a notification from their accountant.
- They are hyper-personalized to the recipient and their business with the sender based on the type of transaction, such as an alert that a checking account balance has slipped below a required level, or a notice that the size 8 high-tops the customer coveted are now in stock.