Your customers get transactional emails every day. They receive them after signing up for services, filling an online shopping cart, and joining an email list. Open up your email inbox– you’re guaranteed to see a bounty of transactional emails, too.

Because these emails are triggered by customer actions, they’re often hard-coded by IT or engineering departments, which has made it difficult for marketers to get our hands on them. That means that transactional emails are often off brand, inconsistent, and outdated.

That’s changing. Today, email marketing companies are offering transactional email features. And because these emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue, it’s in your best interest to take advantage.

In this post, we share 5 best practices for your transactional emails to get more opens, clicks, and revenue for your business.

What is a Transactional Email?

Transactional emails, sometimes called “system-triggered” emails, are automatic emails that are triggered by an action, such as signing up for a newsletter, creating an account, or placing an order.

Some of the most common transactional emails are:

  • Welcome emails
  • Shipping confirmations
  • Account updates (such as balance updates)
  • Email address confirmations
  • Password reset emails
  • Support notifications
  • Monthly invoices
  • Cart abandonment emails
  • Purchase receipts
  • Registration confirmations

Need a visual? Here’s an example of an email that asks for feedback from De Beers:

Why Do Transactional Emails Matter?

Transactional emails matter because they keep people in the loop. They’re emails people want, and will often need later. For example, your bank will send you an email if your balance falls below a certain level, so that you can fill your account or check for fraud.

Because people want and need these transactional emails, they have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue. It makes sense – think about the last time you ordered something online: you may have saved the shipping confirmation email, and checked back a few days later to find tracking information to see your package’s progress.

5 Best Practices for Transactional Success

Most of the time, transactional emails are seen as necessities. As a company, you’re obligated to send invoices, purchase receipts, and other information for your customers.

But these transactional emails present a secret opportunity — if leveraged, they can build your brand, boost revenue, and delight your customer.

Here are 5 best practices for transactional email success:

1. Put Clarity First

Although it may be tempting to add in social links and featured products, your customer needs this transactional email for a reason.

Ask yourself: Why is the customer receiving this email at all?

The best transactional emails are clearer than glass. They state their purpose in big, clear lettering, saving any extras for the fine print.

In BuzzFeed’s registration email, the reasoning is clear. We’ve registered for BuzzFeed, and we’re getting thanked for doing so.


BuzzFeed promotes its community in the very bottom of the email, long after the main point has been clearly communicated.

2. Use Smart, Searchable Subject Lines

Transactional emails often contain essential information–like tracking info or flight confirmations– that customers need to reference later. Because of this, you need smart, searchable subject lines so that customers can easily find your emails in their inbox.

Take the following email from Amazon. The subject line is clear as day.


It’s easy for a customer to find this email in her inbox by searching terms like “PEDS order,” “ Order,” “Amazon Shipped,” or another variant.

To create clear and compelling subject lines that are searchable:

  • Ask yourself “What is the vital information in this email?” then craft it into a short phrase.
  • Test it out. Try out different subject lines, then search your email inbox, and see what phrases are most intuitive to a customer.

3. Use Conversational and Friendly Copy

The best transactional emails contain compelling copy. They don’t sound like they’re coming from a robot. Instead, they feel as though they’re coming from a friend or trusted professional.

Birchbox has some of the most masterful copy on the ‘net, and their transactional emails are no exception. In the following cart abandonment email, Birchbox personifies the shopping cart, claiming it misses the customer. The copy is fun, relatable, and compelling.


To write compelling copy like Birchbox does, you need to understand your customer, know what they like, and then write words that will speak to them. If you’re a makeup company, it’s safe to say that your audience will appreciate friendly and feminine copy.

Also, use your customer’s first name. This makes a personal connection between you and the customer. Plus, people love to hear their own names– emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

4. Design Deliberately

Your transactional emails may flop if you don’t design them deliberately. You need to make sure your brand is front and center, and that your emails will look beautiful on any device.


This password reset email from Reddit boasts a simple, yet elegant design. Here’s how to emulate it in your emails:

  • Make them mobile-friendly. According to our own research, 41% of opens are happening on mobile devices. Customers are likely to open and search transactional emails on their smartphones, so you need to create emails that look as fabulous on a smartphone as they do on a laptop.
  • Prioritize the brand. Use your brand’s colors, make sure your logo is in there, and be sure you’re using the same fonts as you use in other communications. You don’t want customers wondering who the email came from.
  • Guide the eye. The most important information should be put at the top of the email where customers can clearly see it. If you want users to take action, consider using the inverted pyramid design scheme.

5. Use The Opportunity to Build Brand and Drive Traffic

Transactional emails are highly relevant and boast very high open and engagement rates. That means there’s a huge opportunity for you to take advantage by finding clever ways to direct people back to your company’s website.

If you do it right, you can even wind up with additional revenue.

For example, Abita, a brewing company, sends customers an email once they’ve shared their zip codes. This encourages customers to get even more familiar with the brand.


Wrap up

As marketers, we want to create experiences that delight customers when they arrive in their inboxes. What better way to provide relevant content than in transactional emails? If you follow the best practices outlined in this post, you’ll be well on your way to creating emails that drive opens, clicks, massive engagement, and heaps of revenue.

Note: A new transactional email service is now included for all Campaign Monitor customers on monthly plans. For more information, check out the features page and our guide to Transactional email for marketers.

Your turn: How do you use transactional emails? What types and how have they worked for you? Share your story in the comments.

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