How to Get More Action from Your Transactional Emails


Does your company send out emails for password resets, shipping confirmations, account renewals and the like? As a marketer do you have control of these important messages? More likely than not your company sends them, but you have little to no control of them. This can be a major point of frustration for digital marketers looking to build a cohesive and consistent customer experience and take advantage of all the touch-points along the way.

In this post, we’ll explain what transactional emails are and how you can get more action out of the ones you send.

What are transactional emails?

Transactional emails are automated messages, triggered to send on demand by specific interactions on your website or application. Examples of transactional emails include order confirmations, shipping notifications, membership renewal notices, account status messages, and many more.

The current state of transactional emails

As marketers, we should care about transactional emails because companies send billions of transactional emails every month. Because these emails contain valuable information for customers, these messages are some of the most widely opened, read and clicked emails around. In fact, their open rates are eight times higher than marketing emails. That’s a major opportunity for every marketer to optimize them and harness their power.

Unfortunately, the key to the transactional email kingdom has traditionally been held by IT or engineering departments who’ve commonly used the built-in email functionality of their e-commerce or CRM systems which offer little or no reporting, poor HTML support and only basic personalization. As a result, transactional emails often feel dated, off-brand, and deliver an inconsistent customer experience from other marketing efforts.

This is why we’re used to seeing transactional emails that look like this:

In addition, the elements marketers are accustomed to leveraging in our marketing email efforts – real-time reporting, cross-sell/upsell, mobile optimization, and more – have been simply unavailable with transactional emails.

Marketers get control

Luckily, a sweet new feature from Campaign Monitor finally gives the keys to the transactional kingdom to marketers. We now have complete control over the email that our customers open and engage with most. This means even minor tweaks to an email’s branding or messaging can be done on the fly – and without the help of a developer. More substantial changes – such as adding or changing a promotional call to action – is also just as easy as creating a traditional marketing email in Campaign Monitor.

So let’s take a look at some good examples of transactional emails, which may inspire you to grab those keys and take control of transactional emails for your business.

Order confirmation emails

Generally order confirmation emails that you receive from in-store purchases are fairly bland looking and contain your standard purchase information such as the order number, price, date, etc.

However, this example from Nordstrom is a first-rate.  It’s nicely branded, and it’s been optimized for mobile using responsive design.


Shipping confirmation

Shipping confirmations might not sound like the most exciting email out there, but they’re hugely useful for your customers who are waiting for their order to arrive. This example from Fast-Growing-Trees, allows their customers to easily track their package and also includes useful instructions on what to do once their plant arrives.

Any value add content you can include will go a long way in making these emails more relevant to your customers and more impactful to your bottom line.

Return emails

With 191.1 million digital shoppers in the U.S. alone, companies like Levi’s are wise to optimize every step of the online shopping experience including when a consumer needs to return something. They use a helpful tone and outline exactly what to expect, which is reassuring. It’s also useful to have prominent phone numbers and email addresses in these types of emails. Finally, it’s definitely worth including links back to your website to shop again. If you can make a return drop-dead simple, it will be easier for someone to buy from you again and know that if they aren’t satisfied, they won’t have any regrets.


Password reset

Resetting a password is a total drag, so don’t make the experience worse by sending a poor password reset email. This example from Netflix gets straight to the point, clearly states what the customer needs to do and provides a phone number to call if something goes wrong. Password reset emails should remove every obstacle and make it lightening-fast for your user to get back into your website or app.



Account summaries

You know that data you’ve got? Here’s your chance to put it to good use! Summary emails, especially when they are personalized and based solely on your subscriber’s data is the perfect place to put it to good use. You’ll often see these types of emails coming from wearable tech companies like Jawbone and Fitbit or social media companies like Twitter and Linkedin.

MapMyRun is an excellent app for tracking, logging and sharing your workouts their weekly summary emails are a highly engaging way for them to share this data with their subscribers. It’s an excellent idea to include social sharing buttons if you decide to send this type of email so your subscribers can share their stats with friends and social networks.


Now that you’ve had a chance to see some examples of transactional emails, we’ll quickly look at a few best practices to make sure yours deliver.

Content for transactional emails

You may have noticed that many of the examples in this post contain a mixture of transactional and promotional content. This is fine to do, but it’s important to have a good understanding of the difference between commercial and transactional content and to follow best practices to ensure that your emails are CAN-SPAM compliant.

Types of email content:

Commercial content

Promotes a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose;

Transactional or relationship content

Facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing transaction

Emails that primarily contain commercial content must be CAN-SPAM compliant, meaning that you must have opt-in from the subscriber and provide an unsubscribe link among other rules. Transactional emails, on the other hand, do not need to follow CAN-SPAM requirements. The FTC clearly outlines CAN-SPAM requirements here. and has some helpful examples. 

When an email contains both kinds of content, the primary purpose of the message is the deciding factor in determining which type of message it is. Follow these best practices to ensure that your transactional emails stay compliant.

Things to optimize in your transactional emails

A few things to consider when optimizing your transactional emails include:

Wrap up

Hopefully, these examples have inspired you to take control of the transactional emails your company sends. Try out our transactional email feature and put more action in your transactional emails today. 

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