Transactional emails are the messages sent after someone has had some kind of interaction with your company. Wikipedia defines them as:

“Transactional emails are usually triggered based on a customer’s action with a company. Triggered transactional messages include dropped basket messages, purchase or order confirmation emails and email receipts.”

The primary purpose of a transactional email is to convey information regarding the action that triggered it.

Okay, that definition may be a bit dry, but it does it the job, right?  Your email marketing messages, especially the transactional ones, do a specific job, but they don’t have to be dry and can be more effective if they aren’t. According to Experian, transactional emails have high open and click through rates, perhaps higher than your marketing emails, so they’re wonderful opportunities to engage recipients.

Here are 3 things your transactional emails should be in order to deliver:

Friendly  – Your transactional emails are a necessity for your business, but also an important touch point you have with your customers. This is an opportunity for you to show your business’ personality and even fun side. As long as your email has all the important details your customers need, there’s no reason you can’t pep up an otherwise boring email. And with a usually higher open rate, your transactional emails could win over more readers to sign up for the other emails you send.

Informative – Ultimately, the purpose of your transactional emails is to give your customers specific information. In addition to information such as a purchase confirmation, shipping details or a donation receipt, include things they may need like a contact email address or phone number, shipment tracking links and social media buttons to enable them to connect with you in other ways. Your email should be easy to read and more importantly, mobile friendly. Use a simple one-column layout, a logo at the top, brief text and easy-to-click links.

As long as the vital info is covered and easy to read, don’t be afraid to include links to your website or a call-to-action button. And, of course, you can encourage them readers to join your email marketing mailing list since they’ve interacted with your company.

Timely – This may be obvious, but your transactional emails need to be sent out in a timely fashion. They contain important and sometimes time sensitive information for your customers. The more timely an email, the more relevant it usually is for the recipient.

Here are some examples of transactional emails done right:

Cost Plus World Market sends out a thank you email when someone signs up for their mailing list. It has great things going for it, including a warm friendly tone, a call-to-action button and social network buttons:


Rue La La has an eye-catching and comforting subject line that lets you know all went well with your purchase. They also personalize the email with your name and let you know they’ll send an email with shipping details once they have the info.

Jackson and Perkins also has an effective subject line confirming the shipped order. They’ve included links to their social networks and to different parts of their website, just in case you need them. The body of the email is warm, friendly and short, but contains everything you’d need to know, including an email address for questions.


Sometimes things go awry with a purchase and it has to be returned. ModCloth keeps their messaging fun and upbeat even for this kind of email. They include personalization, detailed info about the refund, two ways to ask “a ‘Q’ or two” and a nice closing.


Hopefully these examples have given you some inspiration for your own transactional emails. Or, if you haven’t been sending any, to try a few out and see what results you get. You don’t have to sell a product to have a reason to send a transactional email, and, you could see an increase in traffic to your website just by adding one of these to your marketing plan. We’ve got even more tips in our post,  How to Put the Action in Your Transactional Emails.

Are you using transactional emails for your business? Tell us how they’re working for you in the comments below!

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© 2014, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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