Guide on Transactional Emails: Types, Examples and Best Practices

Guide on Transactional Emails: Types, Examples and Best Practices
03 April, 2023 • ... • 769 views
Irene Dmitrieva
by Irene Dmitrieva

Emails are a part of our daily lives. Yet, their content often gets overlooked. Transactional emails, in particular, tend to suffer from this lack of attention, though they should not be underestimated when it comes to business growth. In this article, we discuss how to get the most out of your transactional emails and become better from the first steps in the eyes of the client. You will see examples of really good emails and evaluate the potential of how such emails can improve your business.

What is a transactional email?

A transactional email is an automated message that is sent in response to user actions on the site or in the app. Order confirmation emails, subscriptions or booking confirmations, and order status messages — all these are examples of transactional emails.

This is an example of a transactional email from the Postable company. The message keeps customers informed of every step in the delivery process:

An example of transactional email
Source: Really Good Emails

Timing is key when it comes to transactional emails informing customers about the start or finish of a certain process. To guarantee timely and accurate delivery, marketing automation is an absolute must-have.

Sending transactional emails demonstrates brand credibility to customers and increases trust. They also help provide better customer service. For example, an order confirmation email notifies the customer that the company has received their request. In turn, it eliminates any distress or doubt surrounding payment and delivery of their purchase.

Marketing vs transactional emails

Marketing emails are mailings of an advertising nature that tell about the benefits of products and services, inform about new offers and promotions. The main purpose of such emails – marketing promotion, increasing marketing sales and conversion rates.

Transactional emails have a distinct goal – to deliver the essential information customers need. This includes information regarding registration, purchases, password recovery status and more. Most often promotional emails are sent in bulk; transactional emails are sent only to those who have taken some kind of action. Not everyone needs advertising emails, while all clients are interested in transactional ones – the open rate of such messages is eight times higher.

Transactional Emails Marketing Emails
Purpose To provide information about a specific transaction or action To promote a product, service, or brand
Content Information about a specific transaction, such as order confirmation, shipping updates, password reset, etc. Promotional messages, such as product features, discounts, sales, etc.
Audience Sent to individual users who have performed a specific action, such as making a purchase, subscribing to a service, etc. Sent to a broader audience, including subscribers, leads, or customers who may have shown interest in the product or service
Frequency Sent in response to a user action, such as a purchase or account creation, and are usually infrequent Sent regularly to keep customers engaged and informed about the brand or products
Opt-in/opt-out Not required To obtain consent, opt-in is required by law (e.g., CAN-SPAM in the USA). An opt-out option should also be provided

Why are transactional emails important?

Companies can benefit from using transactional emails in some ways:

Improved customer experience and retention

Let’s be honest, when customers make a purchase they expect an email notification about order confirmation and update on shipping activity. Without these essential emails in place, your customer will be left in the dark after making a purchase – leading to dissatisfaction with the buying experience. To maintain trust among clients, transactional emails should be a requisite component of email marketing strategy. This will not only enhance customer satisfaction but also strengthen loyalty to your brand — two key factors for success.

Despite not being about sales, transactional emails can still include information about additional products, promotions, or services that are related to a previous or current purchase. Such unobtrusive advertising motivates customers to buy additional products.

Brand recognition

One purchase may not be enough to ensure that customers remember your logo. Yet incorporating a signature logo into each order confirmation, shipping update, etc. can make sure it stays in their minds. By doing this, you’ll guarantee that they become more and more aware of your brand with every interaction.

Create convenience

Speed and convenience are deemed by 80% of customers as two of the most important qualities in customer service. Transactional emails make life easier for both customers and businesses, providing a simple way to take care of many tasks at once. They provide customers with an easy way to track their purchases, receive updates on their status, and easily access further information about a product or service. 

Boost engagement

By including tailored content in transactional messages, like a follow-up survey, you can increase the odds that clients will engage with your brand beyond just the initial purchase. Include social media links and motivate customers to either follow or join up with your company on those platforms — this helps build an online community while also strengthening interaction between them and your brand!

Types and examples of transactional emails

With so many types of transactional emails and samples, it can be overwhelming for marketers to comprehend them. Let us explore the various forms of these emails, along with a few examples.

Order status and details

These emails provide information about an order that the customer has placed and might include information such as purchase confirmation, shipping details, items purchased and expected delivery date. 

To illustrate this concept more clearly, below is an example of a confirmation email from Etsy. The contents include purchase details, shipping & manufacturer information as well as product recommendations that could potentially entice customers to make another purchase from the store.

Order confirmation email example
Source: Really Good Emails

Here’s another example of how Everlywell keeps customers informed about the delivery status of their purchases:

Delivery confirmation email example
Source: Really Good Emails

The online store not only reminds customers of their purchases, but also the total cost and how to access the pickup location.

Payments and receipts

This category includes electronic receipt, status updates of successful or failed payment – everything connected with cash flow. These emails are important for customers as they provide a record of their payment and help to prevent confusion or disputes.

This is how The Home Depot sends a copy of the electronic receipt to their customers:

An example of a transactional email with electronic receipt
Source: Really Good Emails

And this is an example of how an online store can illustrate successful goods returns:

Successful refund report in a transactional email
Source: Really Good Emails

Registrations and subscription confirmation

Registration emails usually come when you sign up for a website or online service, sign up for a subscription, or delete your account. Here’s an example of one such email sent by Superpeer when someone creates their account:

Transactional email with account creation confirmation
Source: Really Good Emails

Subscription confirmation emails do precisely what they suggest: they verify a subscriber’s email address after they have registered in an email newsletter subscription form. Email confirmation is an important part in the double opt-in process, ensuring that your message reaches real subscribers. Confirmation emails should be concise and contain a single, clear call-to action. 

For instance, the confirmation email from Houses is an ideal example of this concept. The glaring pink button stands out against everything else in the message and prompts readers to confirm their subscription without any other distractions. If a subscriber decides that they no longer want to receive emails, the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email makes it easy for them to opt-out.

Subscription confirmation email example
Source: Really Good Emails

Norton sends out reminders to its customers when their subscription is nearing expiration, giving them ample time and opportunity to renew:

A transactional email announcing the end of a subscription
Source: Really Good Emails

Alerts and notifications

Alerts are notifications concerning a user’s account. They come in different forms – from warnings of suspicious logins on other devices and requests for password reset, to notifications about interactions with social media pages or accounts connected with yours.  

Sending a transactional email every time there is a new login or access from an unknown device not only helps protect customers’ information, but also serves as a gesture of courtesy that will make them feel more secure and valued. Quickly responding to any suspicious activity will ensure your customers know all measures are being taken to secure their accounts.

The content of a security check alert should include detailed information about the suspicious login (date, location, type of device), as well as any steps that the user needs to take if he finds something that requires an update.

Security check email example
Source: Really Good Emails

Passwords and access credentials contain sensitive information that you need to protect. Therefore, these emails should remain free of distractions and clutter, just the necessary details so your customers can reset their passwords quickly and safely. Also, be sure to include contact options in case any issues arise.

Outdoorsy did a good job at creating a transactional password reset email:

Password reset email example
Source: Really Good Emails

You probably got notifications on your phone or in your email when someone comments, messages you, etc. on various platforms. Those alerts keep us connected with our social media/service accounts and are also referred to as notification emails. They simply remind us that it’s time to log back into the platform.

To encourage engagement from less active users, certain websites, like Womp for instance, send transactional emails upon activity or interactions with a user’s profile. These messages can range in content but are generally sent when someone has either sent the user a message or commented on their wall. Such proactive communication helps to keep people invested and interested in the platform.

Notification email example
Source: Really Good Emails

Product or service feedback

After a customer has made a purchase or a user has registered an account, some companies ask for feedback – these are also transactional emails. 

Researchers have discovered that customers trust other people more than businesses, so it is essential to collect as many positive reviews as possible. Studies show 46% of consumers rely on online reviews just like personal recommendations. Collecting reviews is an essential task for businesses. And email campaigns can be especially effective in this regard.

Warby Parker provides a great example of how to encourage customer feedback. Their process is straightforward and begins with an expression of appreciation for the user’s purchase, letting them know they are valued: “We love our customers dearly”. This not only instills enthusiasm in readers but also grants access to competing for a $100 Amazon gift card. This will undoubtedly motivate users even further.

Customer feedback email example
Source: Really Good Emails

Do transactional emails require an unsubscribe link?

As transactional emails do not contain commerce, they do not come within the purview of CAN-SPAM. Consequently, you are under no obligation to attach an opt-out link or instructions regarding unsubscribing in your messages. 

Yet, it is crucial to bear in mind that the CAN-SPAM law only applies within the United States. Other countries may adhere to different regulations.

Transactional emails best practices

Although transactional emails are often seen as merely “technical” in nature, they are still no less worthy of your attention than marketing messages. 

Here are a few tips and best practices to craft an attractive and useful piece of communication:


Personalizing transactional emails builds trust, especially when selling expensive products. Harnessing an in-depth comprehension of your customers, emails can be more personalized and beneficial for recipients. 

There are several ways to take advantage of email customization and personalize the messages. One is to use the customer’s name. For example, you can say “Thank you, John” instead of the usual “Thank you”.

To take your personalization to the next level, consider Warby Parker’s example and customize messages based on a recipient’s geographic location.

Personalization in transactional email
Source: Really Good Emails

In this email, the company thanked those who visited the specific store and requested them to take part in a survey so that they could better understand customer preferences. In return, Warby Parker offers participants a chance to enter into a drawing for Amazon gift cards.

Brevity and being to the point

Keeping transactional emails brief and straightforward is essential. The aim should be to give customers the details they require without bombarding them with an overload of information.

Provide only essential details, making certain they are clear and easily understood. If further information is necessary, attach a separate document or link rather than including it in the email itself. 

Crocs has done an excellent job with regard to the details of the transactional message:

Example of transactional email detail
Source: Really Good Emails

Brand voice in design

Even though transactional emails don’t allow for much room to be imaginative, it’s paramount that you remain consistent with your brand tone when communicating. Add a brand or company logo, use email design elements from your website, use corporate colors. This will not only make your message attractive, but also help convey a cohesive image of your company..

Responsive design

Don’t forget about the adaptive layout of the email. People read nearly half of all emails  (49.1%) from mobile devices, so it’s important to make sure your transactional messages and other notifications display correctly on all kinds of screens.

Focus on timing

Transactional emails are essential as people expect to receive them right away after taking a certain action. To ensure immediate delivery, the best practice is to automate these notifications so they can be sent out within minutes of user activity. Timely transactional messages guarantee customer satisfaction and create an overall positive experience for your recipients.

Final thoughts

A transactional email is an automated response that is triggered when a user performs certain actions on the website or application.They contain information about the status of product delivery, purchase receipts, messages from technical support, etc.

Transactional emails are advantageous because users anticipate them, leading to a higher open rate and improved domain reputation.

For successful transactional emails, it is important to use the following techniques: 

  • Personalize your emails with a friendly tone and tailored content. 
  • Keep the messaging concise and clear.
  • Create visually appealing designs for maximum impact.
  • Send emails promptly after any customer action.
  • Ensure your email is optimized for various platforms and devices.
03 April, 2023
Article by
Irene Dmitrieva
As a marketing copywriter, I have experience creating compelling content for websites and social media posts. My background in market research helps me ensure that my copy is both on-brand and data-driven. I am excited to bring my skills and experience to Selzy team and help drive success for this company.
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