28 Developers and Marketing & Sales Professionals Share Best Practices for Creating Effective Transactional Emails
Transactional emails make up a significant portion of the emails sent and received every day. From purchase confirmations to password reset requests, transactional emails are used for a variety of purposes. They also provide an opportunity to engage with a user or customer, meaning that businesses should take advantage of the chance to build brand loyalty, upsell, or offer value to the recipient with carefully designed emails. Another consideration is overwhelming users or customers with so many transactional emails that they start to tune out, which may result in them missing critical information such as a notification of a suspicious login.
With a variety of factors to consider, it can be challenging to develop effective transactional emails. To help you get better results from your transactional emails, we reached out to a panel of marketing and sales professionals and asked them to answer this question:
“What’s your #1 best practice for creating effective transactional emails?”
Read on to learn what our experts had to say about the best practices you should be following to create effective transactional emails.
David is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of inBeat, a TikTok and Instagram micro-influencer platform used by 1,000+ e-commerce brands and agencies.
“Cart abandonment emails are opened up almost half of the time…”
How many times have you shopped online and left your cart full?
Order, delivery and shipping confirmations, feedback, subscription renewal and software updates are the best things to utilize in transactional emails.
Dhiraj Nallapaneni is a Content Marketing Specialist with CryptoTrader.tax. Dhiraj writes blogs, manages email marketing, and runs the company's live events program.
“My #1 tip for creating effective transactional emails is to start off with a short, punchy sentence…”
That shows the benefits of your product or service to the potential customer right away.
It's important to remember that people are busy and will often make the decision whether or not they're interested in your email within seconds. That means you have to communicate the benefit that you offer right away.
Here's an example: Just a couple of months ago, I was hosting a webinar for my previous company about how businesses could use text messaging to communicate with customers.
Unfortunately, registration was going very slowly. I took a look at the email copy that we were using to promote the webinar and I realized there was a problem. All the emails started off with something like “All across America, businesses are reopening.”
If a customer opened the email and read that first sentence, they had no incentive to read any further. It didn't make the benefit of signing up for the webinar clear to the potential customer at all.
For the next webinar promotion email, I changed the first sentence to “With text messaging, you can reach more than 90% of customers and prospects.” It showed right away why a business owner would want to watch the webinar and how it could help with a problem they were having low open rates on email.
With this new first sentence, we doubled our clickthrough rate for our promotional email.
Jack Altmen is the Marketing Strategist at Think Orion and provides consultation to different companies.
“Transactional email that is used for order notification, account creation, or anything related to it should have a proper reply-to address…”
If the user sees something like email@example.com, he will be less likely to respond to your emails. This is one of the overlooked things in a transactional email that can make a bigger impact.
Having a proper email like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com makes the user feel more secure, and they’ll be more likely to engage with your emails.
Devon Falta is the CEO of Pixoul, a human-centric web design firm helping clients see better returns through intelligent, beautiful experiences.
“Send them promptly, send them accurately, and send them more often than you think is necessary…”
Send an order confirmation, a payment confirmation, AND a shipping confirmation. Send a confirmation of account creation or of account changes. Customers are much more likely to complain about a missing transactional email than they are to complain about too many of them, especially if you offer good opt-out options.
Trevor Larson is the CEO of Nectar, a peer-to-peer rewards software developer.
“My top best practices for creating effective transactional emails are…”
Tip #1: make sure your design is responsive.
The majority of web traffic is now mobile, and that figure will continue to increase over time, and email is no different. A significant percentage of emails are opened on mobile browsers, so you need to ensure your messages are displayed well on a wide range of email clients and devices if you want your transactional emails to have their desired effect.
Tip 2: Stay brand consistent.
Transactional emails stand a better chance of hitting home if your branding, style and messaging are consistent with what customers see on all of your other platforms. Even small discrepancies can mean a drop in trust, which will negatively affect your conversion rate.
Sebastian Schaeffer is the CEO of Blogrolling, a blogging, SEO and web design resource.
“Be concise in the subject line…”
If you are sending someone a transactional email, whether it is a shipping confirmation, a new product or service offering or a discount code, let people know in the subject line. Your customers are busy and will appreciate knowing what they are about to see and read before opening your email. This is also a helpful thing to do in an age of such rampant phishing. People have a heightened sensitivity to anything that looks suspicious or spammy in their inboxes, and for good reason. You can alleviate concerns and increase the odds of your email actually being opened if you take that into consideration in the subject line.
John Ross is the CEO of Test Prep Insight, an online education company in the test prep space. John has 8 years of experience in the online education space and has served as Test Prep Insight's CEO for 3 years.
“My #1 tip for creating high converting transactional emails is to…”
Use a large orange or green call to action (CTA) button right below the first or second paragraph of the email. To drive clicks with your marketing emails, you need two things: solid, actionable copy that creates demand, and a process that makes it easy for customers to navigate over to your site or app. In my opinion, the copy is important, but not as important as creating an easy and enticing means of converting.
In our experience, the absolute best way to make this happen is through a nice big green or orange CTA button near the top of the email. You want a button that is big and brightly colored to draw the reader's eye in, as well as make it easy to click. When including such a CTA button as a best practice, our click through rates are 45% higher. In terms of placement, make sure you embed the button high up in the email. This will generally be under the first or second paragraph, where it makes the most sense based on the copy.
Christen Costa is the CEO of Gadget Review.
“A good transactional email is about offering layers of value…”
Build up whatever you're trying to get across to the reader. Don't go for the action in the first paragraph. Make them see why they should care, why they should want it. Use your ideal customer profile to appeal directly to that type of person and tell a story that addresses their pain points.
Then, once you've got them engaged, give them the solution. Make sure your CTA is impossible to miss and include the best copy in your email to improve your conversions.
Peter Manzano is an Email Marketing Specialist at Rize Reviews.
“I'd say that content matters…”
Keep it brief and forthright. Regardless of how imaginative your headline or elegantly composed your preheader is, if your messages are meandering aimlessly, unessential, and without useful content, you'll neglect to get great ROI from your value-based messages.
Recall that clients click on these messages basically for data and consolation about the situation with their request and shipment, not to be overwhelmed with information they don’t need. Assuming you need to hold individuals' attention for more than a few seconds, you need to give profoundly pertinent and convincing substance that offers value to the reader.
A typical strategy is to add customized product suggestions depending on what the customer has recently bought and has been browsing recently. Customers react best to customized offers and are 2.6x times more likely to purchase the suggested products based on their purchase history.
Cody Iverson is the co-founder & CEO of Viscap Media. Cody began working in eCom in 2016 and launched and scaled multiple 7 & 8 figure eCom brands.
“The best practice for creating effective transactional emails is adding instructional or educational videos on your product, if necessary…”
This way, the email can also be a tool for use when the product arrives and help the customer make the most out of their purchase. Making the use of the purchase as easy as possible also allows for customers to see you as more reliable and less stressful to turn to should they need support.
Brian Donovan is the CEO of Timeshatter, a top timeshare exit company in the US – helping people get out of their unfair timeshare contracts.
“Use a clear and concise ‘from address’ when sending transactional emails…”
You want to avoid having your email ending up in spam or not being opened by the recipient, so it is important to make it immediately clear what the email is in regards to (and that it is safe and reliable). Depending on the specificities of the email, consider using addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and others.
Daivat Dholakia is the Director of Operations with Force by Mojio. Force by Mojio provides the best in class GPS fleet tracking for small businesses.
“My #1 tip for creating transactional emails is the opposite of my advice for pretty much any other type of email…”
Don't get too creative with it. With some email marketing campaigns, the goal is to surprise the customer. You never want a customer to be surprised by the contents of a transactional email.
The email address listed as the sender should make it clear who's contacting the customer. For example, if the email is for a password reset, you may want the sender to appear as email@example.com.
You also want the subject of the email and any required actions from the customer to be clear. This means staying away from vague subject lines. Keep it short and direct: “Welcome to (Your Company)” or “Subscription renewal confirmation.” While personalization is good, make sure the email contents aren't too wordy – or the customer won't read it and might miss important information.
Michael Rosenbaum is a self-professed tech nerd and serial entrepreneur. With 5+ successful start-ups under their belt, Michael is now the CEO and Co-Founder of Spacer – the Airbnb of Parking. Mike is passionate about the sharing economy and sharing their knowledge that they’ve learned throughout their career growing businesses with other budding entrepreneurs.
“It may sound simple, but the one trick we have used time and time again – at Spacer and also in my previous companies – is to…”
Stick to only one featured call-to-action. While most people are aware that focusing solely on one CTA is best practice, I very rarely see it done in practice…and I get it! With so many campaigns and initiatives running at once, it can be difficult to fight for priority within the business. Newsletters and product releases being exceptions, for transactional emails there's really usually only one thing that you NEED your customer to do, and the rest you'd likely want them to do. Make sure that rather than bombarding them with different messages and focal points, keep the one CTA that's your biggest 'rate limiting step' up front and center with contrasting colors and larger font.
Daniel Phung is the owner of Fullbooks Marketing, a digital marketing agency that helps dentists convert empty appointment books to full books.
“We run our transactional email strategy a little differently from others…”
Our main goal is to always provide value to the recipient. We find this works a lot better than regular emails as they appear more pushy. Our goal is also retention.
Usually we'd send value through tips/articles specifically helpful to the business. In our marketing company, we would send articles and link to a specific area of the article that we think would help with the business.
Of course, being a big company with many clients, this would consume way too much time to do it manually and consistently for every client. So we automate it with pre-created emails and have them automatically emailed out.
A certain set of emails will be triggered by the product the client has purchased from us. If an SEO service is purchased, we will send out SEO articles.
John Clancy Simmons
John Simmons is a deliverability expert at Inboxally.com. John stays on top of the latest technological advancements in email deliverability. InboxAlly is a company that helps your outreach emails to reach your prospect's inbox and avoid the spam folder.
“My #1 tip is to use transactional emails as an opportunity to upsell your existing customers…”
Ever since realizing that it's significantly cheaper to upsell our existing clients compared to winning over new ones, we started to try and add upsells wherever possible. So we included upsells and discount offers to all relevant transactional emails. In order to not seem too pushy, we included a valuable piece of information or a recommendation in the same email as well. Meaning that we added two things – something valuable and an offer.
This small change has helped to significantly increase our sales to existing customers.
Stefanie is part of the SEO team in a digital agency and is the Outreach Supervisor with Growth Rocket.
“Use a call to action subject line when sending emails…”
Your subject should trigger your recipient to open it but still make the subject fun and not too serious. The timing of when you send it also matters. Send it the same day your customer notified you of a need for action.
Darren Litt is the Co-Founder of Hiya Health, a company on a mission to reimagine children's health and end our collective addiction to sugar by creating a sugar-free, junk-free multivitamin delivered on a pediatrician-approved schedule.
“Transactional emails are by far the most opened of eCommerce emails, making them a great opportunity to build customer loyalty…”
Remind your customers how to contact customer service, reiterate any satisfaction guarantees, and add a touch of warmth and personality. These emails are also a great place to introduce referral discounts.
Lauren Picasso is the Founder & CEO of Cure, a VC-backed functional beverage brand that launched in 2019. Prior to Cure, Lauren was an early employee at Jet.com, an e-commerce company that raised $570M in funding and was acquired by Walmart for $3.3B in 2016. As Director of Marketing at Jet, Lauren worked across a variety of online and offline marketing channels helping to scale the company to over 10 million customers. Lauren was also an early employee of Rent the Runway and has worked for Google, Bloomingdale’s, and Ralph Lauren. Lauren received their MBA from Harvard Business School and B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Something that few companies do in their transaction emails is provide a call to action for the customer…”
Placing a call to action for customers, such as a discount code on their next purchase or a limited time item promotion, will encourage the customer to buy more products from your website. This will boost your eCommerce business and build brand loyalty between you and your customers. The more they buy, the more they save. It's a win-win for all involved.
Eymel Daniel is the Co-Founder of ForChics. ForChics believes that less is more and in the undeniable beauty of each and every one of their customers.
“You can use the opportunity to send them an offer…”
While transactional emails should provide information and fulfill a specific need like giving a customer an order receipt, helping them reset their password, or notifying them that their order has been shipped, you can also use the opportunity to send them an offer. Make sure the offer is appropriate for the email being sent and put it below the primary information that is the reason for the email being sent (i.e., order confirmation, shipping information, etc.).
Sara Shah is the Cofounder and Co-CEO of Journ, a company whose mission is to make you feel your inspired best every single day.
“Try to humanize your emails as much as possible…”
By having an actual name attached to the “From” and directly addressing the person you’re sending it to by first name, even if you are using a big email newsletter platform for automatic sending. It’s best if customers can reply to that same email as well. “No reply” emails come off as very impersonal. Have an eye-catching subject line and preview text, enticing the recipient to learn more. Make the purpose of the email abundantly clear within the first few seconds of viewing with an easily apparent call to action or offer right up front. A simple, elegant design goes a long way.
Christian Velitchkov is the Co-Founder of Twiz.io.
“Most teams believe transactional emails aren't important, but they can drive actions…”
The open rate of transactional/triggered emails is higher than that of promotional emails.
A highly effective transactional email should be straightforward, clear, and personalized. From or sender names allow the recipient to identify who sent the message. Keep it simple so it reflects the credibility of your brand. Further, the recipient's relevant and specific details must be included clearly and precisely.
For instance, a shipping confirmation should contain all relevant details. The order number for the product ordered, the quantity, and the shipping address should be provided. Whether it's a password reset message or a shipping confirmation, make sure to include all the details that the recipient needs to know.
Courtney Buhler is the CEO & Founder of SugarLash. Courtney is a passionate and driven CEO who’s setting the bar for lash industry developments globally. Proudly serving over 160,000 lash artists in 90+ countries globally, Sugarlash PRO is the leader within the lash industry with unparalleled entrepreneurial support for lash artists starting, or leveling up their lash careers.
“Be clear and direct with what the purpose of the email is to avoid confusing the reader…”
This is especially important if you use a similar template for multiple emails they might receive. Using specific language and a user-friendly layout will make it easier for the reader to know what to do with the information and take any action(s), if necessary.
After 10+ years working in the heart of the movie business, Andrew pivoted, leaving Hollywood behind in search of something more fulfilling. In 2014, they took a senior role at the world's largest vegan and animal rights organization, PETA, where they led the celebrity marketing division. Since leaving PETA in 2018, Andrew’s goal has been to combine their passion for making the world a better place with their intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit. Kinder Beauty is the fruit of that desire.
“Make sure you know the difference between transactional and marketing emails in order to be successful with both…”
Transactional emails are not overly promotional like marketing emails. Marketing emails are used for announcing sales, product launches, etc. When a user needs to reset a password or places an order, they receive a transactional email. But transactional emails should still get the same due diligence as marketing emails. Every touchpoint with your customers should be on-brand and reflect your values, even if it is a simple order receipt. Capitalize on the opportunity to use the customer’s first name rather than generic greetings for a nice personalized touch.
Guna Kakulapati is the co-founder & CEO of CureSkin. The CureSkin app came out of a personal need when Guna’s child was diagnosed with a serious skin condition. In that journey, it quickly became clear that the model of a single point-in-time consultation doesn’t work for skin, and that continuous care & supervision was required to keep it healthy.
“Be sure to include buttons in your transactional emails to your social media channels to help customers connect with you in other ways…”
You can provide incentives for following your social media channels or sharing them with friends and family. You want customers to keep your brand top of mind, so transactional emails are the perfect opportunity to offer your customers other ways to connect with you via other channels.
Daniela Sawyer is the Founder and Business Development Strategist of FindPeopleFast.net, a people searching website.
“Transactional emails are different from marketing emails…”
Marketing emails include the promotion of a product, whereas transactional email has an informative aspect. For creating transactional emails, the most important step is identifying the reason for the email and elaborating on it concisely. This is because the transactional emails might not look familiar to the customers because of late interaction or less interaction. Therefore, while writing one, I prefer to answer the following three questions on behalf of the customer.
Who is sending the message?
For this I use friendly “From” addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and others. This enables the customer to identify our brand easily.
What is the purpose?
The purpose of the email should be evident from the subject line itself, such as “password reset,” “purchase notification,” and others. Also, the first few lines of the message should contain the objective in a very precise manner. Apart from these, using preheader text will also help.
Why am I receiving it?
The email content should be high-quality and engaging. For example, just writing an email with a purchase order and a bill below it won’t look professional. It should be more personalized by stating the name of the customer, date and time of purchase, and a short description of the product too. Although the same has been included in the invoice, elaborating here will help in engaging the customer.
Jeff Hibbard is the Senior Vice President, Digital Experience & Business Transformation with Truliant Federal Credit Union. Jeff leads Truliant's digital innovation strategy and member experience, design thinking and member journey strategy, and digital transformation of internal credit union processes. Jeff also oversees digital marketing and deposit administration.
“Transactional emails are used and received every single day…”
Some common examples of transactional emails are welcome emails, confirmation emails, tracking/delivery status, registration information, or any new notifications. An effective transactional email has a clear, precise, personalized call to action. One way to achieve this is with a clear subject line that isn't too wordy. A great example would be if you are having a sale. You're more likely to get a click through if the subject line is “Take 50% off these looks now” than “New discounts on these items.” You'd want to use data to have it personalized on looks that your customer has frequently browsed or added to their cart. By catering your email to your audience, it will provide clear personalization needed to engage the recipient.
Heidi Robinson currently serves as Chief Operating Officer at Because Market where they bring their deep experience as a leader and operator in scaling consumer businesses.
“Transactional emails are built on connections you've made previously…”
So to get the maximum mileage from this, it should have a personal touch. Transactional emails shouldn't be robotic. You should still provide an email signature so someone can reach you if they need to, even though often the address it comes from is no-response. Maintaining the personal touch while getting the job done is the goal.
Marc Atiyeh is the founder and CEO of Pawp, the first ever digital health pet clinic that provides unlimited access to licensed vets 24/7 as well as a $3,000/year pet emergency fund.
“My biggest tip is to start from the information…”
If there's a confirmed purchase, password reset request, order and shipping details, referrals, events, feedback, or any new updates from a company, a transactional email is used. After finding that information, everything falls into place.