How to leverage transactional email to achieve business & marketing goals

When asked about how to run effective email campaigns, digital marketers often say that you need to:

  • Send the RIGHT MESSAGE


  • At the RIGHT TIME


So, what does that even mean? Well, I should start by saying that if you’re still sending your emails using the “Batch & Blast” or the “Spray & Pray” method of email marketing, your days are numbered. People have never been more bombarded with marketing content than they are today. It’s coming at us from all angles all the time. It’s never been more important to be relevant.
Sure, you’ve got some above average open rates for your monthly newsletters but let’s face it – writing compelling content is time-consuming and many small businesses don’t have the resources to do it well. Add to that the time and energy required to stay on top of email best practices and including list hygiene, maintenance and segmentation and you’ve got quite the kerfuffle on your hands. At the end of the day, lots of businesses don’t have the bandwidth to manage their email like they do in the big leagues.
In this post, I want to explore the differences between transactional and promotional email and provide a few tips on how to better leverage the most important you emails that your business sends.
Let’s start by taking note of the differences between transactional and promotional emails. Most online businesses use both, yet oftentimes transactional emails get overlooked from a marketing perspective. Why? Well, there’s a lot of reasons for this. Transactional emails are the ones that are typically triggered automatically and sent by your CRM (customer relationship management tool) or PMS (property management system). Not all of these platforms provide an easy way to build well designed transactional emails…unless of course, you’re a wiz with HTML and CSS.  
These two worlds of email were kept separate from each other and lived in their own respective universes. While their collision course has been advancing over the last number of years, the infrastructure surrounding each of these worlds has been kept mostly separate. MailChimp purchased Mandrill to help them segway into the transactional space. Sendgrid, a veteran in the transactional space, has been building out new marketing features to help them become a one-stop shop for all your marketing needs. There are some more technical reasons we could get into here, but a history lesson is beyond the scope of this post.
transactional email

Given that transactional emails are perceived as over 300% more valuable than promotional emails, I like to think that it’s a good idea to allocate a percentage of email marketing budgets to include transactional email.

What exactly is the difference? In a nutshell…

Transactional Email 

  • Emails generated automatically by user actions on your website or app. I.e. purchase confirmations, password resets, receipts, check-in information, etc.
  • Primary purpose is not commercial in nature
  • GDPR compliance does not apply to these emails.

Promotional Email

  • Emails sent in bulk for promotional purposes, typically mailed to lists or segments of lists. I.e. Newsletters, special offers, etc.
  • Primary purpose is commercial in nature
  • GDPR compliance does apply to these emails.

Wait, you mean to tell me that transactional emails fall into a different set of regulations than promotional emails? Yep, that’s right.

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s have a look at how differently people respond to transactional email as opposed to promotional email. The following figures were pulled from Experian’s Transactional Email Report. I don’t know about you, but I find them very illuminating.

Transactional Open Rates

How many businesses out there can ever even hope to get these kinds of open and click-through rates on their promotional email? I’d be willing to bet the tally comes in somewhere between slim and none. Looking at these graphs, it’s apparent that – on average – many transactional emails get opened more than once. And with CTR’s in excess of 10%, 15%, and 20% what’s not to like?

Transactional emails typically have much higher engagement rates than traditional marketing emails. Why? Transactional emails are personal, directed at an individual and tied to action taken by the user making them highly anticipated. On average, links back to your website from transactional emails also provide substantially more revenue per email.

This report provides some pretty staggering statistics as to just how differently users respond to these different types of emails. Not only are transactional emails opened more readily, they are often opened repeatedly. Looking at the figures, it’s pretty easy to see how they would be a great place to continue the user experience with your brand.

Hot Tip

Consider leveraging well-designed transactional emails to promote your brand and core offerings as a business. Remember, navigating from an email to your website should be seamless, on brand, and aesthetically consistent.

Need help with preparing some rock solid transactional email templates for your business? Contact Blizzard for expert help with any or all steps in the content creation, promotion, or assessment process.