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Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

Harness the Potential of Every Notification

Can I admit it? I like sparkly things, and transactional emails are not the most glamorous aspect of your marketing. 

Transactional emails are utilitarian, i.e., transactional, the humble workhorses of your email strategy. They provide necessary pieces of information and keep your audience informed and engaged. 

These missives may not be full of razzle-dazzle, but transactional email best practices can still make them shine. Use these tips and best practices to optimize your brand’s emails. After all, humble workhorses can travel impressive distances.

Table of Contents

What Is a Transactional Email?

Transactional emails are generally part of a business's set of email automations. Specific actions taken by your customers trigger their delivery. While promotional emails advertise your brand, transactional emails relay necessary relevant information.

These emails contain relevant details that recipients want to know, contributing to impressive open and click-through rates.

How Can I Improve My Transactional Emails?

Transactional email best practices focus on maximizing their potential benefits. To optimize yours, use them to:

  • Build trust with your customers. When a customer completes an action like making a purchase, they expect a confirmation email that reassures them that their transaction was successful.

  • Enhance customer experience. Providing essential information (like tracking numbers or account details) and helpful links improves the user’s journey. Almost two-thirds of marketers rate transactional emails as very important for customer engagement.

  • Strengthen your brand identity. Reinforce branding in your emails — think logos, brand colors, voice, etc. — to stay top-of-mind and create a cohesive brand experience.

What Are the Most Common Types of Transactional Emails?

Businesses commonly send several transactional emails, each of which serves a unique purpose and provides value to both the business and the consumer.

Password Reset Emails

It’s not just you. Most Americans will spend more than 12 days of their lives trying to remember and reset passwords.

We’ve all been there. You try to log in to an account, only to realize that you've forgotten your password. The password reset email helps users regain access to their accounts. It usually contains a secure link that lets them set a new password.

Remember: Your customer is already frustrated. Don't add to their stress with a complicated process and make sure that the password reset link is easy to find and use. For security reasons, ensure that the link expires after a certain period.

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

This password reset email from Outdoorsy provides a great example of how to keep things simple. The brand keeps instruction and information to a minimum.

Order Confirmations

Order confirmation emails help build anticipation as well as trust. They typically include details like what items have been ordered, the total cost, and estimated delivery time.

Shipping Notifications

You’re not superhuman and able to instantly process and teleport items to their final destinations. (And if you are, please don’t smite me for the insult.)

Send a shipping notification when their order goes out, reaffirming the expected delivery date. If there are changes in the delivery timeline, update them.

If possible, provide a tracking number and link. Let USPS or the shipping service of your choice take over.

Account Activation

If you need a user to verify their email address, send them an account activation email with a link they must click to activate. Use this opportunity to welcome your customers and introduce them to your brand.

Request for Feedback

After a service or purchase, brands can send a request-for-feedback email inviting customers to share their experiences and opinions.

Subscription Renewal

Is the customer’s newsletter subscription or other service about to expire? Keep the good times rolling with subscription renewal emails.

Send the renewal email well before the subscription ends and include instructions on how to renew their account. You can also use the opportunity to highlight the benefits of renewing.

Transactional Email Best Practices

Transactional email best practices ensure that you get the most out of your communications. Here are 20 tips to optimize each message.

1. Use a Reliable Email Service Provider

First things first, you need a reliable email service provider (ESP). A reliable ESP ensures that your transactional emails are delivered promptly and correctly. 

Your ESP should offer high deliverability rates, robust analytics, and easy integration with your existing systems. It's also crucial to choose an ESP that can scale with your business. Dream big!

There are transactional email providers for people who want a dedicated tool. These services were built with this single focus in mind. 

On the other hand, you can use beehiiv’s automation features, taking advantage of its best-in-class deliverability and analytics. beehiiv also supports integrations with other automation software you may use. 

2. Maintain a Strong Domain Reputation

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

Your domain reputation plays a significant role in whether your emails reach your customers' inboxes or get trapped in spam filters. Maintaining a strong reputation involves consistently following email deliverability best practices, such as not sending to unengaged recipients and promptly removing hard bounces.

3. Use an Identifiable Brand Address and Avoid a Noreply@ Address 

The 'From' address is the first thing your customers see when they receive an email. It should clearly identify your brand to avoid confusion or suspicion. 

Use a professional address rather than a generic one from services such as Gmail or Yahoo. The address should include your company's domain name. It looks more professional and helps your emails land in inboxes rather than spam folders.

The 'Reply-to' address should be recognizable and go to a monitored mailbox set up to handle customer responses. While 'noreply' addresses might seem convenient, they send the wrong message. Show customers that you value their feedback and want to engage with them. 

4. Implement Email Authentication and Security Protocols

Email security protocols protect your brand and customers from phishing and spoofing attacks. They also help improve your deliverability by proving to internet service providers that your emails are legitimate.

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

Maintain compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act and any other legal requirements that apply. These regulations apply to transactional email best practices as well as promotional email.

For instance, you must clearly identify yourself as the sender and include your physical postal address. You also need to provide a properly formatted plain text version. This ensures that all recipients can read your message, regardless of their email client or settings.

6. Make It Easy for People To Manage Their Email Preferences

While many transactional emails are not subscription-based, you should still give your customers control over their email preferences. This includes allowing them to easily opt out of certain types of emails or all emails altogether.

Allowing customers to manage their subscriptions complies with email laws and enhances customer experience and trust. You want to show respect for a customer’s inbox and time.

7. Personalize Your Emails

In today's digital age, personalization is a necessity, not a luxury. Customers expect tailored experiences across all channels.

Personalizing your transactional emails transforms them from generic notifications into meaningful interactions. This could be as simple as addressing recipients by their first name or tailoring content based on their behavior or preferences. 

8. Keep Subject Lines and Pre-Headers Clear and Concise

Strong subject lines can make or break your emails. For transactional communications, less is more. 

Keep your subject lines clear and concise. They should accurately reflect the email's content and convey its importance to the recipient. Avoid using all caps or excessive punctuation, as these can trigger spam filters.

9. Include Essential Details

Adopt a minimalist approach to the body of the email, too. 

Transactional emails are all about conveying important information. Be clear and comprehensive without overwhelming your customers with unnecessary details.

For instance, an order confirmation email should include the items ordered, total cost, shipping address, estimated delivery date, and an order number for reference.

If you have multiple points, consider using bullet points to make information more digestible. 

10. Send Emails Promptly

Timing is everything when it comes to transactional emails. These emails are triggered by specific actions taken by the user, so it's crucial to send them promptly while the action is still fresh in the recipient's mind.

Whether it's an order confirmation, account activation, or password reset email, immediate delivery reassures your customers that their action has been acknowledged and processed. 

Transactional emails often require the recipient to take further action, such as confirming an account, tracking a shipment, or resetting a password. Including relevant links in your emails makes it easy for your customers to complete these actions.

Make sure your links are clear, correct, conspicuous, and clickable. 

12. Gather Valuable Feedback

Including a feedback section in your transactional emails can provide invaluable insights into your customers' experiences. 

In addition to guiding future improvements and showing customers that you value their opinions, transactional emails are a great place to solicit ever-important reviews. 

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

In this follow-up email, Everlane provides a direct link to allow customers to review their purchases with ease.

Include links to your social media accounts and website, so that new fans know where else to find you. While your newsletter publications should be distinct from transactional emails, you can give recipients an easy link to your sign-up form, growing your list.

14. Use Transactional Emails for Cross-Selling

While the primary purpose of transactional emails is to relay important information, they can also serve as a marketing tool.

Consider including dynamic email content for cross-selling or upselling. For example, in an order confirmation email, you could recommend products that complement the customer's purchase. 

Be subtle. Remember, the goal is to enhance the customer experience and add value, not to push for a sale. If done correctly, this approach can increase both customer engagement and revenue.

15. Prioritize Mobile-Friendly Design

With more and more people checking their emails on mobile devices, a mobile-friendly design is no longer optional—it's a necessity.

Ensure that your transactional emails look great and function well on all devices. This means using a responsive design that automatically adjusts to the screen size, whether it's a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

Also, remember that mobile screens are smaller, so keep your content concise, your layout simple, and your call-to-action buttons large enough to be easily tapped.

16. Include a Clear Call-to-Action

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

Every email should have a strong, visible CTA. Your CTA guides your customers on what to do next, whether it's confirming their email address, tracking their order, or leaving a review.

Make your CTA stand out with a contrasting color and keep your CTA text clear and concise. A good rule of thumb is to make your CTA an action phrase that tells the recipient exactly what they should do and what they'll get.

17. Maintain Brand Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to brand recognition. Your transactional emails are an extension of your brand, and they should reflect the same look and feel as your other business communications.

Customize your ESP’s templates to maintain consistency in your email design, tone of voice, and messaging. Use your brand's colors, fonts, and logo to create a seamless experience for your customers. This helps reinforce your brand identity and build a stronger connection with your audience.

18. Test Your Emails

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

Email testing is as much a part of transactional email best practices as promotional ones. Even minor mistakes can undermine your credibility and impact your customer's experience. 

Check for typos and grammatical errors, ensure that all links work correctly, and verify that your email displays properly on different devices and clients. 

You can also try out different subject lines, content formats, and call-to-actions to see what resonates best with your audience.

19. Always Say "Thank You"

Never underestimate the power of saying "thank you." 

Include a sincere thank you message in your transactional emails. Whether it's thanking a customer for their purchase, their feedback, or simply for being part of your community, this small gesture can make a big difference.

It's not just about good manners—it's also about showing your customers that you appreciate them and value their engagement with your brand.

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

Chrome Industries follows multiple transactional email best practices in the above email. They say thank you, provide a clear link to the order, and use the message to encourage customers to follow them on Instagram.

20. Monitor Your Performance

Transactional Email Best Practices: Make Ordinary Messages Extraordinary

You can't improve what you don't measure. Monitoring email marketing metrics is key to understanding what works and what doesn't.

Track metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates to gauge the effectiveness of your emails. Pay attention to any patterns or trends, and then optimize based on your discoveries.

Getting Started With Transactional Emails on beehiiv 

Each time you send out a confirmation or password reset email, it's not just a notification — it's an opportunity. By following transactional email best practices, you can connect with your customers, build trust, and reinforce your brand identity.

After you’ve chosen an ESP that suits your business needs and price, determine what types of transactional emails your business needs. Do you need to automate order confirmations or password resets? What other customer interactions require an email?

Remember, transactional emails are more than just notifications—they're an opportunity to engage your customers and enhance their journeys. Help them move from brand experience to brand recall and become their go-to solution for whatever you offer.

Why Trust Us

Trust us because we've been where you are. beehiiv has built the ultimate platform for marketers and creators, one that can handle transactional as well as promotional emails. As for me, I’m a digital marketing specialist with a focus on email and long-form content and am committed to helping you succeed.

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