There is a difference between a marketing email and a transactional email; both have their specific strategies, functions, and objectives. If you have an eCommerce website, you likely use both as part of your email marketing strategy. It is easy to prioritize marketing emails, but you should not forget the importance of transactional emails.

Differences between a marketing email and a transactional email

Hopefully, by the end of the article, you should be able to know the differences between a marketing email and a transactional email and identify when it is best to use each of them. In addition to this, you will also be able to know the benefits of each one.

What is a marketing email?

This type of email has numerous objectives, which include engagement, list building, brand awareness, and conversions. From month to month, you will have to change your strategy to ensure that you adapt to the changing behavior of your subscribers. Additionally, you will also have to change as your list is growing bigger constantly.

A marketing email will include information about product updates, newsletter and event invites. To know what your customers want from you, you are required to gather data and do a variety of tests such as:

• Subject line testing

• A/B testing

• Placement of CTA

In addition to this, they can also have special features such as welcome messages. Of course, if the marketing is not right, it can do more damage than good. Hence, a marketer must be ready to develop new strategies that will also have a positive impact on ROI.

What is a transactional email?

A transactional email is a one-to-one email that contains information about a transaction or process a customer has started with you. It may include content such as information about an order and shipping, opt-in emails, password resets, and follow-ups. They are mainly automated and sent out by a system trigger. However, if you do not update the content frequently, you are neglecting its efficiency.

Take a look at the examples below:

Transactional Email example
Transactional Email example

Due to the critical content in these emails, they are the most engaging emails that a company can send. Studies show that compared to other emails, transactional emails have 8 times more opens and can generate 6 times more  revenue. Hence, this email increases engagement, potentially your conversion rates, and improves sender reputation.

Furthermore, transactional emails do not require to have an unsubscribe button, so you eliminate the possibility of the user unsubscribing from the list. Nonetheless, if you care about business ethics, you can choose to add such a button. This will give users the impression that you are customer-oriented.

Transactional Emails: Best Practices

If you have never designed such an email before you should know that there are specific unwritten rules that you should consider. Firstly, it shouldn’t have any marketing content such as promotional offers. This is because you’re informing people of something they need to know, therefore there is no point distracting them with offers.

Similarly, to marketing campaigns, you should avoid using “no-reply” addresses. This will make the user believe that you are a robot rather than a company that cares about their customers. However, it is essential to add contact information for the customers to reach you in case there is a problem.

Perhaps, the most significant difference between the two types of emails is the subject lines. For marketing emails, you can use descriptive subject lines and often personalize them. On the other hand, when it comes to transactional emails, the subject line should be able to tell the customer exactly what is in the content. Furthermore, you are also required to use key information in the subject line, such as:

• “Payment received.”

• “Order has been shipped.”

• “Your order is with the local carrier.”

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you should monitor the delivery rates, open rates, and bounces. If these metrics are unfavorable, you should consider analyzing your sender reputation.

Differences between a marketing email and a transactional email: what not to do

Nonetheless, it is essential to realize that your customers want personalized emails that belong to marketing emails. For example, without a campaign that tells your customers about offers and product updates, they would not place an order. Hence, one cannot survive without the other.

Another factor that you should consider is that a little goes a long way. Hence, you should avoid sending your customers many messages every week. Once a customer believes that you are spamming them with promotional campaigns, it is more likely that they will unsubscribe. Thus, you should focus on sending relevant emails with new information to prevent users from opting out.

The main idea is that you should offer value whenever you send a campaign. You should also consider the layout of the email, such as:

• Whether the images are loading

• The most popular devices used to read your campaigns

• Quality of the content

The best way to get the information across is by having plain text rather than descriptive. Therefore, the user will have to figure out the reason behind the email within seconds from opening the email.

According to the United States’ CAN-SPAM Act, transactional emails are made to “facilitate an already agreed-upon transaction or updates for a customer about an ongoing transaction.” However, you may have seen that some businesses use this email, but they still add promotional content. The law isn’t against it, but there are two rules that you should remember. The first being that the subject line must lead the customer into thinking that this specific email is transactional and the promotional content must be at the bottom.