10 Things You Should Know about Transactional Emails

Posted by Josh Weissburg on Feb 16, 2015


At Outbound, we are about helping web and app-based companies engage with their users based on what their users do. We believe trigger-based messages that remember what actions your users have already taken are more effective than mass messaging that lacks any personalization.

Trigger-based messages come in many flavors, but let's talk about the foundation: transactional email. A few years ago, Sendgrid released a study on transactional email, and they found that this kind of message is one of the driving forces behind successful web businesses:

  • 45% of all user actions in a web application trigger a transactional email;
  • 90% of those web apps said transactional email is important for customer retention;
  • 79% of respondents said that transactional email is important for customer acquisition.

What is a transactional email? Generally, it refers to those follow-up emails you send with a customer receipt, password reset prompt, signup confirmation, notifications, updates, etc. Most are based on a user action – they were using your app and did something to warrant a follow-up email from your company. The problem with many transactional emails is they are BORING and a complete waste of an opportunity.

The best part of transactional emails is the opening they provide for you to further engage with your user when that person is already happy and expecting a response from you. They’ve already expressed an interest in you by going to your site or downloading your app. When done right, transactional email feels to your users like leaving someone a message and anticipating a return call. They want it, they expect it and they are generally pleased when they get it. You can’t say that about most marketing emails that end up in the junk or deleted folders.

So USE that opportunity!

Transactional emails are generally the best way for web and app companies to communicate with their users, grow their customer base, drive revenue, and spur ongoing engagement. They are yet another face of your business and should reflect the energy and flavor of your brand.

There are a few key things to keep in mind:

  1. Give recipients the information they are expecting up front. Don't force readers to wade through your email to find it. Deliver a payoff quickly.
  2. When your users are on your website or app and take the action that triggers a transactional email (a purchase, a sign up, a download, etc), tell them to expect an email from you.They’ll be watching their inbox for your email instead of deleting it with the rest of the junk they get.
  3. Be sure the email you send comes from a recognizable company address, not an impersonal “do-not-reply” address. (Replies are the best way to get quick, direct feedback!)
  4. Craft the subject line so that it tells the user the exact intent of the email so they don’t hit “delete.” Remember, they are waiting for a response so let them know at a glance that you are following up on their action.
  5. The body of the email should include your company logo and any visuals that reinfoce the message of the email, not just plain, boring text. You work hard to make your site and app look great so don’t skimp on your emails. IT or Sales should NOT be designing these emails. Give them some design love.
  6. If the purpose of the email is to educate your user, include a section with FAQs and links to your site that relate to the trigger action. That way the user gets real value out of the email and is more likely to return to your site or app to learn more.
  7. Since your customer might have a question, make it easy for the recipient to get problems solved by including one-click buttons to support/customer service or billing.
  8. If it fits with the goal of the email, use the opportunity to upsell by including a small section of products/services they may want to check out based on what they’ve already purchased or indicated an interest.
  9. If the purpose is to gather feedback, include links for them to complete a survey, refer your app, connect via social media, subscribe to emails, and update personal information.
  10. End the email with a personal salutation that makes the recipient feel appreciated. Leave on a high note.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the elements your emails can include, it’s time to automate them. Manually generating emails or using basic online email marketing programs is labor intensive, often leaves out large segments of your audience and makes it difficult to track success.

Outbound takes all of the guesswork out of trigger-based messaging by enabling the user to drag-and-drop user data to customize each message, conduct A/B content and channel tests, customize notifications based on the device each user prefers – and all without the need to engage engineering to write code. We make it simple to speak to each customer based on what they have done (or not done).

Next time you open a transactional email from a brand you admire and take it in, ask yourself: how could you be building customer relationships with your own business in the same way?



Topics: Triggered messages