The open rate for transactional emails is nearly 50%, six times higher than any other type of email.

Despite this, retailers often overlook the marketing opportunities that transactional emails present. Or they simply don’t allocate enough time and resources to their transactional email strategy.

The truth is that transactional emails are one of the most effective marketing weapons in your ecommerce arsenal. Leveraged effectively, transactional emails can boost your sales and revenue significantly.

In this post, we’re going to show you how to get the most out of transactional emails. All of the tips are straightforward and easy to implement. We’ll also define key terms and concepts.

What will you find in this article?

What Are Transactional Emails and Why Send Them?
A Quick Rundown of the Transactional Email You MUST Send
9 Tips for Boosting Sales With Transactional Email Marketing
1. Retarget Customers
2. Pitch Cross-Sells and Upsells
3. Tell Potential Customers About Your Best Products
4. Include One Primary CTA Along With Clearly Visible Secondary CTAs
5. Keep Banging On About Additional Benefits
6. Include offers, vouchers, and discounts
7. Encourage Referrals With Incentives
8. Don’t Overdo It
9. Keep Things Straightforward
Conclusion

Sounds good? Let’s dive in.

What Are Transactional Emails and Why Send Them?

Transactional emails are automated and personalized emails related to a transaction or specific behavior.

While transactional emails are virtually always unique to the recipient, it’s important to remember that they follow a set template. When a user undertakes a relevant action, a transactional email is automatically created and sent.

Transactional emails are ubiquitous. Anybody that's shopped online will have received at least one. They're an integral and expected part of the ecommerce journey. Click To Tweet

Common types of transactional emails include order confirmation emails, shipping updates, and welcome emails.

So why send them?

There are many reasons. On one level, transactional emails are essential from a user experience perspective. Customers can’t complete basic tasks, like recover their password or check the delivery status of their item, without them.

Transactional emails are also necessary for customer satisfaction beyond the bare-bones basics. They keep users informed and updated about what’s going on and build engagement over the longer-term. Welcome emails, for example, are great for kickstarting relationships with new customers.

Finally, transactional emails are excellent marketing tools. Abandoned cart emails, sent when a user adds an item to their basket but leaves before completing the purchase, have a conversion rate of around 10%.

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A Quick Rundown of the Transactional Email You MUST Send

There are a handful of essential transactional emails. Some are optional, like emails wishing your customers happy birthday and thanking them for leaving a review, but the types listed below are non-negotiable.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Cart abandonment emails – Cart abandonment emails are among the most effective types of marketing emails. 75% of ecommerce customers abandon their cart without making a purchase. That’s a huge chunk of potential customers that have expressed a motivation to buy and about whom you have data for retargeting purposes. Cart abandonment emails convert at around 10%.
  • Order confirmation emails -Order confirmation emails are sent after a customer successfully makes a purchase, acting as legally-binding receipts and an opportunity for recipients to check items and delivery details. Order confirmation emails are an excellent opportunity for retailers to suggest related and complementary products that can be added to the same delivery.
  • Shipping update emails – Shipping updates keep recipients notified about the delivery status of their items. Most retailers send two shipping updates, one when the item has been dispatched and one when it’s due to be delivered. A link to a more detailed tracking page, that allows customers to track every movement of their package, should be provided if the service is available.
  • “Leave a Review” emails – Feedback emails are usually sent a few days after a customer has successfully received their order. It’s important to give recipients enough time to use their item but also to reach out when the purchase is still fresh in their mind. Incentives are effective at boosting conversion rates. Consider offering a discount voucher in exchange for a review or the opportunity to enter a prize draw.
  • Welcome emails – When a customer subscribes to your email list, opens an account, or makes their first purchase, they’ll receive a welcome email. Welcome emails should communicate the value proposition of your ecommerce store and encourage recipients to make a first or second purchase by offering an incentive like a discount voucher.
  • Technical Emails – Technical emails enable recipients to complete technical tasks like recovering their password, updating card details, or verifying subscription to a mailing list. Generally speaking, technical emails shouldn’t include any marketing content. They should be straightforward and simple to limit any frustration on the part of recipients.

If you want to learn more, check out our in-depth post about transactional emails, including templates and examples. You might also be interested in understanding the differences between transactional, promotional, and marketing emails.

9 Tips for Boosting Sales With Transactional Email Marketing

There are no hard and fast rules about which types of transactional emails the tips below apply to. Once you’re familiar with the different transactional emails and their intended outcomes, use your judgment to decide where optimization opportunities lie. Suggestions have been given for each tip.

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1. Retarget Customers

Send customers product suggestions based on past behavior. Cart abandonment emails are among the most successful retargeting emails, but there are other possibilities too.

When sending order-confirmation emails, for example, related products that customers have viewed in the same session should take precedence. Customers should be told that they can add these products to the order for delivery at the same time.

Beardbrand creates urgency by telling customers that their cart will expire soon.
Beardbrand creates urgency by telling customers that their cart will expire soon.
If customers have directly expressed interest in products by saving them for later or adding them to their wishlist, showcase them in transactional emails.

Where to implement this tip: cart abandonment emails, welcome emails, and order confirmation emails.

2. Pitch Cross-Sells and Upsells

Cross-sells and upsells are effective because they’re aimed at customers that have already expressed an interest in the types of products you’re suggesting, along with a willingness to buy.

And because transactional emails often relate to purchases, they’re the perfect opportunity to pitch related, complementary, and upgraded products. You’re also reaching customers when they’re ready to part with their hard-earned money. They’ve moved past the research and decision-making stages of the purchase process.

Dollar Shave Club sends transactional emails updating recipients about the delivery date for their next box. The bulk of the content, however, is dedicated to cross-selling complementary items.
Dollar Shave Club sends transactional emails updating recipients about the delivery date for their next box. The bulk of the content, however, is dedicated to cross-selling complementary items.
Let customers know about higher-end models, upgraded features, and complementary items after the main content in order confirmation emails and shipping update emails.

Where to implement this tip: order confirmation emails (for upsells), cart abandonment emails, shipping update emails.

3. Tell Potential Customers About Your Best Products

Sometimes it’s not possible to send potential customers tailored product suggestions. Retargeting (along with upselling and cross-selling) relies on data collected about customers.

In the vast majority of cases, you won’t have any information about new customers and subscribers.

In this case, highlight your bestsellers. Any segmentation information is also invaluable. If you asked for a new subscriber’s location, gender, or interests during the sign-up process, use this information to pitch them tailored offers.
Methodical coffee tells customers about "crowd favorites".
Methodical coffee tells customers about “crowd favorites”.
This tip will apply most-commonly to welcome emails because with other transactional emails you will have at least some personal data.

Where to implement this tip: welcome emails.

4. Include One Primary CTA Along With Clearly Visible Secondary CTAs

Include one primary CTA on transactional emails so that customers know exactly where to click.

This is a simple but hugely important tip. Most recipients will scan their emails. They’re not going to dedicate hours of attention, no matter the quality of your content.

Hiding links in walls of text, or including multiple links, will confuse and irritate readers. The result? Your email goes straight to the garbage bin.

That said, there is an important caveat.

In transactional emails, promotional materials are usually included after the main content. If you’re sending a shipping update, for example, the main CTA will be to a more detailed tracking page. Product suggestions will come after this content.
Filter Easy shows a clear link to a tracking page in its order update emails. The secondary CTA, prompting recipients to refer their friends, is also obvious.
Filter Easy shows a clear link to a tracking page in its order update emails. The secondary CTA, prompting recipients to refer their friends, is also obvious.
So you will need to show secondary CTAs, perhaps alongside multiple product images. The key here is to make this content scannable. Ensure all secondary CTAs use a bright color that contrasts with the rest of the email content along with simple, straightforward text like “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart.

Where to implement this tip: all emails.

5. Keep Banging On About Additional Benefits

Let customers know about your broader value proposition, the set of benefits that make up your “whole package”.

Be vocal about additional extras like free shipping, free returns, warranties, customer service, etc. You’ll encourage customers to buy while also creating positive brand associations.
Apto Skincare outlines its value proposition - clean, budget-friendly, and cruelty-free - in its welcome emails.
Apto Skincare outlines its value proposition – clean, budget-friendly, and cruelty-free – in its welcome emails.
Because you’ll likely send multiple transactional emails over the course of a typical customer’s lifetime, and because most will open and read them, they’re the perfect opportunity to incrementally build a positive perception of your brand.

Where to implement this tip: welcome emails and cart abandonment emails.

6. Include offers, vouchers, and discounts

Include tailored offers, coupons, discounts, and other incentives in transactional emails. Tie these offers to the activity that triggered the transactional email in the first place.

Doing so will make offers more relevant to customers. It will also create the feeling that rewards have been “earned”.

Here are some examples:

  • First purchase discount in welcome emails.
  • Discount for completing a purchase in abandoned cart emails.

Saatchi Art offers a 10% discount for customers that have abandoned their cart.
Saatchi Art offers a 10% discount for customers that have abandoned their cart.

  • Discounts for second, third, fourth purchases, etc. in order confirmation emails.
  • Discount or voucher for referrals in feedback emails.
  • Win-back discounts for inactive customers.

Where to implement this tip: welcome emails, cart abandonment emails, win-back emails, shipping update emails.

7. Encourage Referrals With Incentives

Include referral incentives in relevant transactional emails. Emails are an excellent place to encourage referrals because recipients just have to forward an offer or code to their friends.

Generally speaking, feedback emails (and emails thanking recipients for feedback) are the perfect opportunity to ask for referrals. Recipients that are willing to leave a review are also likely to suggest your store to friends.
Tictail offers 10% off any order in exchange for a referral.
Tictail offers 10% off any order in exchange for a referral.
For many retailers, it’s feasible to offer significant discounts or vouchers in exchange for a referral. The average cost-per-customer-acquisition can run into hundreds of dollars for some industries. What’s more, referral customers tend to be loyal and eager to make purchases.

Where to implement this tip: “Leave A Review” emails, shipping update emails, and welcome emails.

8. Don’t Overdo It

Here’s a simple tip: don’t overdo it.

Research shows that sending too many emails negatively impacts click-through rates.

How many cart abandonment emails (for the same cart) do you send? How many times do you ask customers to leave a review? Are you sending too many shipping updates? There are no hard-and-fast rules about the perfect number of transactional to send. Testing is key.

Where to implement this tip: Cart abandonment emails, shipping update emails, and “Leave A Review Emails”.

9. Keep Things Straightforward

Transactional emails usually have one primary goal, whether it’s to inform recipients of their shipping status or help them recover this password. For this reason, they should be as straightforward as possible.
VSCO keeps its password recovery emails short and straightforward.
VSCO keeps its password recovery emails short and straightforward.
For some types of transactional emails, like technical emails, there shouldn’t be any advertising at all. Customers receive these emails to complete a single task. Confusing the process in any way can lead to frustration.

Where to implement this tip: Order confirmation emails, shipping emails, and technical emails.

Conclusion

For most retailers, transactional emails are a massively under-leveraged opportunity. And just a few simple tweaks can have a significant impact on sales.

But there’s an important point to keep in mind.

Testing is the key. The best way to develop high-converting, sales-driving transactional emails is by experimenting with different templates, offers, subject lines, product suggestions, CTAs, and so on.

Fortunately, email is one of the easiest marketing channels to test.

So, time to implement the tips above and start your first A/B test.

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