Transactional emails are central to a host of ecommerce tasks. They enable retailers to efficiently send customers order updates, re-engage visitors that have abandoned their carts, and process technical issues like password resets and new account confirmation

Yet most online retailers don’t pay much attention to transactional emails. They view them as a necessary but unimportant part of running an ecommerce store.

This is a big mistake. Despite widespread belief to the contrary, transactional emails present many opportunities. When you consider the fact that they have a six times higher open rate than other types of emails, and that some formats boast a conversion rate of nearly 20%, the possibilities become clear.

What’s more, buyers have come to expect certain transactional emails as an essential part of the shopping experience. Overlooking them can have negative consequences, causing frustration and confusion among both existing and new customers.

In this post, we’re going to look at the main types of transactional emails and provide you with actionable tips for improving them, leading to higher engagement, conversions, and revenue.

What will you find in this article?

What Are Transactional Ecommerce Emails?
Example #1: Cart Abandonment Emails
Example #2: Order Confirmation Emails
Example #3: Shipping Update Emails
Example #4: “Leave a Review” Emails
Example #5: Welcome Emails
Example #6: Technical Emails
Conclusion

Sounds good? Let’s dive in.

What Are Transactional Ecommerce Emails?

Generally speaking, ecommerce emails fall into one of two categories: marketing emails and transactional emails.

In a nutshell, transactional emails communicate information about a transaction.

They are unique to the recipient and only one person will receive the email, unlike marketing broadcasts. Furthermore, transactional emails are triggered by the action of the recipient, like adding a product to their cart or opening an account.

Order confirmation emails, delivery updates, and requests for a product review are all examples of transactional emails.

That said, the boundary between marketing and transactional emails isn’t always clear. Cart abandonment emails, for example, are highly personalized emails related to specific transactions. But they can also be described as marketing emails (and mighty powerful ones at that). Password reset emails, on the other hand, fall exclusively into the transactional category.

If you’re in any doubt, just remember the three criteria described above: transactional emails relate to a transaction, they’re highly personal, and they are triggered by a specific action.

Ok, onto the examples…

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Example #1: Cart Abandonment Emails

Cart abandonment emails are sent after a visitor abandons their cart. The aim is to encourage them to complete the original purchase. These emails usually include a reminder, along with images and descriptions of the products.

Dyson and their cart abandonment email

 Dyson reminds customers of the additional benefits they’ll receive and provides an option to chat directly with an expert. Note how visible the CTA is.

Out of every 100 customers that add a product to their cart, 70 will leave your site without completing the purchase. It’s essential to reduce cart and checkout abandonment as much as you possibly can. And transactional emails are an integral part of this process.

How to Improve Cart Abandonment Emails

Here’s what you can do to boost the effectiveness of your cart abandonment emails:

  • Include a clear CTA – Recipients must be in no doubt about where to click to pick up where they left off. The call-to-action should be clear and simple. If you’re opting for a button as opposed to a link, use a color that stands out from the rest of the page. The text should be straightforward. Examples like “Return to Cart” or “Complete Your Purchase” work well.
  • Reiterate benefits – If you offer additional benefits as part of your value proposition (like free shipping) then say so in the email.

Rudy's with their cart abandonment email
 Rudy’s reiterates its offer of free shipping and builds urgency by adding a time-limit.

  • Remind customers about how fantastic products are by including reviews – If an item has lots of positive reviews, show an average star rating in the email along with one or two of the best examples.
  • Send abandoned cart emails at the right time – when a customer abandons their cart, you don’t have long to win them back. You need to send the first cart abandonment emaill within two hours.
  • Include a discount if possible or re-emphasize any existing discounts – If it’s feasible, include a discount or offer – two for one, free delivery, free complimentary item, etc. – to incentivize customers to complete the purchase.

Oh, and make sure you ask for customer emails as soon as possible – via a pop-up when they land on your site and at the beginning of the checkout process – so you can actually get in touch with them!

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Example #2: Order Confirmation Emails

Order confirmation emails are sent immediately after a customer successfully makes a purchase. Their main purpose is to let customers know that the order has been placed and to reiterate important details like the delivery date and order number (in case of any problems).

It’s common practice for retailers to send order confirmation emails. In many cases, they will also act as a legally-required receipt.

Fitbit and their order confirmation email
 Fitbit confirms all major details of the purchase and provides a link for customers to track their order.

The best approach with order confirmation emails is almost always simplicity. While there is the opportunity for promotion, technical order details should take priority. Most recipients just want to double-check that all their… Click To Tweet

How to Improve Order Confirmation Emails

Here’s how to make the most of order confirmation emails:

  • Show upsells and cross-sells – The key here is to ensure that any subsequent orders placed will be shipped with the original order.
  • Offer a referral incentive to customers – The fact that customers have made a purchase usually means that they like your store. Now is the perfect opportunity to ask them for a referral.

Postmates with their order confirmation email
Postmates offers a $100 delivery voucher in exchange for a referral.

  • Confirm delivery times and prices to allay customer doubts – Many customers will refer to their order confirmation email to dispel doubts about pricing and delivery times. Include these essential pieces of information.

Finally, reiterate any discounts on the cart and checkout pages, thus eradicating customer doubt.

Example #3: Shipping Update Emails

Delivery emails keep customers updated about the status of their order. The ability to track packages is very important to customers, so it’s essential that you utilize these types of emails.

Most commonly, delivery emails are sent when a product leaves the warehouse and on the day it’s due to arrive.

Filter Easy and their shipping update email
Filter Easy offers a $10 credit in exchange for a referral.

Fundamentally, shipping update emails are about boosting customer satisfaction rather than driving sales. There are promotional opportunities, but it’s essential to prioritize technical details first – the status of delivery, order number, expected arrival time, and shipping address.

How to Improve Shipping Update Emails

Here are some practical tips for creating engaging delivery update emails:

  • Don’t send too many updates – Most customers don’t need to know the exact status of their package every second of the day. One email when the product is shipped and one, when it’s delivered, is usually enough.
  • Offer more detailed tracking options – Include a link to a more detailed tracking page or app so customers have the option to follow the specific movements of their package if they wish.
  • Promote other products at the end of the email – Show product suggestions or referral incentives at the bottom of the email after the primary information.

Example #4: “Leave a Review” Emails

Customer feedback emails are sent after a customer has received their product, usually when enough time has elapsed for them to use it.

Etsy and their "Leave a review" email
Etsy provides a persuasive reason for customers to leave a review.
Feedback emails are excellent tools because they enable you to gather reviews, which have a direct impact on conversions, in a cost-effective way.

How to Improve “Leave a Review” Emails

Increase the conversion rate of your review/testimonial emails with the following tips:

  • Offer an incentive to customers – Studies show that incentives boost email conversion rates by nearly 20%. One great way to encourage customers to leave reviews without the need to allocate resources for freebies or large discounts is by entering them into a prize draw on completion of the review.
  • Make the review process simple and communicate this in the email – Many customers will be hesitant to undertake the review process because they’ll assume that there are lots of steps involved. Let customers know it won’t take long and keep the review form straightforward and concise when they do click through.
  • Don’t forget to let customers know when people are reading their reviews – Send emails to inform customers that their reviews are being read. This strategy is excellent for building engagement (everybody loves attention) and incentivizing recipients to respond to future requests.

Trip Advisor and their "People have read your review" email
TripAdvisor lets customers know that their thoughts and feedback are appreciated. (Source)

  • Show a prompt to re-purchase if a product has a set shelf-life – Include a link to purchase the product again if it’s something that a customer is likely to have consumed and need. Apply this strategy to items like office supplies, beauty products, food, etc.

Example #5: Welcome Emails

When a customer sets up an account with your online store or subscribes to your mailing list, they’ll receive a welcome email.

Light offering a discount in its welcome email

Light offering a discount in its welcome email
Light offers customers a 15% discount in its welcome email.
These emails, with the exception of an initial account confirmation email, will often be the first that customers receive from you. Because of this, they represent the perfect opportunity to make a positive impression and encourage a first or second purchase.

How to Improve Welcome Emails

Here’s what to do to engage customers and prompt them to make a purchase in welcome emails:

  • Offer a sign-up discount or offer – Build initial engagement by giving customers a discount or special offer.
  • Tell your story – Welcome emails are a superb chance to communicate your value proposition and connect with customers through your history, values, and the unique extra benefits (free shipping, industry-leading customer service, price guarantees, etc.) you offer. Just keep one important rule in mind: don’t bore the pants off them.

Casper communicating their value proposition
Casper communicates its value proposition in a concise and visually-appealing way.

  • Showcase your best products – Use your welcome email to showcase your best products and bestsellers. Without any personal information about your new members, these are the items they’re most likely to connect with.

 

Barnes and Noble with their welcome email
Barnes and Noble with their welcome email

Barnes and Noble gives new customers a taste of its most popular products.

Example #6: Technical Emails

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Examples of technical emails are password recovery emails, acknowledgments from customer service that a question has been received, two-step account verification, mailing list opt-out confirmation, and so on.

Verve Wine with their password recovery email
Verve Wine keeps its password recovery email friendly and to-the-point.

How to Improve Technical Emails

Keep the following tips in mind when creating technical emails:

  • Don’t try to sell anything – Keep the email short and straightforward to avoid customer frustration. You can lose customers if you make it too difficult to complete simple tasks.
  • Make everything ultra-clear – Technical emails usually prompt recipients to take one action. Make emails as easy-to-understand as possible to avoid any confusion.
  • Test variations – Because technical emails have a single, clear intended outcome, it’s easy to test changes and see which perform best.

Conclusion

Getting it right with ecommerce transactional emails can lead to a big boost in sales.

Most retailers miss the opportunities because they’re not obvious. But lots of small changes can add up to significant revenue gains. It’s always crucial to remember that engagement for these types of emails is far higher than most marketing emails.

Finally, don’t forget to test alternatives. Because transactional emails have such a high open-rate, they’re ideal for experimenting with. Virtually all email marketing apps now offer a split-testing platform. So take advantage of it.

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