what is a transactional email

Transactional emails are a type of automated email that gets sent after a triggered event occurs. This trigger event is typically a real-time action your customer performs on your application or website. These emails have become a major part of how companies communicate with their customers, particularly in e-commerce and online services.

Have you ever requested to change your password or ordered something online? Chances are you got an email in your inbox within seconds. Unlike marketing messages sent in bulk, transactional emails are personalized and typically sent to individuals one at a time.

Transactional emails are often overlooked but are crucial in engaging with your customers and building trust for your business. Imagine ordering a $2,000 laptop online and receiving no confirmation email afterward. No receipt, no order confirmation, no shipping information, nothing. You’ll soon wonder if you’ve fallen victim to a scam. Was the site even legitimate? Panic sets in. Even if your laptop gets delivered the next week, you’ll likely take your business elsewhere in the future.

Transactional Emails vs Marketing Emails

Type. Transactional emails are automated emails sent after a trigger event occurs. On the other hand, marketing emails are typically sent in bulk to multiple recipients on a contact list. These emails are sent whenever necessary and are not automatically triggered.

Purpose. Transactional emails relay unique and vital information for the customer based on a specific action or event. On the other hand, marketing emails promote particular services, products, or content to multiple recipients at once.

Consent. In most cases, you do not need prior permission to send transactional emails, whereas you typically must obtain customer consent to send marketing emails. Make sure you stay compliant with the rules and regulations of your country and those of your recipients. Your recipients should be able to unsubscribe from promotional transactional emails, such as abandoned cart emails, where you aim to increase revenue.

Tip: Email engagement can impact deliverability. Because marketing emails tend to have lower engagement rates than transactional emails, Google recommends separating transactional and marketing emails. This way, you ensure your recipients receive crucial information. You can do this by using separate email addresses for each type of email or by sending from different domains and IP addresses.

Examples of Transactional Emails

Receipts and confirmations. The most common types of transactional emails are receipts and confirmations. They occur after purchases, hence why they are transactional emails. Downloadable goods and product keys are typically sent digitally along with the email receipt. Just keep in mind that confirmation emails aren’t just for monetary transactions. For example, registering a free account or RSVPing for an event typically triggers a confirmation email as well. This gives you the relief of knowing your registration was successful.

Shipping notifications. Shipping notifications let customers know their purchase is on its way, giving them peace of mind. This can help reduce the number of questions your support team receives drastically. For bonus points, add tracking information, so customers know exactly when to expect their purchase. People are more patient and understanding when knowing exactly how long they have to wait and why.

Support requests. Let your customers know they are being heard. Communication is key to a satisfied customer. If a customer submits a support request, immediately give them a confirmation that it’s been received and that you’re working to resolve the issue. Support emails also let you quickly notify a customer when you reply and allow you to ask them for feedback once their ticket has been resolved. This lets you continuously receive feedback and improve the support you offer.

Behavioral emails. Shifting from customer satisfaction to increasing revenue, behavioral emails are some of the more marketing-focused transactional emails. Users will receive emails after they achieve milestones or meet certain conditions. For example, if a customer’s subscription is running out, send them a reminder to renew it. If they don’t renew it, send them a discount after a few months if they renew it now. These behavioral email flows can get as lengthy and complicated as you’d like to make them.

Abandoned cart emails are also a popular example of behavioral email. When customers fill their cart but don’t finish checking out, they’ll receive an automated email anywhere from an hour to a few days afterward. This email will remind them they haven’t completed their purchase, give them a quick way to navigate back to their cart, and potentially give them a promotion code to incentivize completing the order. These emails, although sometimes perceived as annoying, manage to recover a lot of otherwise lost revenue.

Re-engagement emails are an effective way to retain customers. For example, if a customer hasn’t used your application in quite a while or if they haven’t been engaging with your emails, you can nudge them with a re-engagement email. This way, you encourage them to use the app, or you can use it to filter active and inactive contacts.


From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, transactional emails are the backbone of your customer communications. They help both businesses and customers, increase revenue, boost engagement, and save your support team a lot of time. They are also some of the highest performing emails in terms of open rates and can give you a leg up on the competition through excellent communication and personalized content.

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