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Transactional email: a lethal weapon in the customer relationship

Transactional email is essential to the customer experience. At the same time, it is still very much underutilized. It is one of the few messages that your customer expects to receive from you, so it is vital that you use it. This guide will help you better understand transactional email, why this is different from email marketing and why you should focus on its delivery.

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What is a transactional email?

A transactional email is a service or information email that is sent to a recipient and that is automatically triggered after a specific action or event on their part. This includes order confirmation emails, account creation notification emails, password reset emails, tracking info emails, etc. 

Transactional emails are not marketing emails. As a result, no filter is applied to transactional campaigns (optimization of deliverability, commercial pressure, marketing consent, etc.).

Transactional email does not come with opt-in requirements: 

  • No specific consent or subscription required 

  • The email does not generate general consent or opt-in to a subscription. 

Transactional emails often have very high open rates, largely because the customer is eagerly awaiting this email. They must also be sent in real-time or a few minutes after an action to arrive at a time when the recipient is very receptive. They have a strong impact on the customer relationship, improving the customer experience and generating revenue.

What are the different types of transaction emails?

Transactional emails target all the stages of the customer’s lifecycle. They are widely used in e-commerce but can be useful to other sectors too. Below are some examples:

Account creation/Double Opt-In

This is the first email that the customer receives in their lifecycle and the first impression a company makes on a new customer. This email is usually used to validate the customer’s registration in the brand’s database. This ranges from the creation of an account on an e-commerce platform such as Amazon or Selency to a customer’s subscription to services such as Netflix, Disney+, etc.

While the double opt-in is less frequently used, it is considered a good practice in Europe and especially in Germany. Under the double opt-in, consumers must confirm that they wish to subscribe to a service by clicking an email in the confirmation email.

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Welcome

The welcome email is like a friendly hello to new customers/subscribers, reminding them of the benefits of your CRM program, your brand values… This is the most important email because it allows you to engage in a conversation and build a long-term relationship with your reader. You can also collect additional information about customers and their expectations. The main thing, however, is to engage them in a sequence of messages designed to remind  them of what makes you so unique, so you’ll be top of mind when the time comes.

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Order confirmation

This email reassures customers informing them about all the transaction and shipping details. This is a highly anticipated email; the customer is waiting for it. You must therefore send it as soon as possible. You must pay special attention to this message, incorporating personalization by listing, for example, the products the customer purchased, a brief product description and the price of each product.

Bonus: include any third-party website reviews you have! These will further reassure the customer that they made the right decision in purchasing from you.

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Order follow-up

But the customer relationship does not end here. Your customers are waiting for their order. You must inform them and notify them of the various stages in the ordering process: preparation, shipment, delivery, etc. These emails are designed to reassure the customer and eliminate any uncertainty.

Sending your messages at the right time is crucial here. You should arrive neither too early, nor too late. You can use data to enrich your customer’s experience with these ‘little touches’. Order follow-up is a good example of this. An email that informs you that your delivery will be arriving tomorrow as planned, between such and such time, at the following address, is much appreciated. 

Bonus: integrate the courier service in the email to increase your customer’s satisfaction. They can thus follow their parcel in real time or correct errors in the delivery address, change the delivery time, etc.

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Invoices and receipts

Invoices and receipts can be sent directly to the customer in the confirmation emails. In the case of subscriptions, however, they can be sent in a separate transactional email. You can add an attachment or a clickable link.

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Shopping cart abandonment

This type of communication reminds customers that their shopping cart has been saved and that they can proceed with the purchase at any time. This email can be used to highlight the selected products and important information while adding reassuring information (about the delivery, the payment process, the after-sales service, etc.) or a promotional voucher. The reminder has every chance of hitting the mark.

Bonus: for a long time, e-merchants were unable to list the shipping cost, so consumers became accustomed to putting items in their shopping cart to get an idea of this cost.

Bonus 2: Consumers are savvy. They know that an abandoned cart is usually followed by a promotional coupon. If that’s your strategy, then send them several reminders.

Bonus 3: This type of reminder can also work for products or contents that consumers visit on your site, starting a conversation.

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Password reset

We’ve all forgotten our password at one time or another. We’ve so many passwords to manage that forgetting them is quite common. A password reset email enables the user to set a new password by clicking a secure link and relieves frustration. This is an important email to set up because without it your customers will no longer have access to their account, forcing them look/shop elsewhere.

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Credit card expiration

Especially useful for subscriptions. This email informs users that their credit card has expired, and that the payment did not go through. Its aim is to warn the customer about a future interruption of service unless the customer updates the payment details.

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Feedback

One of the best ways to improve your customers’ experience is to understand how they feel. Ask them to leave you a comment or a score (the infamous NPS score) after their experience with your brand (a purchase, a delivery, a download, etc.).

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Update of your privacy notice

The privacy notice is a contract that describes how the personal data provided by users in the context of a commercial relationship is collected, processed, published, and deleted. Any updates of this document must be communicated promptly to users.

In addition to being a legal requirement, it also shows that you find their privacy important.

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Notifications

Notification emails, which are widely used by banks, transport or social networks, inform users of activity on their account: a new message in their inbox, tariff changes, a change in their flight/train schedule, the terminal they need to go to, suspicious activity, mention in a post…

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Maximizing email marketing opportunities with transactional emails

In addition to being informative, transactional emails can also be used as sales and marketing opportunities. Context is everything and consumers often regard it as a welcome bonus. 

Transactional email makes it possible, for example to send the customer promotions at the right time, based on their profile, or to encourage them to take action, invite them to sign up for a loyalty or sponsorship program, to send an important message, to cross-sell or upsell (encourage the customer to upgrade).

Of course, you shouldn’t abuse these opportunities. These marketing messages should be added at the bottom of the transactional email to ensure the main message comes through. The right ratio is: 80% transactional message vs. 20% marketing message. If you decide to implement a cross-selling or upselling strategy, always make sure to offer related products, in the same product category as the product that the consumer purchased.

According to Email Uplers, order confirmation emails have a 54% higher conversion rate when they feature additional products as part of a cross-selling technique. Welcome emails, meanwhile, generate three times more orders and revenue than ordinary promotions…

How to set up your transactional emails?

Transactional emails are not marketing emails. They need to be managed differently, in terms of their format and content, and they also require a different technical infrastructure.

Note: the main difference is that a transactional email is a unique message that is generated for an individual. Unlike a marketing message, which is sent to a group of people.

Separate your transactional mailings from your marketing campaigns

Ending up in people’s spambox is not an option. So the first thing you must do is allocate a domain or subdomain to your transactional emails, such as: eshop.brand.com or even confirmation.brand.com

The advantage of a dedicated domain is that you will be able to configure it in a specific way. As we already mentioned, different legal requirements apply to transactional emails: unlike marketing emails, consent and opt-in are not required. Deliverability and immediacy clearly are! 

A specific configuration, including the generation and sending of an email to the recipient, is greatly facilitated by the use of one or more IPs (this is the internet protocol, or the internet rules/laws).

Actito users can rely on the support of experts who share best practices, in addition to tools that allow them to improve the quality of the infrastructure and the reputation of IP addresses.

Use a reliable technical solution

At Actito, we’ve chosen to work with PowerMTA as a technical solution for sending transactional emails. PowerMTA allows you to put in place an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). Simply put, once you have set up your message in a tool like Actito, it must be sent to a server (Actito infrastructure), which will push your message to another server (the recipient’s) via the internet.

At Actito, we understand how important it is to offer flexibility to all our users. If you want to integrate transactional emails in your ERP, CRM, e-commerce, etc. tomorrow, you can take advantage of our powerful infrastructure thanks to our API, without the hassle of configuration and with excellent first-line support.

Transactional emails and deliverability

Transactional emails definitely have an advantage when it comes to deliverability. As these mails are eagerly expected, the response rates are particularly high. And that is what spam filters will analyze to define your sender score or reputation score. This reputation score will determine whether your email arrives in the recipient’s inbox or spambox. All the same, you need to stick to a few rules if you want your recipients to receive your transactional emails. 

  • rule no. 1: correctly configure your platform (DKIM, SPF, DMARC...) 

  • rule no. 2: use different IP addresses for your transactional emails and your marketing emails 

  • rule no. 3: use the same IP address and the same domain name for all your transactional messages 

  • rule no. 4: always be careful when using marketing messages in your transactional emails 

  • rule no. 5: use a specialized, robust platform 

Actito’s deliverability experts can assist you with any bottlenecks or help you improve your performance. Don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.

Conclusion

We hope that this guide about the importance of transactional emails and the marketing opportunities they represent was instructive. Get in touch with Actito if you have any questions or want to know more about transactional emails!

About the author

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Isabelle Henry

Head of Inbound and Growth

Always on the lookout for new skills and always ready to launch new marketing projects at Actito, I rely on my personal experiences but also on everything that is happening in the digital world to continue to learn, educate and share with you through inspiring content. My little extras? Video editing and photography!

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