11 Transactional Email Best Practices that will Keep Customers Smiling

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Consider the last time that you did a password reset for your work email or social media account. You clicked "Send Reset Link" and immediately went to check your email. Was it there?

If the answer is yes, then you likely didn’t really have any negative or positive feelings, but if the answer is no, you were instantly frustrated. “What’s taking it so long?” “Why am I not getting my reset link?” “I don’t have time for this.” All of these thoughts went through your head before you went back and clicked “Resend Link.”

Your customers feel this too. Except, when they feel it, it's about your company. That is why you must ensure that all your transactional emails are the best they can be. Your customer satisfaction and retention can depend on it.

What are Transactional Emails?

Transactional emails are emails triggered by a customer or user that completes a task or acknowledges a task that was completed. These emails are designed to either inform them of an action, similar to a receipt, or to assist them with completing a task, such as a password reset.

Transactional emails are often viewed under the same lens as promotional emails, but they both serve very different purposes and are regulated differently under the law. So what’s the difference?

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are solely intended to respond to an action that is desired or has been recently completed by your customer.

These emails typically include things like:

  • Password resets
  • Order confirmations
  • Shipping details and progress
  • Subscription confirmations

These emails are triggered to fill a need for the customer and are not intended for promotional purposes.

Promotional Emails

Promotional emails are intended to encourage the customer to make a purchase or complete a transaction that they abandoned.

These emails will include things like:

  • Cart abandonment reminders
  • Product alerts
  • Deals and promotions
  • “We haven’t heard from you” check-ins

These emails are used to prompt the customer to make a transaction that they may or may not have intended to make.

Some areas have strict rules surrounding promotional emails that were not opted into by the customer. Know the difference between transactional and promotional emails to avoid fines and fees from local municipalities.

Why are Transactional Emails Important?

Transactional emails serve as a reminder based on a customer's action, and as a tool to verify identity. Their purpose is to connect the customer with an action. The notifications and prompts made surrounding the customer action serves as a receipt that gives the customer a sense of trust and comfort. When the customer believes that their order was received and has an email reminder letting them know, they can look back to that as a type of security blanket.

While order confirmation emails are not required, utilizing them is vital to making your customer a part of the process. Your customer wants to know that they are in good hands, and providing them with step-by-step notifications does precisely that.

Simply put, transactional emails are essential because they ensure a level of customer satisfaction that they may not have received by visiting your website alone.

11 Transactional Email Best Practices

Transactional emails seem like a simple enough concept, but getting it wrong can be detrimental. Your customers are sensitive to different variations of their customer experience. You want to ensure that you provide them with the best possible customer experience.

In order to continue providing exceptional customer service after the sale, taking advantage of transactional emails is key. Here are 11 ways to ensure that your transactional emails set your company up for happy customers and continued sales.

1. Match Your Brand

You have already established a relationship with your customer through your website and sales process. They understand exactly who you are, what you’re selling, how you’re selling, and how you relate to them so that they can make a purchase. They may not be consciously aware of these things; you instilled these concepts in them already.

That is why matching your brand in your transactional email is important. This includes letterhead, logos, language, style, and more. Any deviation from the original layout and language used on the sales website can damage your customer relationship and possibly lose you future sales.

2. Do Not Include Ads

It might be tempting to utilize a customer-prompted email to promote a service or product that is relevant to their search history or purchase, but it will have an adverse impact. Your transactional email should only include content relevant to the transaction.

Your customer has already completed their transaction, and maybe they haven't received their product yet. Sending them additional advertisements could turn them off to your business. This is especially true if the transactional email is for password resets and security checks. It's almost like betraying their expectations.

3. Instant Delivery

Anyone that has ever used a password reset or has been prompted to do a security check has the expectation that their transactional email will be there immediately. Anything short of instant delivery is frustrating. Your customer is waiting.

While waiting a minute for a password reset might be a little more forgivable since the customer forgot their password, waiting for a security check should not happen. The security check is prompted by the website, and although it is for the customer's security, often, the customer sees it more as a hurdle than protection. Make these transactional emails quick and seamless.

4. Consider the Customer

Your customer is the one that prompted the delivery of this transactional email. Considering them when crafting the email content and how it is delivered is key to a positive customer interaction.

Don't utilize this opportunity to sneak in extra information. Make sure everything in the email is relevant and specific to why the customer needed the transactional email. Anything else is extraneous and can be seen as a nuisance.

5. Allow Replies

Customers do not always understand every step of the process and might be a little confused. Allowing them the opportunity to reach out to a representative with your company will give you an extra opportunity to provide them with exemplary customer service.

This isn't always ideal when you have a larger company and are dealing with a significant number of customers. If it is possible to provide them with extra opportunities, it is to everyone's benefit.

6. Use Appropriate Meta Information

Your metadata is important and tells the customer a story about your business and the email before even reading the email. Make sure it is relevant and informative. It should include things like:

  • A relevant subject line. This will tell the customer what they are reading before they read it so that they’re more willing to engage.
  • A recognizable email address. Some companies will use a shortener to create email addresses or spoof the email address so that it cannot be replied to. This is off-putting for the customer and can look like spam. Avoid that. Use an email address that flows like @websitename.com

7. Monitor Delivery/Open Rates

Monitoring the metrics will tell you how effective your transactional email is. Did the metadata work? Did the customer receive the email? Did the customer have to go back and click to have the email resent? The answer to these questions will let you know just how positive or negative the customer experience might have been.

8. Include Responsive Links

Customers like to know that they have options and that things work. Was the security code easy to find and use? Did the security link or password reset link take them back to a relevant page? Did your delivery notification have a link to the shipping tracking?

Your customer wants the ability to interact with the material that they are receiving. Make sure that everything works so that they can continue to be a part of the process.

9. Allow Plain Text Version

For accessibility purposes, ensure that every email you send has a plain text option. This allows every customer to have the opportunity to read and interact with the content. This means that you need to provide an option to turn off the graphics so that they can interact with just the words.

This is helpful for the visually impaired or individuals that may not speak the language that the email is delivered in. Considering these elements will help create happy customers.

10. Include Email Preferences

Some customers are extremely particular. They want to know precisely when and where their emails are coming from and how they can control them. Even the not-so-particular customers feel happy with a sense of power and control.

Providing them the option to control how their emails are delivered and when will contribute to a continued positive customer experience.

11. Utilize Reliable Transactional Email Provider

This is vital. Your transactional email provider needs to have the tools necessary to deliver the right information to the customer when they need it. They must be reliable and fast. Imagine your customer is seeking a password reset, but it takes several minutes to receive, and the code is incorrect or no longer valid.

This can put a bad taste in their mouth for the company and lead to unhappy customers. That won't want to return. Ensure that the email provider represents your company well.

Utilize Appropriate Transactional Emails Today

Enhance your business with the implementation of quick and easy transactional emails today. Your customers are already interacting with your company by making purchases or prompting email transactions.

Why not make it easier for them to be a part of the process? Make sure your emails keep them smiling and excited about your company and brand so that they tell others about their experience. 

About the Author

I have been in the 'online business' space since 2009 when I started an eCommerce business selling motorcycle parts (sold in 2012). Since then I have owned and operated several successful online business (and had a fair share of failures), along with owning offline home services businesses. Currently my focus is online businesses that are profitable with paid traffic. As a 'self employed individual' I do not use Linkedin, but you can connect with my on my personal instagram and youtube which largely revolve around my mountain biking passion!