Identify missed opportunities in your email marketing

What email marketing opportunities do you miss in your transactional emails?

There’s no question that email marketing is one of the key opportunities for almost any marketing team. When thinking about it, newsletters and other promotional emails are usually the first to come to mind.

Few marketing teams give serious attention to transactional emails. Very often, these are even out of their jurisdiction.

Set up by development or customer-facing teams, these emails serve their key purpose in a better or a worse way. The marketing opportunities behind these messages are often overlooked though.

Throughout this article, we’ll give you plenty of reasons why it shouldn’t happen. You’ll learn how to maximize the potential of your transactional emails and which common mistakes you should avoid. Apply these learnings to your emails and you’re likely to see promising results in no time.

What are transactional emails?

First of all, let’s get some definitions of the list.

Transactional emails are automated messages that are triggered by certain actions of your customers. They can be sent when an account is created (or deleted) when an order is placed (or abandoned) when a certain page is loaded or a link is clicked. Most commonly, these are:

Pitch asks you to confirm your email in a fun, good-looking email. Way to start a relationship.

Why should transactional emails be important for effective email marketing?

You might be wondering by now – how the heck am I supposed to market my product in a password reset email? And you would be right – you shouldn’t. But there’s still a lot of value you can get out of such a message anyway.

What if, instead of sending a dull email like this:

Support Message

A recipient would find this in their inbox this:

Forgot password message

In theory, the result of their action will be just the same – a person will reset their password and will, hopefully, continue being your customer. But adding a bit more touch to such an email can go a long way.

Here are some of the main reasons why transactional emails should be an important part of your marketing efforts.

Which other emails can you say the same thing about? Since transactional emails are triggered by users’ actions, people genuinely want to see them. Many will launch their inbox specifically for this purpose.

A study from Experian showed that welcome emails, for example, enjoy 4-5 times higher open and click-through rates than promotional messages. It’s safe to assume that similar numbers can be observed for any order confirmation or various notifications you surely send to your clients. That’s a huge opportunity to grab their attention and give them something to think about.

It’s sometimes a struggle to bring value to a customer in a purely promotional email. And you know well that they’re unlikely to open the following email if it doesn’t offer them anything in return.

Transactional emails by default carry a lot of value. They give the customer peace of mind that a payment was processed. They inform them about the next steps they need to take. They include files or secret codes that a user needs elsewhere. All of this ensures that they’ll be eager to open these emails and interact with them, possibly generating some additional revenue for you.

Payment card activation message

The design of this email from Postmates is very simple but at the same time eye-catching, great for building brand awareness.



You want to establish a connection with a customer. If they recognize and trust your brand, they’re more likely to buy from you or recommend you to their peers. They’re also less likely to shift to a competitor for whatever silly reason.

You’re going to send a lot of transactional emails to each of your customers. Your welcome email will be one of the first touchpoints with the brand they will have. If you’re to build great relationships with your customers, this will be one of your most important channels.

If your goal is to gather customer’s feedback or learn of the problem they’re trying to solve [with your product], transactional emails prove invaluable too. They enjoy high interaction rates and are perfectly timed to arrive right when a process is finished or an issue emerges.

If reaching you is as effortless as just hitting on the ‘Reply’ button or tapping on a button, you’ll hear from many and you’ll gather a lot of data you can use for user segmentation or simply improving the product.

Oh, and this hasn’t convinced you to invest in transactional emails yet, the infographic demonstrating the ROI of transactional emails will.

Common mistakes made in transactional emails and how to avoid them in email marketing

By now, you probably realize the size of the opportunity in emails that your company already sends and you’re eager to take action. Read on as I analyze the common mistakes of many transactional emails and give advice on how to make yours better.

The flight itineraries we sometimes receive are some of the worst examples of transactional email. Lots of links, poor (or lack) of formatting, no attempts at any personalization.

Sending automated, impersonal emails

Many companies send transactional emails that are just pure instructions on what happened or is about to happen.

“We’ve received your request. We’ll be in touch within 10 business days”

“Password reset. Regards”

“Subscription confirmed. Click below to unsubscribe”

These emails are forgotten as soon as they’re closed. And if the whole message fits in a preview, they may be archived without even opening. By sending such emails, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities – to engage a reader, to point them in the desired direction, to stay in their memory.

How to improve:

Example of email access

Example of a great welcome email from Groove. The story behind it is also very interesting.

Sending emails that never arrive

The infrastructure you use for sending emails is as important as the quality of emails. What good is in a perfectly written email if it lands in a spam folder, right?

It’s way more crucial in the transactional department than it is for marketing emails. I assume most of your customers can live without your last newsletter if it never arrives (though some will be sad, I’m sure).

The issue appears when order confirmation lands in the spam or a password reset email is discarded by the customer’s ISP. This automatically creates more work for your support team and disturbs the peace of mind of your customers. No one wins in this situation.

Changing password reminder

Simple notification from Airbnb that lets you inspect the relevant details within a few seconds and quickly take action if necessary.

How to improve:

Sending complex, poorly formatted emails

One thing you have to give to these boring “Account created, bye” emails is that they get straight to the point. And that’s what most recipients of transactional emails appreciate a lot.

Too often we receive emails that are just a pain to use. They feature long lines of text and legal disclaimers. The ugly links take two lines at least (and more on mobile), making the copy irrelevant. The confusing copy makes it hard to figure out what exactly they need from us.

And finally, the lack of formatting* or, opposite, an abundance of visuals makes things even worse.

All of these directly impact the conversion of your transactional emails and are often very easy to improve.

* Disclaimer: I think the complete lack of formatting can give ground to some really powerful emails, some examples you can see in this text. But very often you’ll achieve much better results with a bit of work on the design end.

14 day trial example

Squarespace adds a bit of a personal touch to a welcome email, assuring you that a group of smiling people is looking after you.

How to improve:

Walmart example

Walmart knows you just bought a desk from them. They use the order confirmation to remind you of some good-looking chairs you may need as well.

Confirmation email

GoDaddy uses a confirmation email to immediately encourage its clients to make another purchase.

Not accepting replies

Very often companies, especially the large ones, email you from an address you can’t reply to. I mean, I get it. People who set up these emails are not supposed to respond to them and a support team is already overwhelmed.

But if you don’t have to, don’t do it. It sends the wrong message altogether. No-reply email is the same as “don’t contact us” included in the last line of a message.

Email is by definition a two-way communication. With a no-reply address involved, it becomes a one-way conversation that reduces engagement to nearly zero (big high-five to that one guy who found the support email address on the web and still replied to that email!). No replies to your emails also don’t help with your email deliverability.

Caveat: A no-reply address makes sense if sensitive data is involved. Assuming you include users’ passwords, credit card details, or Social Security Numbers in emails (which, btw, you shouldn’t), you don’t want users messaging back and forth with your support team.


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How to improve:

Email response

Another example of a very simple email that can go a long way. It’s a great way of gathering feedback and making your readers feel appreciated. 

Over to you

I tried to share a bunch of excellent email designs throughout this article. Some are very simple, some others could be displayed in the Louvre right next to Mona Lisa. But what connects them all is that they incorporate a lot of good marketing practices into seemingly simple transactional emails. And since they’re so frequently quoted, they must be doing it pretty well, right?

Fingers crossed for you and until the next time!



About the Author:

Full Name: Andriy Zapisotskyi

Author’s description: Andriy is a Growth Manager at Mailtrap, a product that helps people inspect and debug emails before sending them to real users. He has over 5 years of experience in the field of marketing & product. Andriy loves to network with people. Running is his hobby and he enjoys discovering new places. You can connect with Andriy via Linkedin or Facebook and share your feedback on the article directly there.



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