What is a transactional email?

I was shocked as I have read the article from the Gartner News that many people interact with a device before they interact with the physical world.

But after thinking about that. It’s true! Also I do!

The world has changed dramatically, the way we communicate has too.  What I want to focus on in this article is: email. Not the ones from the 1990’s but I want to talk about transactional emails.

What is a transactional email?

Basically, it is email sent to an individual based on some action.

For example, if a user signs up for a newsletter on your website, you should probably welcome them with an email. Bam! That’s transactional email. Signing up is the “transaction” in this case. Simple, right?

In fact, for simplicity, many people refer to transactional emails as “triggered”, “automatic”, “real-time” or even “personalized”. Use whatever term makes you feel comfortable but the goal is to make sure everyone in the organization is on the same page.  The word “transactional” can be rather misleading to business and marketing types. So I have some examples.

Examples of Transactional

A bunch of things can trigger an email. Here some other sources of transactional email:

  • email address confirmations
  • password resets
  • purchase receipts
  • “thank you for [some action]”
  • account balance updates
  • auto-responders
  • support requests
  • cart abandonment
  • monthly invoices
  • app error alerts (developer tested!)
  • automated re-engagement (marketer approved!)

..and many more. There’s not really a boundary as to what kinds of actions can trigger an email. The pros are set up to trigger real-time, personalized transactional emails within seconds of user interaction.

Is transactional email finance (e-commerce) driven?

No. I mean not necessarily. This is a common misconception.  “Transactional” does not only mean “financial”.  Transactional email isn’t about purchasing something from inside an email or not only recieved once you do purchase something.

That said, e-commerce applications do send a lot of transactional email! Think about the lifecycle of a purchase online:

  1. sign up, confirmation email
  2. throw items in a cart.
  3. check out, get a receipt
  4. thank-you for purchase
  5. track the package, get shipping notifications
  6. invitation to rate the item(s) you purchased (days/weeks later)

Look at that all the actions that warrants sending an email. This list tells you that it doesn’t have to be related to e-commerce to be transactional.

Okay, but What’s the Big Deal?

Now that all of the confusion is cleared up, we get to a more fundamental question: Why? Why go to all this trouble defining terms and giving examples? Why fret over using an Email Server Provider (ESP) to actually deliver my triggered emails? Why give it an extra thought if this stuff is already working?

It’s all about impressions. You only have a few.

We spend so much time polishing the user experience of our web pages, carefully drafting our copy and calls-to-action, optimizing our page load times, and even painstakingly crafting lovely templates for our newsletters. When we aren’t sure about something, we laboriously split test it and pore over the stats to choose a winner. All this so we make a good first impression.

And that is the same with transactional emails. You want to make interacting with your company as pleasant as possible because even with a good first impression, you have lots of competition so the subsequent ones need to keep up.

What are transactional email good for?

So the lesson here is that transactional emails are sent to people highly interested in your products because they either signed up for your newsletter, bought your product or interacted with your website. These are the people you want to impress most to stay with you and because they already like you, it would be a great opportunity to make them love you more. They are probably going to look at an invoice or confirmation longer than a promotion email, that means you have time on your side. So why not take advantage of your transactional email and make them the best it can be?

Get connected to your customers and let’s get the (transactional) conversation started!

Plug: Transactional communications is something we at Objectif Lune are good at, and with our newest technologies, sending emails just got a little bit more interesting.