40 Do’s and Don'ts for better transactional email

Dos and donts for better transactional email

When it comes to email marketing no matter what kind of email you are sending (broadcast, cold, transactional, and so on), you have to follow some basic rules to take advantage of the benefits that a well structured strategy can offer. We already told you that transactional email have the power to reach your customer at the appropriate time, with the right offer. So is very likely that your customer is already expecting an email from you. To help you make the most of your campaigns we have selected 40 do's and don'ts best practices for transactional emails.

Infographic dos and donts for transactional email


1) Reach the inbox:

First of all you have to have your email delivered. Did you know that 20% of the emails you send don't reach the inbox because ISPs consider they as spam? There are a few actions you can take to prevent that to happen: image heavy emails and HMTL errors may cause to fall on spam folder. Watch out for that. Remember that your reputation is measured by ISPs and each IP has its own sender reputation. A good strategy would be to isolate your transactional emails streams to one or more IPS so you can track potential failures. Make sure you have a secure mail server. Invest in tools to protect your deliverability and your brand reputation.

2) Get the looks:

We know that the main focus on emails is content, but looks do matter. A well designed email is more impactful. An attractive template, appealing images and fonts that are legible will improve your customer’s experience. Don't ever forget to add your logo. Think that every email is a chance to share your company’s visual identity.

3) Use timing in your favour:

Timing is crucial when using transactional emails. Since the emails are a response to an action, they have to be sent almost immediately after the customer performs the action, specially in "welcome", "thank you" and "confirmation" messages.

4) Add CTAs (Calls-to-action):

Yes, CTAs are mandatory in every email marketing you send out and with transactional email is no different. CTAs are a new opportunity to engage on customer, increase your website traffic and convert your lead. Make it simple and create a clear design!

5) Watch for spammy words:

Spammy words and Phishing Phrases are a big NO NO and you do have to keep your eyes open for that at all times. There a number of words that may trigger the spam filter, but the thing to remember is that the filter tries to remove commercial ads and promotions from your inbox so avoid words that resembles that like: Free, Cash, Earn, Guarantee, and so on.

6) Keep the balance:

Find the right balance between images, texts, CTAs. Don't overuse images, links or CTAs. Texts shouldn't be too long so the email is not boring and can't be so short that the customer feel that there is something missing. Keep the balance.

7) Personalize again and again:

We have said it over and over again and will continue to say it. Personalizing is the number 1 rule in email marketing, any email marketing. On transactional mails personalizing is even more important as the customer is already expecting your email. You are answering an action, you know who you are talking to, what they have done, their behavior, interests, etc so use that in your advantage.

8) Think outside the box:

Transactional emails are based on a interaction from the customer, but have you ever considered sending an email based on an interaction that your customer hasn't made yet? Lack of engagement could be a reason to send a transactional email. Think of non-intrusive ways to re engage your customers. Take that extra mile and think outside the box. Different content formats can also improve your customer's experience: try gifs, videos, user generated content, infographics. The sky is the limit. Don't be attached to your old fashioned ways to write transactional emails.

9) Mobile-friendly:

The numbers do show us that mobile devices are ruling the world. And yes, the number of responsive websites is continually growing, but unfortunately these numbers aren't so big as they should be: only 25% companies plan on fully integrate mobile in their overall strategies. So, yeah, we have along way to go. So do get ahead of the competition and go mobile-friendly on your templates.

10) Go beyond transaction:

It's no secret that transactional emails have higher open rates so use this chance to build loyalty and improve your engagement. If you are a B2B company for instance, adding links to FAQs and forums can be a good example on how to go further and improve your customer experience.

11) Show the next steps:

Consider creating a drip campaign with your transactional emails and always give your customer something to eager for. Guide them through the next steps, whether is reading the latest news on a product he just purchased or reviewing the product.

12) Make it easy to unsubscribe:

No marketing professional wants to lose subscribers but you do have to make it crystal clear for your subscribers how to opt-out. The good news is that on transactional emails you don't need to add the unsubscription link in every email. For example, some emails provide necessary informations for the customer (like order confirmations, purchase receipts, shipping notifications, etc) and if they actually opt-out and miss to receive these emails you might face problems ahead, not to mention extra costs with customer service.

13) Integrate social media:

Adding social links to your email can improve your click-through rate in 55%, so this is another item that shouldn't ever be forgotten. Forwarding your customer to your social network accounts gives you the chance to show a different side of your company. He can interact with your company, find out a bit more about you, read reviews, news and much more.

14) Brand it:

Sometimes the simplest things are the most forgotten ones. Your customer need to know who is talking to them, so DO add your logo in your emails and make it stand out.

15) Create a series:

Email series can improve your transaction rates in 40%. So this is a huge DO in your list of transactional email best practices.

16) Keep it relevant:

Yes, I know it might sound obvious, but sometimes there are so many things to add to the email that you actually forget to be concise and cut to the chase. Transactional emails have to extremely relevant.

17) Solve the problem:

Your email has a goal, it's answering an interaction from your customer so don't fail to deliver the answers. For example, if your customer needs to change the password of their website account make it clear which steps to follow to achieve that. If they bought a product and you send a delivery email make sure you include all info related to the purchase: what they bought, when, when it will arrive, what delivery method they have chosen, etc.

18) Add cross-sell suggestions:

Over promoting can be dangerous but a little offer never hurt anybody. Adding cross-sell suggestions in your emails can increase your transactions rates in 20%. In fact, this number can be even bigger if the products displayed are related to the one that the customer already purchased. A great tip is to combining cross sell with Facebook ads, so the customer see the same offer in two different channels. Reports says that customers who see the same product on both channels are 22% more likely to purchase the product.

19) Ask for reviews:

Reviews are a great way to build trust and they are essential in the highly competitive scenario that we live in. According to Reevo, 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision and reviews can in fact lift sales up to 18%. Reviews can even help you with search engines optimization. The content produced by your customers, displayed in your website, is fresh and unique and keep your pages updated. Search engines spiders love that!

20) Use a transactional email platform:

Does your transactional email system offer possibilities of tracking, analysing, customizing, segmenting? A dedicated Ip address? Take your time to study the features and make the most of them.


1) Focus too much on promotion:

Transactional emails are about transaction. Of course you may add some offer here and there but be careful to not go over the 30% rule: only 30% of your content should focus on promotional content. Bear in mind that transactional email open rates are higher because the customer knows that the email is about them. Focus on your customers’ needs, on solving a problem, or maybe just send a notification, your customers will appreciate the non-commercial approach.

2) Forget to test:

There are two ways to test your emails. First you can test them before actually sending them to your contacts to make sure everything's running smoothly; second you can run A/B tests to find out if there are better ways to maximise your results. Both of them are crucial to you overall strategy.

3) Spam:

Know the anti-spam laws of the countries you're sending emails for. In some places like Canada, for example, a transactional email would be considerate as SPAM if the subject line or the content focus on promotional information rather than the transaction itself. Take your time and do your homework so you don't end up loosing all your efforts.

4) Say everything on the email:

Although the main point of the transactional email is to answer a question or solve a problem for the customer, always leave something unsaid. Curiosity is the lust of the mind. If your customer is interested in finding out more about your service or company this will bring them back to the website or make them anxious to receive the next email. Welcome emails are a great opportunity to try this technique.

5) Add to many CTAs:

It can be overwhelming and confusing. Even if you have more than one goal with the message add just one or two CTAs to keep your customer focused on what you expect him to do.

6) Overuse images:

First of all remember that too many images might make your email go straight to the spam folder. Second, you have to consider that not all email providers will display your images, so if you use a lot of images there is a chance that your email is not legible, but will only look like some text with a lot of blank spaces in between. Find the balance between text and images and see what works better for your audience.

7)Use "no reply" senders:

One the first things that your customer sees when opening the email is the sender field and a "no reply" sender gives them the impression that you don't want to hear from them. It's impersonal, impolite and it could even be a reason for an unsubscription. Make your email sounds like it's coming from a real person and make it easier for them to engage with you.

8) Make impossible to reply your email:

Generic senders may send the wrong impression to your customers that they can't reply to your email. What if they need more information or have something to ask? This is very common on B2B emails. Keep that option available and you may have nice surprises.

9) Be boring:

Who said that transactional emails have to be boring? Adding fun, creative, personal touches can make your email more engaging and improve your customer experience. Once again remember that people like to know that they are talking to real people and not robots. Life is already so stressful and we have to deal with boring, dull emails every day. So make the difference.

10)Use the wrong tone:

Robotic, impersonal emails usually don't have the same response as emails that have a more personal tone. Even if you are an extremely serious company try to keep it casual. You may not have the license to be funny, but be friendly and always remember what image your customers have from you and try not to stay away from that.

11) Underestimate the power of links:

Links are always a good idea when speaking of emails. They help engagement and website traffic. But once again there a few rule to follow to make the most of it: don't overuse it; make them clear and easy to click. Links should go where they say there are going.Links can save you time when sending some sort of information like policy policies, for example. This means you can send shorter and more relevant emails.

12) Forget to segment your lists:

Segmentation is the secret weapon of transactional emails. Although it is essential to begin your strategy you can take it to another level using behavioral data. The more segmented your lists are, the bigger the chances to succeed on your campaigns.

13) Lose sight of your website:

Just because transactional emails are pre-seted messages it doesn't mean that you have to forget about your website. Take advantage of the emails to add links to your site and increase traffic.

14) Fail to offer an incentive:

People are driven by incentives. With that in mind don't fail to offer any sort of incentive or reward to your customer and ask them to perform some action. Including an offer in your email can double your revenue per email.

15) Forget to take advantage of dynamic use:

Dynamic content is "the thing" of the moment and using it on transactional email will only make it better. Your customer will feel more connected to you and your brand and will have the sense that the email was build specially for them. You can segment and use your dynamic content in a number of ways to improve your results.

16) Ignore customer experience:

Your emails are usually the only point of contact with your customer so don't forget that the whole experience is important. From the visual, to the content and feedback, everything matters when building the perfect transactional email focused on customer experience. Your email should be pleasant and easy to read with accessible links. Provide opportunities for your customers to get in touch with you whenever they want.Don't ever forget that you are dealing with humans with feelings, desires and needs.

17) Neglect the metrics:

Keeping track of your results is the only way to know if you are in the right way. There is no point in following these rules if you don't analyse the metrics afterwards and optimize your strategy based on your own experiments.

18) Overlook inactive user:

Retention is usually overlooked. Don't make the mistake to forget about your inactive customers. If they haven't been using your products and visiting your website lately, use transactional email to bring them back. Inactivity doesn't always mean lack of interest, sometimes they might just need a nudge to remind them of you.

19) Ever forget to say thank you:

Gratitude is never enough. Be sincere and express you gratitude in your emails. You can add a big Thank you in every email you send. Your customer will be happy to see that you appreciate their purchase, solicitation, contact and so on.

20) Underestimate subject lines:

The subject line is your first communication towards the customer. It's the first thing you will say to them, and although they may be already waiting for your email, a powerful subject can increase your open rates. Be concise, go straight to the point. Don't underestimate the power of a direct subject line. Do you know that a specific subject line increases the open rates in 10%? Avoid vague words and try to create a sense of urgency and build interest.

Transactional emails are a great opportunity to improve your customer relationship, engage, retain and build customer loyalty. Take your time to create the emails in the most detailed way and you will be half way on the path of success.

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