Transactional Email Marketing Tips and Tools for Boosting Ecommerce Sales

Placeholder Transactional Email Marketing Tips and Tools for Boosting Ecommerce Sales

Today we are going to dwell upon the most highly-anticipated emails you may ever send — transactional emails. Read on to learn why transactional emails are your best friends in the world of eCommerce and how they can be fine-tuned to help you sell online.

Table of contents:

But first, let’s have a look at some important email marketing stats that may knock your socks off:

  • According to EPSILON’s study of Q1 2017 North America email trends, these transactional emails have off-the-charts user engagement metrics.
  • They draw 8x higher (69%) open rates and 164,6% higher click rates than any other promotional content you may send in the hope of increasing sales.

Transactional email openrates

What’s really curious is that welcome emails demonstrate the most staggering results — they generate 4x more opens and 5x more clicks than regular eCommerce email marketing campaigns.

Here’s a wonderful infographics from InboxArmy to prove it.

Why welcome emails are so important

What Is Transactional Email and Why Is It So Important for You?

Transactional emails are system-triggered emails sent to an individual user by an eCommerce site based on that user’s activity. Unlike commercial email, strategically sent to your user base in bulk, transactional email is sent and triggered programmatically only to one user at a time.

Usually, these emails are sent through SMTP relay or an API integration. Adding this functionality to your eCommerce site is rather easy and fast, but requires a developer to set up a system that will send coded email templates to specific types of recipients based on a particular action. Mandrill’s SMTP relay and API integration are the most popular ways of sending transactional notifications.

There’s another question. Why do notification emails boost so much interest? Because they are triggered by some action (or inaction!) of your customer himself. So it’s natural that he expects a reaction from you. An email, a call… any. And you are not going to miss out on this tremendous opportunity to drive sales, are you?

I’ve listed a six typical situations where you can use transactional emails (+ the anxiety of your customer to open it) for your benefit:

Reason 1: Transactional emails can make customers happier

Olivia from Belgium has discovered a cozy red check pajama for her little son on your eCommerce website, received a purchase receipt and is waiting for the item to be shipped. But. What if you don’t ship overseas? She needs to know it right now. F5, F5, F5!!!

Red check pajama

How can you use it? Providing customers with detailed information about shipping is the best way to make your customers happier. Try to send a shipping notification right after the item is dispatched. This will ensure strong customer service and make your user way more loyal to your brand.

Reason 2: Emails can help you sell more to the same customer

Alex has just bought an expensive bedding set on your eCommerce site and keeps refreshing his user inbox in quest of an order confirmation email.

Bedding set

How can you use it? Transactional email is the ideal spot for boosting your eCommerce sales. So don’t miss the opportunity to sell more to the same customer. Bring to life your inner sales forces and make sure your customer has everything he needs along with the purchase, like pillows, sheets, and other bedroom accessories. If not, sell it to him! All sorts of eCommerce email marketing techniques can be utilized here — from cross-selling to discount coupons. Imagination is your limit.

Reason 3: Automated emails can exponentially reduce staffing costs

Paul Smith has just subscribed to your service and has got no idea where to start. So he keeps hitting an F5 button in hope to find support right inside your email.

Nathan from CoSchedule

How can you use it? You won’t be able to reach out to each and every new customer personally. You will have to stop sleeping or hire several hundreds of support engineers to manage the volume of all your 1,5K incoming emails.

However, there is a solution. Now robots, aka transactional emails services, can manage the never-ending volume of incoming email for you. They will not only reduce your monthly staffing costs but also cement your relationship with your customers.

Have a look at the email from Nathan. Though it looks like a real person contacting you, this is just a part of CoSchedule’s marketing strategy. While Nathan is peacefully sipping his mango fresh, I got a clear step-by-step plan for the next 14 days.

Reason 4: Emails will combat cart abandonment on your eCommerce site

Now a story about Thomas The Cart Abandoner. He added a few sports items to his ASOS shopping cart and then cold-bloodedly quitted it never to come back again. I’m sure, the situation is utterly familiar to you, no need to harp on about it.

Cart abandoner

How can you use it? There were invented lots of eCommerce email marketing techniques to help you quickly turn your abandoned carts into completed sales.

Refer to CHAPTER 6 for the details.

Reason 5: Transactional emails will strengthen relationships with your clients

Let’s imagine you have a loyal fan, whose name is Rand. Every now and again he buys products from your eCommerce website and gets email notifications from you. But email is not enough for him. He is eager to follow you on Twitter and shop through your iPhone app.

Social media in transactional mails

How can you use it? Offer your customer different ways to interact with your business, be it through an app download or a call to action to follow you on social media. All types of transactional notifications are well suited for this purpose. Literally any.

Types of Transactional Emails You May Already Send but Might Want to Improve

It’s likely that some default trigger-based emails are already built into your eCommerce shopping cart software and dispatched to your users automatically.

Types of transactional emails:

  • a welcome email;
  • a message with an invoice (or a receipt email), issued to your customer after he throws an item to your shopping cart;
  • a shipping notification sent to reassure a purchase is on its way to your customer’s doorstep;
  • a password reset email;
  • a cart abandonment email;
  • an opt-in email when a user subscribes to your newsletter, daily specials, tips, guides, etc);
  • an order follow-up;
  • a customer feedback survey invitation;
  • service cancellation or product refund emails;
  • a scheduled reminder, notification, or an app error alert;
  • any other useful information you may already pouring into your users’ inboxes.

It’s also possible that your developer was stricken by inspiration and sneakily set these robot-like password resets, abandoned cart reminders and other types of emails for you. Here’s the truth: default or developer-made usually means boring. Please, don’t take it personally. Just get around to check it out.

If you discover that no marketer has ever toiled over your existing transactional emails, it’s high time for you to get creative and rewrite them from the ground up:

  • add a powerful subject line;
  • create a beautiful email template;
  • include your brand logo to ensure recipients know which company is emailing them;
  • work hard on your copy, make your messages friendly, well-organized and personal;
  • include a strong call-to-action;
  • carefully segment your email list to increase user engagement;
  • enjoy the process!

Do the above-listed things the right way and your eCommerce email marketing strategy will continue to build your brand long after the transaction is a history.

Transactional Email Service Providers I Like And Why

There are two ways to set up transactional emails for your eCommerce store:

First option. You can ask your developer to code it for you. He may use, say, Google’s free SMTP server for sending up to 100 notification emails a day. Just do not let him create texts for your emails. He’s not a marketer, after all.

Second (and the last) option. Or you can use a designated transactional email service, like SendinBlue, Amazon SES, Mandrill or any other email marketing tool available out there. To integrate this tool with your eCommerce store, you’ll need to set up a ready-made add-on supported by your eCommerce shopping cart. You do not have to be tech-savvy to do it.

Honestly, the first option looks somewhat shady to me. Try and send too many emails a day (or sometimes even too many an hour, or a minute) and your email service provider, like for instance Gmail, Outlook etc., may block your email account forever. Yes, most email apps do take care of their users today and strictly scan emails to eliminate spam and phishing. And there are many other reasons that can cause your sent emails to end up lost and spammed.

Using a transactional email marketing service is more safe, as they can track down the history of each of the emails sent so that you can see in what box your email was delivered — user’s inbox or spam box. The first one is more preferable, hah 😉

To proof my point of view I’ve done a small research and inspected the most popular transactional email services that dominate on the first few pages of Google.

Out of 35+ eCommerce email marketing tools that exist, the following ones look the most reliable for me: Amazon Simple Service, Mandrill, SendinBlue, SendGrid and Mailjet. Geared towards sending perfect transactional emails, they can guarantee that your carefully-written texts won’t be left unnoticed in a spam folder.

1. Amazon Simple Email Service (SES)

Amazon Simple Email Service

Much had changed since the year 2006 when Amazon was launched. And besides selling books online, it now delights its customers with a myriad of different services, like S3 cloud storage, EC2 servers-in-the-cloud, and other useful things.

Among these side projects is Amazon’s “simple email service” — a transactional email service that is truly simple, as you pay only for the messages you send. And it doesn’t mean that other options like automation, design tools, and landing pages are free here. No. They just do not exist.


Most email services will offer at least analytics to track the real-time performance of your email marketing campaigns, but not Amazon SES. You’ll have to code and design everything on your own — from &nbsp; to the last <p>.

Go with this email marketing tool if all you need is to get emails into users’ inboxes, nothing more.

And here’s the most pleasant thing about this perfect email marketing software, if you can call it this way — the price. You’ll pay only $0.10 per thousand emails, which is exceptionally cost-effective even for freelancers and startupers.

2. Mandrill

Mandrill transactional email service

Mandrill is a drop-dead simple transactional email service from the makers of the preeminent MailChimp.

Initially, a project to integrate MailChimp with Amazon SES features, Mandrill was then launched as a separate addon, great-looking but quite expensive for small-budget companies.

And that was Mandrill’s pricing policy that has driven away a сertain portion of their customers, even those who considered it to be a viable option for sending transactional emails.

Since March 2016, using this add-on requires having a paid monthly MailChimp account, which is lame.

Now about the functionality.

You can split-test your transactional emails, create specific rules for when to send these emails, receive inbound messages and schedule email marketing campaigns to send at the optimal time.

Then there are extra features to make sure your emails will actually be delivered. All Mandrill accounts support personalized SPF & DKIM records and can send your emails from a private IP address or IP pool.

Mandrill has a great API that works with a variety of platforms and a fantastic interface that makes the software setup process really simple. So it’s a walk in the park to get started on your own. If you meet any difficulties, you have Mandrill’s documentation at hand that is also extraordinarily straightforward and helpful.

But the best feature of Mandrill (the same as in MailChimp) is a great customer support. Both provide customers with quick and reliable assistance, even if the problem you are stuck on seems unmanageable at first sight.

All the predefined email templates and templating structure are great and professional looking.

3. SendinBlue

Sendinblue transactional email tool

SendinBlue is by all means one of the best email marketing tools for startups, who do not yet need any sophisticated marketing automation functionality, but still have to send triggered based notification emails to their customers about shipping, payment, password resets, you name it.

This email marketing tool will not only allow you to send transactional emails but also help you improve your potential deliverability and provide you with complete analytics.

It has the most of the reports you might need — a click-map, geo-tracking, Google Analytics integration and order tracking. Only direct social media tracking is missing here.

Sending classic newsletters is also available, but the choice of email templates is not that versatile (just over ten design elements to choose from) as in GetResponse or Aweber geared for sending email newsletters. And, unfortunately, this app doesn’t have many benefits over such overhyped tools as Mandrill, that forces its users to sell a kidney to afford mailing their subscribers. Plus, it lacks such option as a/b testing.

What should be highlighted here is the price. You will be able to send up to 40,000 emails for under $8 per month. It’s the cheapest solution, unlike email services like SendGrid which start off quite affordable but become quite expensive as you scale.

UPD: However, there are services that are a bit more cost-effective, than SendinBlue. SendPulse, for example, lets you send up to 12,000 transactional emails for free.

To top it all, this email marketing software is available in 6 languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian and French) and there’s a unique option you might like — SMS. It will give you one more way to get in touch with your customers.

Another useful feature is that you can easily integrate and automate your favorite apps, like X-Cart, Salesforce, PayPal & more, with SendinBlue using Zapier.

4. SendGrid

Sendgrid transactional email tool

SendGrid is widely regarded as the largest transactional email service.

They’ve got a lot of customers of all sorts — from small startups to high-volume senders. They send billions of emails each month for companies like Airbnb, Foursquare, and Uber.

Why do big companies choose SendGrid? That’s easily explainable. It has a reputation of an email service with good deliverability rates, unmatched email analytics and flawless integration with API.

What is also good about this tool is its price. It’s neither high nor low — you have to pay $9.95 for 40K emails per month.

There’s more. Choosing SendGrid, you get two services inside a single box — a transactional email service and an email marketing software. In addition to sending standard transactional emails, SendGrid has all the bells and whistles every best eCommerce software should have to help you send marketing emails.

You are free to manage your contacts, build segments, schedule campaigns and run a/b tests.

Brand-new design and handy drag-and-drop email editor allows you to create email templates that match your brand.

And if you get stuck, no problem, there are lots of videos and guides to help you deal with the issue. And, of course, there is a 24/7 live support ready to assist day and night.

But. There is no such thing as a perfect email marketing tool. I found out a disconcerting number of negative reviews. Some of the SendGrid users complain about being banned for no reason. Others consider SendGrid’s support not attentive enough to small businesses. And so on.

Anyway, I think, this email service is worth at least trying.

5. Mailjet

Mailjet transactional email service

The same as SendGrid, Mailjet conveniently combines the best features of both — transactional email sending service and email marketing software.

This email service has two distinctively strong points. The first one is its timely, courteous, and helpful customer service. Even if you are subscribed to their free plan, you will get all your questions answered in a timely manner. Also, lots of documentation and videos are available to get started step by step.

The second one is the pricing policy that allows you to send a dime a thousand emails you wish. There’s a forever free plan that will let you send 200 emails a day without spending a single penny. If you need to send, say, 1K emails a day, you’ll pay $7,49 per month.

As for additional features, the simple and minimalistic user interface of Mailjet makes software easier to navigate, drag-and-drop functionality saves lots of time creating email campaigns, advanced contact information management enables to target marketing campaigns to the right audience.

Use this system if you’re looking for a feature-rich and cost-effective transactional and email marketing platform.

13 Tips for Creating First-Class Notification Emails (With Steps)

What transactional email can we call excellent?

No. Not the one that is beautifully designed. And not the one that has successfully reached user’s box.

Sure thing, the things like honed to perfection email template or potential deliverability also come as part of success. But a top-notch email is primarily about bringing value. Your user should literally WAIT for your email.

When done right, transactional email notifications will not only keep your eCommerce store top-of-mind but also level up your user engagement, improve conversion rates and drive sales.

I’ve put together these 19 tips (+ clear, actionable steps to implement them) to help you make your transactional emails shine.

Read, get inspired and put these tips into action.

Tip 1. Use upselling & cross-selling techniques for increasing sales

Transactional emails, be it an order confirmation or a shipping notification, is an excellent medium for driving your sales. And that’s not a wish-wash.

The whole 75% of Generation Z (born 1995-2012) and Millennials (born 1977-1994) have come to rely on their inboxes as a shelter for possible discounts. They keep scouring their mail just to find a juicy coupon with 20% off, a special offer, a gift card, and other useful information… People love freebies. And that’s what I do as well.

The key rule is not to overdo it. Hyper-discounting for your customers is like over-optimisation for Google — you will be punished one day. Selling online is not about cheating, after all.

To upsell — encourage your buyers to buy a better version of what has already been thrown into a shopping cart.

Here’s an example: Daniella is going to buy a washing machine for $135, you suggest a better one with drying function.

To cross-sell — offer a customers related product of the same category.

Here’s an example: Martha is shopping for baby clothes, you show baby accessories and shoes.

Have a look at the ways you can use your transactional emails for offering discounts to your subscribers:

1. Discounts

Here’s what you should keep in mind when scattering discounts all over your eCommerce world:

  • Make your deals time-sensitive. The less time your users have for thinking, the faster they are to bring a pile of gold for you.
  • Choose one (a really awesome one!) call to action and add it to your transactional email. Do not confuse users with many options.
  • Send emails to segmented groups. They say it should skyrocket your user engagement. Off to the stars!
  • Offer free shipping for repeat customers, or as a gift for son’s B-Day, or just for kicks. It will increase the total amount of sales, especially during holiday season.
  • Give package deals. Buy ten socks, get one for free.

No magic wound is needed here. You add a discount and enjoy the process. Here’s an example from the New Look, UK eCommerce online store:

New Look transactional birthday email

A/b tests show that birthday email notifications have a 481% higher transaction rate, 179% higher unique click rates and 342% higher revenue than commercial emails. Why haven’t you tried to set them up yet?

Anthropology welcome email

Another B-day discount comes from Anthropologie eCommerce clothes store for 30-45-year-old women, this time in a welcome transactional email. Isn’t it nice of them to give so many perks just for just signing up for their newsletter?

Airbnb discount

The guys from Airbnb travel eCommerce site give a 10% off the next booking for those who stay with them for one year. I like this insensitive 😉

2. Recommended items

This type of email marketing is about last-minute purchases, which means just before or right after your customer reaches your holy checkout page.

So you’ve got at least two variants:

  • Offer complimentary items (ex. toys for your puppy along with pet food) your customer might like in your receipt email;
  • Or try to sell related products in your shipping notification email.

Stats show that 60% of customers who’ve committed to a sale are likely to make one more purchase. So don’t be afraid to sell more to the same customer.

Marketers from Huckberry, an exclusive eCommerce store for men from San Francisco, masterly use this magic email marketing technique in their purchase receipt email. Matthew bought a Hasami porcelain mug cup. Why not offer him a hammock in case he makes up his mind to take this cup in the out-of-doors, m?

Huckberry order confirmation email

Here are a few useful tips for adding recommended products into your transactional email templates:

  • Do not overload your customer’s mind offering him too many variants to choose from. Five-six items are quite enough for a single email.
  • Create a unique message for every shopper. eCommerce marketing email sent to an individual should contain only relevant and useful information.
  • Don’t push your offer! Instead, learn how to gently built it at the bottom part of your email.

3. Gifts

Show me the one who hates presents. A mere trifle can instantly turn any old fagot into the happiest man in the world, especially now when winter holidays are on the way.

Let’s make more people happy by offering them to buy gifts via order confirmation emails. Lots of modern eCommerce websites use this email marketing lifehack. And looks like it works, I’ve checked it.

The guys from oh-that-cutie BarkBox eCommerce store know how to sell online. ‘Give a ‘Doggone’ a great gift!’ — that’s what you see when you open their shipping notification. To tell you the truth, I’m not a dog owner and not even a dog lover. But this WOWsome marketing email makes me send this gift to my friend, happy to be a foster mother for Central Asian Shepherd.

Bark Box shipping notification

Harry’s eCommerce store selling German engineered blades takes it a step further and offers two blades for friends entirely for free.

Harry's gift email

A few tips for adding cool gifts inside your transactional emails:

  • Holiday present can be a perfect motivation for sending a gift card to a friend. Hurry up to add your gift to your email template before your users’ inboxes are stuffed with other holiday deals. Holidays are coming… Holidays are coming… 🙂
  • Add a relevant call to action. For instance: “Let your friend discover the benefits of shopping with…” or “Buy for her”.
  • Offer gift subscriptions with various perks and benefits for those who spend, say, over $1,200 on your eCommerce site.

Lord & Taylor gift email

  • Place the essential things first. If it’s a purchase receipt, let the receipt be first. Then, all your bells and whistles.

The above mentioned cross-selling and upselling email marketing techniques are mainly used for these four purposes:

  • Incentivise your audience to come back to your store.
  • Increase sales and traffic. All these amazing super-duper 90% off deals catch more curious glances, clicked or opened more often, gets your eCommerce website stuck in a traffic jam.
  • Free up the room. Some products can lie in your stock for an eternity, finding no market. Sale is a excellent chance to make room for new items.
  • Ensure recipients they are loved. What can be a better way to show your sympathy than presenting someone a gift?

Tip 2. Do NOT underestimate social media

Where email marketing is a king, social media management is a queen. You probably heard that already. And that’s true. These two eCommerce marketing tools are like two peas in a pod that are introduced to the world of eCommerce to store owners (you, in particular) sell online.

Why do you need social media in your transactional emails?

  • It helps you grow your community faster. Every transactional email sent is an open opportunity to get a new subscriber on Facebook or Twitter.
  • It allows you to stay connected with your customers through a more private channel — their social profile, which is usually easily accessible through a mobile app in their pockets.

Starbucks marketers invite their customers to stay connected with the brand via social media.

Starbucks social media

Warby Parker, masterfully selling eyeglasses and sunglasses online, wants more, more and more.

Warby Parker welcome email

Here are a couple of ideas on using social media buttons in your transactional emails:

  • Give back to your customer by offering him a discount for sharing some useful information about your eCommerce business with his friends in social media. In addition to that, you get customer feedback.

    For example: refer our service to a friend — get $19 off for your next order

    Or: once your friend makes a purchase, you get a free shipping
  • Ask subscribers to follow you and give the INSANE reason why;
  • Make your call to action clear to every single subscriber from your email list;
  • Ask users to share their experience.

The guys from ASOS got more user-generated content just by sending emails to their customers and asking to shoot short videos about their experience. Rather inventive, isn’t it?

ASOS email order confirmation

BTW, if you are in terested in the way you can use social media for growing your eCommerce business, we’ve got an ultimate “how to market on Instagram” guide. It’s not even a guide. It’s a whole study!

Tip 3. Stop being boring, make your customer smile

Remember for a moment the way we were taught to write classic business emails.

Dear Mr. Robins,

I’m writing this letter in a token of appreciation for your subscription. I’m obliged to inform you that our company invites you to have a look…

Ohh.. Stop it, stop it. It’s wrong. TOTALLY WRONG! This dryasdust text absolutely lacks any marketing salt.

If you want to sell online as effectively as in person, try not to churn out the same old stuff as you will inevitably get the same old results — poor click and open rates. Add an attention grabber, a WOW effect, make your transactional email hilarious. Why not?

Some thoughts to help you manage this:

  • The nontypical, interest-kindling subject line should make your trigger-based emails more openable.
  • Humor can also work well for improving your conversion rates. Try to be funny, but make sure your humorous language is relevant for your audience.
  • Insert gifs, memes and waggish pics. Everyone likes the things like that. Just do not pitch it strong. The primary purpose of your eCommerce notifications is selling online, after all, not making them laugh and go away.
  • Send your email with a funny video inside. Videos are more convincing than just plain text.

Here’s a wonderful example from Paul Mitchell, an eCommerce site selling hair care products and styling tools. Their cart abandonment email is sad and funny at the same time — have a look at this depressed smile made out of the products they sell. And that ‘sniffle, sniffle’ thing will hardly leave you untouched.

Paul Mitchell cart abandonment email

You know, it’s hard to break up with someone who makes you laugh. Groupon tries hard to keep you smiling even if you choose to leave their email list. Play the video to see Derrick, the Groupon’s employee whose daily duty is creating email marketing campaigns. Are you still eager to unsubscribe when you see how cruel his colleagues are? Me — definitely not.

And here’s the best email of all times. What message are you expecting to see in your user’s inbox from a serious e-commerce-driven apparel company headquartered in New York City that designs and sells men’s clothing? Certainly not a giant male bird! Distracted? Confused? That was the plan. Now, go on, finish the job, man.

Bonobos Re engagement email

Tip 4. Bring good news

People look forward to hearing good news. So don’t disappoint them sending your next transactional email, even if it is a shipping notification or a purchase receipt. Just think of the way your email can make the recipient smile.

Here’s a couple of examples that should inspire you:

‘’HEEEEYYYY, HOOOOOOOO!! Your little black dress is already on its way to your porch. Go out to check it out. It may be already there.’’

‘’Exciting news about your purchase! We sped up delivery times which means you get your package twice as fast. Dance, John, dance.‘’

‘’Happy days, Charlie! Now we are sending products packed in safe boxes. Enjoy safe shipping!’’

“Thanks so much for providing your user information. Today is your day!’’

These are the kinds of moments that build brand reputation.

Here’s what UNCOVET eCommerce store sends to his users in a welcome email:

Uncovet welcome email

Casper, eCommerce company, selling mattresses online, is also a bearer of good news. Here’s how their shipping notification looks like:

Casper shipping confirmation email

These types of emails increase your customers’ loyalty as they feel you care about them.

Tip 5. Ask for reviews

Let’s think for a moment. What do your customers usually do before typing their credit card details on your eCommerce online store? Right. They are digging Google for the reviews, as they can help them make the right decision.

And that’s not for nothing.

  • According to the survey made by Dimensional Research, 90% of customers’ buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.
  • Also, selling products online is more comfortable if you have reviews from real users. Customer feedback improves conversion rates by 10%.

Here’s a product review from Mike Carner about Samsung. Not the best one that could ever be submitted.

Negative review about Samsung

And that’s a good review about Gabor Shoes eCommerce store from an anonymous, but verified user.

Good review about navy boots

What products are you more willing to purchase after seeing this info from two real users?

Here are a few insights on how to get reviews from, say, your order confirmation emails:

  • Ask for a review as soon as possible. When is your customer maximally happy? Yup. Right when a product picture from his user inbox turns into a real product. Do not play for time. Capitalize on your customer’s experience.
  • Selling online is easier with the right wording. Spare a compliment you will get a compliment back.
  • Offer a deal he cannot resist. Ex. Send him an extra pair of socks for a review.
  • Create the sense of urgency. Ex. Send him an extra pair of socks only if the customer feedback is submitted before December 31st.
  • Use the right structure of your questions to make your users feel good and think positively.

‘So, how did you sleep?’, — asks Casper, a U.S. based eCommerce company that sells mattresses online.

Ask for review email from Casper

Kate Spade Saturday eCommerce business (closed now) used two techniques in one review transactional email — the sense of urgency and the discount.

Saturday ask for review email

Let your transactional emails be your ever-living source of reviews that help you sell online, bring you insights on your purchasing flaw and pain points.

Tip 6. Remember to be a human talking to a human

Sign-up emails are useful for converting your blog subscribers into loyal fans or even repeat customers. You can use various options to do it. Don’t be shy. Say ‘Howdie’ to your new blog subscriber and show who’s hiding behind your eCommerce store. Disclosing your personality should help you establish trust and become closer to your subscribers.

Forget about robotic, super official, and oh those awfully boring email notifications. You are not a machine. Your email may be automated, but it shouldn’t sound soulless. Remember to be a human talking to a human. That’s how you’ll win customers over.

MOO, a famous London-based printing company, has done a great job inventing a friendly print robot, also called MOO. He is not a human, but he was taught to sound like a human. He works hard sending automated emails and managing orders for the MOO’s customers. Nice, isn’t it?

Order confirmation email from MOO

A few shrewd tips to help you sound more human-like:

  • Make your messages unique to specific types of customers.
  • Stop addressing everyone at once. Even if you are sending bulk email, your email copy should look like as if you are talking to a single person not a group of your customers.
  • Spruce up your transactional emails with emotions and personal touch.
  • Tell a little bit about yourself and the guys sitting around you.

Now, look up at this awesome email from The Hustle team. Have you ever received such a kick-ass welcome email?

Email from The Hustle team

IMHO, these guys are kings of copywriting.

Tip 7. Think mobile-first

Сonversion rates of your email marketing campaigns do not entirely depend on the right email marketing strategy. The tools and devices your customers use to open your emails also make sense.

Just imagine. More than 50 percent of your customers will be reading your emails on mobile devices, usually on the go. So make sure that all your transactional and commercial emails are fully optimized to be opened and clicked from smartphones.

These are minimum requirements you should follow to ensure recipients read your email:

  • Make your subject lines short. This will boost your open rates.
  • Use clear and easy-to-read fonts — light grey colors are hard to distinguish on a mobile screen especially when the sun is shining.
  • Make your content easily scrollable.
  • Split your copy into paragraphs and use short sentences — it’s the easiest way to make your customer read even a long article.
  • Add a clear call to action button.

Here’s an example of a good mobile-ready receipt email from ASOS. A clear short subject line, a reasonable amount of useful information and a purchase receipt, of course. Everything is ready for mobile.

ASOS transactional email

Oh, my eyes! One more example (a bad one this time) — an order confirmation email from J.Crew eCommerce store, totally unoptimised for mobile.

J. Crew order confirmation email

Think mobile-first every step of the way.

Tip 8. Make email sequences

Hey, old man! While you were learning to tweak your trigger-based types of emails the right way, you’ve lost something significant. Sending isolated ‘hello’ and ‘don’t go’ emails is not trendy anymore.

The new trend of today is an email sequence — a highly-effective but still under-utilized email marketing tactics that help you move your customers along the whole sales process.

You can create email sequences to any transaction sent through your eCommerce store. But only two types are the most popular:

  • welcome series when a customer subscribes to your newsletter email abandoned cart series when a customer cannot make his way through your sales funnel.
  • Done right these two transactional email series should double your conversion rates and drive more sales.

Here’s an excellent example from Pardot — the first out of five welcome emails, inviting the user to their family and offering some necessary information to help him jump-start with the eCommerce software.

Pardot email sequence

Tip 9. Choose the right call to action

Every step we make has its purpose. And that’s pretty much the same about transactional emails — all of them have a clear goal and answer customers’ specific needs. And it’s vital to make sure their backbone is not altered.

Do not pull your ‘email marketing cart’ in different directions simultaneously, trying to kill several birds with one stone. This will just increase the total amount of negative customer feedback, spam reports, and teach your customers to masterfull skim through your emails.

What you should do instead:

  • Find one goal. Only one. You may want to advertise your promotional content, attract users’ attention to your social media communities, or drive sales through cross-sell.
  • Make sure that there’s a logical reason behind what you are asking your recipients to do.
  • Bring real value to your customers. That’s what they are here for.

The email confirmation email from Republic, eCommerce site giving everyone access to early-stage startup investing, doesn’t look too stuffed with CTAs buttons. However, I’ve counted five, and that’s a lot. Besides asking their users to verify their account, they offer him to discover, become an investor, support companies and even LEARN MORE. Too much for one letter, do you agree?.

Republic welcome email

Tip 10. Personalize

Transactional email services were taught to learn user data by heart, distinguish one customer from another judging by the IP address customer uses to log in, segment users by their activity and lots of other things.

Living in the era of such high-level email marketing services, it’s rude to treat your customer as one of the crowd.

Personalize! There are lots of ways to do it:

  • Referring to your user data can is the easiest way to make your email personalized. Address him by name; he’ll be pleased.
  • See what he prefers to purchase in your eCommerce store. Use this user data as a powerful upselling tool.
  • Send a customer success email for your subscriber’s B-day, or half-b-day, why not? American Apparel clothing manufacturer regularly sends these types of transactional notifications to their users and looks like they work.

American apparel personalized email

Mod Cloth eCommerce store does pretty much the same. Look below:

Mod cloth birthday email

  • Make sure your recipients know they can reply to your email.

FireBox, an online retailer based in London, moves beyond the limits and displays the delivery address on the map. Isn’t it the highest level of personalisation to see your house (or your office) in a transactional email? Yes, it is.

Firebox transactional email

Tip 11. Keep showing up

When a customer doesn’t hear from you for more than 60 days, he may consider your email a SPAM as he forgets who you are. That’s it. Keep sending emails once in awhile.

Tip 12. Be specific

You’ve got only a few second to grab your customer’s attention. 3, 2, 1. If your first paragraph is not catchy enough, you failed. Your transactional email is instantly closed, or deleted from your user inbox, or even marked as spam.

So think carefully and read every line of your text twice before sending emails over to your customer base.

The following tips will help you escape common mistakes online retailers often make when creating email marketing campaigns:

  • Do not include too many words in your transactional emails. Five sentences are usually more than enough. I know there are times when it’s impossible to keep an email to a few sentences. Then, split your copy into readable paragraphs and make the lines shorter. Keep it in mind — every word counts.
  • Do not waste your customer’s time. Keep your message to the point. Say what you were planning to in the first paragraph. People do not have any single minute they would gladly want to waste.
  • Add a P.S. to add some important details you want to emphasize.
  • Use the ‘1 thing’ rule and focus on a single call to action at a time.
  • Choose a purpose for your email. Is it going to be an upselling or an educative email?
  • Write as you speak. But remember you are not 13 anymore. Express your emotions through the power of words, not through em☺gy 😉 😎 =)

Have a look at the welcome email from Matt Bilotti, product manager from Drift.

Personalized email from Drift

Can we say that this transactional email is concise? Yes. We can. And there’s a P.S. at the bottom of the letter with a clear call to action, a non-intrusive one. And a conversational manner of writing. Plus, only useful information is listed here.

Tip 13. Tell a story

People love stories. When we hear stories, our brain acts as if we are living them. What if we talk to our customers about something really enjoyable?

Look deeper into your user data, analyze his purchasing preferences and use them wisely to increase user engagement with your eCommerce store or social media community.

A story helps your customer understand the pain your product solves and boosts the desire to purchase your item.

Neville Medhora copywriting course

I like getting emails (not transactional ones, though) from Neville Medhora, the creator oа Kopywriting Kourse. He loves looooooong emails. But I read every single line as he uses this storytelling lifehack. Moreover, he keeps in mind all the rules we already discussed — personalization, emotional language, short lines. And his LONG story is concise! Unbelievable, right?

Tips for getting your transactional email sound like a story:

  • Write as if you are talking to a real person sitting next to you.
  • If you are toiling over your welcome email, tell what inspired you to set up your eCommerce business, that’s always interesting
  • Include a short video to introduce your mission and ensure recipients you are a real person. You can use welcome drip series to set the scene.
  • Add photos of your team or of the place where your customer can find support.

NB: Here’re 19 tips about creating killer photos for your eCommerce site.

Where can transactional emails go wrong?

1. You’ve let your developer create copy for your transactional emails. Never do that. No way. He may know what is Mandrill SMTP and he can scrutinize API docs to find out the way to set it up. But he is unlikely to be aware of the rules of copywriting. Carve it into your soul.

2. Your subscribers broke up with you, and you do not care a thing about it. If a part of your subscribers are dissatisfied with the way you run your eCommerce business (long delivery times, an excessive amount of promotional content, etc.), you should handle it.

3. Your email is too large, too small or image-only. Transactional emails should contain useful information only — no more, no less. Otherwise, your email will justifiably be criticized as being ‘tl;dr’ or, to make it even worse, considered as spam. No one likes to be distracted for trifles.

Spam email

4. You’ve come to be inconsistent. You need both — a good domain reputation and a good IP reputation to deliver your transactional emails effectively. Let’s say, you’ve moved to a brand new IP address and started sending bulk emails to your email list. ISP won’t like it because he does not associate your IP address with a good reputation yet. He cannot tell at once whether you are a good or spammy sender. Try to carefully manage the volume of emails sent from a new IP address, create teams and gradually increase the number of subscribers.

5. You do not pay attention to deliverability. Good news is that transactional emails are delivered better than commercial ones. Anyway, you need to pay attention to the potential deliverability of all the emails you send. In this case, the ability of reporting issues makes transactional email software worth using.

6. You are making too much noise. Trying to drive sales through recommended items of discounts, added at the bottom of a receipt email in a non-intrusive kind of way is a good practice, that’s true. But sometimes marketers go too far in their efforts to optimize transactional emails. Be careful.

7. Your email is over-stuffed with red-flag words like free, make $, cures baldness, you are a winner. Beware of these words. They look like junk.

8. You bought an email list. Oh boy, have you? No comments.


In the next chapter I’ll tell you a little bit something about abandoned cart emails. Do you have cart abandoners? Of course, you do. Let’s count how much and see why they leave you.

Equipped with this powerful information, you can tailor your abandoned cart messages to your audience and hail these lost-in-the-middle-of-your-shopping-cart guys back.

Go on reading.

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Helen Golubeva
Helen Golubeva
Storyteller at X-Cart

Addicted to yoga, interested in philosophy, and totally mad about copywriting. She loves using the power of words to inspire people and help them grow their eCommerce businesses.

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