7 Factors that Make Transactional Email Awesome

Fact: email is an essential mode of communication between a business and its customers.

When comparing the different types of email that companies use to stay in touch with their customers, the transactional email category stands out above its counterpart, marketing email, for a number of reasons. Simply put, transactional email boasts significant benefits that bulk newsletters just don’t bring to the table.

Not convinced? Let’s explore seven clear and compelling advantages that transactional messages afford the sender and the recipient, as compared to marketing messages. In a future post, I’ll provide more detailed tips and tricks on how to leverage these benefits to their fullest potential.

1. Legal regulation: not needed
Due to the nature of transactional email communications, it is exempt from the guidelines of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

When sending transactional emails, the following items are not required:

  • explicit display of advertisement notation
  • inclusion of a physical postal address of the sending company
  • an unsubscribe link

That being said, at SendGrid we think it’s good practice to integrate at least a portion of this information into transactional emails where it makes sense and adds value. For instance, instead of an unsubscribe link, link to the customer’s email notification settings within their account. Providing easy access to these settings represents an effort to put the power in the recipient’s hands – they should always be in control of the communications they receive from your company.

2. Anticipation
Another “special” aspect of transactional email is the built-in feeling of anticipation it invokes, from the perspective of the recipient.

Given the context in which a transactional message is sent (triggered by a user action), and the content it contains (important, expected information), the recipient is typically patiently (or not so patiently) awaiting its arrival.

For example, a customer who just completed a purchase is eagerly awaiting her receipt. In turn, she is willing and excited to open the message as soon as possible.

3. Captivation
From anticipation, comes captivation. The combination of expectation and importance of the information within transactional emails creates the perfect storm – a captive audience, stoked to consume your awesomely relevant content.

To take advantage of this situation, be sure to clearly communicate the anticipated information; but also take the opportunity to extend relevant offers and ask for customer feedback. This is your chance to encourage a rich, mutually beneficial interaction between you and your audience.

4. Relevancy and Timeliness

Transactional email is programmatically generated and sent by a website or application, in response to a specific user action. Largely based on the aforementioned anticipation, it is of utmost importance that each email is delivered in a timely manner and contains absolutely relevant content.

The primary content focus should be guided by the action that triggered the email, and the message should be delivered with the timeliness they need – immediately! Non-relevant information and unexpected delays will cost you revenue in the form of lost sales and/or unretained customers.

5. Action
When (1) anticipation is met, (2) the audience is captivated, (3) the message is received in a timely manner and (4) the content is relevant, the logical next step for the reader is to take action.

In many cases, if not most, the recipient anticipates taking an action as much as they anticipate receiving the email. An action may be “click to activate account,” “navigate here to see the status of your shipment” or “approve your friend request by clicking here.”

When appropriate, take advantage of this mindset by providing the opportunity for the reader to take further action that will create direct, additional value for them.

6. Deliverability
Perhaps more important than anything, deliverability is almost always higher for transactional email than with marketing email.

No matter what kind of email you’re sending and what the content of that message is, if it doesn’t reach the inbox, it ain’t worth squat to you (the company) or the intended recipient.

These superior deliverability rates represent the perfect segue between the first five factors listed above and the last factor below. In the world of email deliverability, recipient actions greatly affect the reputation of the sender in the eyes of the ISPs and spam filters. As we all know, a good sender reputation is rewarded with high deliverability. Because transactional emails are far more likely to be opened and clicked, they are also more likely to be delivered.

This is the BIGGEST advantage of transactional emails over newsletters.

7. Engagement
When we combine factors 1-6, we finally reach the holy grail of business-to-customer email communications: an inherently heightened level of audience engagement.

At the root of all email communication is relationship building. Relationships can’t be built in the absence of a real connection. Real connections are fostered through genuine, two-way interactions.

Engagement mostly comes in the form of opens, clicks on links within emails, and replies. The stats related to these interactions are pretty impressive:

  • the average transaction rate (ie, interactions with email recipients) is up to 8x higher than with traditional bulk email
  • revenue per transaction of transactional email is 2-5x higher when compared to marketing emails


As you can see, transactional email communications are important on both sides of the equation. They deliver essential and valuable information to the customer and create an unique opportunity for engagement for your company. Don’t miss out; make sure your transactional email game is up to snuff!

I’d love to learn more about how our readers use transactional email to engage their customers and build strong relationships – comment below or tweet me @timfalls or @sendgrid!

Tim Falls

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The "Community Guy" for SendGrid and Boulder Beta.

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