E-commerce marketing, Online selling

Marco Pericci /

Transactional emails: what they are, how to write them and how to use them best

When it comes to successfully selling online, the ability to manage relationships with customers who buy from your store is essential to building a community of people ready to support your brand and make repeat purchases from your e-commerce. Transactional emails are a great tool to help you develop strong relationships with your store’s customers because they allow you to increase perceived brand value and turn occasional shoppers into regular customers.

Transactional emails: what they are, how to write them and how to use them best

illustration of Francesco Zorzi

In fact, thanks to transactional emails, you can create lasting relationships with people, share updates on the order status in real time and improve customer satisfaction, all by taking advantage of the potential of automation to create a flow that will accompany customers from the first visit to your store to the delivery of the package at home.

In this article, we will explain what transactional emails are and how to take advantage of them to increase your store’s conversions, in addition to offering a series of tips and practical advice that will help you create effective transactional emails.

What are transactional emails?

Transactional emails are automatic emails that are sent to a single recipient to confirm a transaction or a specific action associated with the user’s account, such as a request to change the password or a reminder to deactivate the account following a period of inactivity. In the e-commerce world, transactional emails are sent to confirm the recipient of the order and the shipment of the product and to communicate all after-sales operations, including the collection of customer reviews and returns management.

How can they improve the shopping experience? 

Transactional emails can help you build solid relationships with customers and accompany them during the entire purchasing process, from creating an account on your online store to delivering the order by carrier. But rather than informing, the goal of transactional emails should be to reassure customers: when they click the fateful “Buy now” button, your buyers want to be sure that their order – and therefore, the payment – was completed successfully. No wonder transactional emails have an average open rate of around 65%, compared to 20-25% of traditional marketing emails. This is because customers know the content of transactional emails is highly specific, personalized and directly linked to an activity they have completed on your shop’s website. 

How do they help e-commerce manage customer satisfaction?

When it comes to maximizing the customer satisfaction of buyers, there’s only one keyword: communication. Customers are first and foremost people who want to be heard. Empathizing with them from the very first interactions will allow you to build a relationship that goes far beyond the single purchase, reaching the heart – and mind – of your buyers. But that’s not all: thanks to the power of transactional emails, you will be able to intervene promptly in case of problems or mistakes during the shipment, for example communicating in real time any possible delays in the delivery of an order and offering an incentive to the customer to convince them to give your store a second chance (such as a discount code on their next purchase), so as to transform a dissatisfied customer into a customer who will come back to buy from you again.

The isendu transactional messaging service

Using a shipping platform like isendu, which is essential to managing shipments, you will be able to access our tool to create transactional emails in just a few clicks and with no programming skills required. All transactional emails have a modern and responsive design (which is very important since 73% of online purchases are made via mobile device), and are sent automatically based on the updates communicated by the carrier during the following steps:

  • Order ready: when the package is ready to be shipped, the customer will receive a transactional email informing him/her that it will be taken over by the carrier.
  • In transit (or delayed): this transactional email contains all the tracking information the customer needs to track the package. In the event of delays or hitches in delivery, an additional transactional email will be sent to keep the customer updated in real time.
  • Delivered: when the carrier delivers the items, a transactional email is sent to confirm the arrival of the package and thank the customer.
  • Reviews: a few days after the delivery, the customer will receive a transactional email where they will be invited to leave feedback on the product or their shopping experience. In addition to being an exceptional social proof tool, customer reviews can help you understand what isn’t working and give you the right pointers to improve.

Furthermore, isendu’s transactional emails are designed to create value. For example, you can insert practical widgets to recommend products that complement the customer’s purchase and to incentivize cross-selling by increasing conversions, or entering your contact information to offer excellent after-sales support to your buyers.

Examples of transactional emails

If you’re wondering how to walk the customer through the buyer’s journey via transactional emails, here’s a model you can apply to your online store:

  1. Welcome your customer: if the customer decides to create an account on your store’s website, remember to send him/her an email to confirm the account registration. And if you want to create a memorable experience, consider offering a small welcome bonus, such as a discount code for his/her first purchase, to incentivize them to take action immediately. 
  2. Accompany him/her to the purchase: it happens very often that your customers add items to the cart without completing the purchase. According to some studies, around 69.8% of e-commerce carts are abandoned. In this case, transactional emails are a terrific tool to push shoppers to finalize the purchase: you could send an email to stimulate a sense of scarcity and urgency, informing the customer that the stock of products is about to run out, and include an incentive to purchase, like an exclusive discount on items already in the cart.
  3. Confirm the receipt of the order: now that you have brought the deal home, the first thing to do is to reassure the customer of the successful receipt of the order through a summary transactional email. Don’t forget to thank the customer and provide an estimate on the timing of the expected delivery date.
  4. Share tracking information: once the package is collected by the carrier, you enter the last-mile phase, the last crucial step where the responsibility for customer satisfaction passes into the carrier’s hands. At this point, your goal should be to allow the customer to track the package and know where it is by sharing the tracking details with a transactional email. If you can, don’t limit yourself to reporting the tracking code, but also include a direct link to the shipment tracking page.
  5. Ask the customer to leave a review: a few days after the delivery of the package, you can send a transactional email to ask the customer to leave a review on the product or on their shopping experience. To simplify the operation, isendu’s transactional email tool automatically connects to TrustPilot, Google and other review portals.
Example of isendu’s transactional emails 

How to write transactional emails

When it comes to writing transactional emails that hit home, there are a few rules and best practices to keep in mind to make your mark. Consider them a starting point because there’s no magic formula to create the perfect transactional email and the result also depends on the audience you’re trying to reach.

Leverage customization

The first rule of writing a successful transactional email is to personalize it based on when it will be sent and the recipient. While a customer will be thrilled to receive an email confirming the shipment of the order, the same cannot be said for a buyer to whom you will have to communicate a delay in delivery. The language will also have to be adapted accordingly. You will need to try to understand his/her expectations and comprehend his/her concerns, communicating with empathy and sensitivity. 

Define the goal 

What role do transactional emails play in your e-commerce marketing strategy? Do you want to use them simply to keep your customers updated or do you want to make the most of them to increase conversions? In this case, you will also have to adapt the language accordingly: if your goal is to convince a customer to finalize the purchase of an abandoned cart, you will have to leverage the sense of urgency and scarcity to convey the feeling that the customer is missing out and doesn’t have much time to complete the payment.

Get straight to the point 

The goal of transactional emails should be to allow customers to access the information that matters in seconds. So make sure that the content of your transactional emails is clear and straightforward. Avoid too many words and, if possible, take advantage of proper integration between the graphic elements and the copy to create a pleasant visual experience without neglecting the details that prompted you to send the transactional email.

How to take advantage of transactional emails to boost your e-commerce

As we’ve seen, transactional emails have the ability to build strong  relationships with customers. At the same time, you can take advantage of them to increase your e-commerce sales. Let’s see how.

Ignite the wait before receiving the package

Between the time you ship the package and the item is delivered by the carrier, you can use transactional emails to ignite the customer’s wait, for example by sharing how to use the product or creative ideas to get the most out of the item they have just purchased. This way, the customer can’t wait to unwrap the package.

Take advantage of cross-selling and upselling

One of the best ways to unleash the power of transactional emails is to use them to cross-sell and upsell products that complement or are superior to the items purchased by the customer. In this way, you can win a sale at no cost. Take the example of businesses like Amazon and Zalando, which include a series of products suggested to the customer in the transactional emails confirming the order.

Thank the customer

Immediately after the purchase, take advantage of transactional emails to thank the customer for choosing your online store. Uber, the well-known ride sharing service, sends a transactional email with a personalized thank-you note and a summary of the ride, including a map of the route and a description of the amount paid.

Optimize the after-sales experience

Finally, you can use transactional emails to optimize your customers’ entire after-sales experience. Among the ideas to take into consideration, consider the possibility of offering shoppers an incentive to subscribe to your store’s loyalty program, invite them to join the Community or follow you on social media, or offer an incentive on their next purchase to increase your e-commerce sales.

Marco Pericci

Written by:

Marco Pericci

Head of Growth

User explorer. I dream of a world where automation makes humankind happy.

Illustration of:

Francesco Zorzi

Illustrator, Visual Designer, Creative Director

Illustrator, visual designer, creative director with a multidisciplinary background in architecture and graphics divides his time between Florence and New York. His works are published in newspapers and magazines such as The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, AdAge, La Stampa among others. He is the creative director of isendu, for which he oversaw the redesign project.

Francesco Zorzi