transactional email vs. marketing email [explained] (1)

Transactional Email vs. Marketing Email: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide


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Most transactional emails have an average open rate of 80-85%, while most marketing emails are between 20-25%

Now, that doesn’t mean you should stop sending marketing emails or start sending unnecessary transactional emails for that matter. Rather, what you need to do is learn about the difference between them, so you know when to send what to whom. 

That’s why we delve into the key differences between marketing email and transactional email in this blog. This will help you understand them better and use both types of emails seamlessly and effectively.

Let’s dive in!

What is a marketing email?

A marketing email is a type of email that is sent strategically by businesses and organizations to promote their products, services, events, or initiatives to their target audience.

Marketing emails are typically sent to a list of recipients acquired through lead generation efforts as well as to people who have opted in to receive them from the sender.

The primary goal of a marketing email is to engage recipients and encourage them to take a specific action, such as making a purchase, signing up for a webinar, subscribing to a newsletter, or visiting a website.

There are a variety of marketing emails, to name a few:

  • Newsletters
  • Promotional offers
  • Product announcements
  • Abandoned cart emails
  • Re-engagement emails
  • Cross-Sell and Upsell Emails
  • Event invitations, and so on.

The ideal marketing email contains a mix of informative content and persuasive elements, such as compelling visuals, well-crafted copy, and clear calls to action (CTAs).

These emails are personalized to some extent, addressing the recipient by name and tailoring the content to their interests or past interactions with the brand. 

Examples of Marketing emails

Regardless of what sources we use to learn something from, examples are always the best teachers. So, let’s go over the marketing emails of a few big brands to see why they are always flooded with new customers. 

Nike – Capitalizing on Father’s Day occasion

Different occasions are just the prime time for sending marketing emails. And if you are wondering whether your product fits the occasion or not, just forget about it. Believe in Nike’s slogan, Just Send It.

Marketing email of Nike

Starbucks – Utilizing offers to do the marketing

While the click rate and click-through rate of marketing emails are quite low, it’s surprisingly higher when the marketing emails come with an offer. Even though Starbucks is an established brand, they are staying ahead of the marketing competition by sending offers through its emails.

Marketing email of starbucks

Canva – Letting users know about their improvements

Once you have made a name for your brand, you don’t even need to send offers or social proofs to get more customers. You can simply upgrade your product or service, and the number of users will keep increasing. But that might not happen if they don’t know about your new features. 

That’s why Canva chose to let their users know about their new improvements. This will not only help them market their product to new customers, but also keep the existing customers in the loop. 

Marketing email of canva

What is a transactional email?

Unlike marketing emails, which focus on promoting products, services, or events, transactional emails are primarily concerned with providing information related to a user’s interaction with a system or service.

A transactional email or a triggered email is a type of automated email that is triggered by a specific action or transaction initiated by the user or the customer. 

These emails are expected by the recipients as they typically deliver important information directly relevant to the recipient’s desire, hence, their open rates are different.

There are also a variety of types of transactional emails such as – 

  • Order confirmation emails
  • Shipping notifications
  • Password reset email
  • Account verification email
  • Receipts
  • Subscription confirmations etc.

It’s important for businesses to ensure that transactional emails are well-designed, clear, and include all necessary information. However, they should also be careful not to include marketing content in transactional emails, as this can confuse recipients and potentially lead to deliverability issues.

Examples of transactional emails

You probably already understand well enough about what transactional emails are and what they should look like. Yet, we won’t just leave you halfway without showing a few examples of the big brands. 

Mailchimp – easily navigable registration confirmation email 

One of the most common types of transactional email is registration confirmation email. If you think, oh well, those emails are sent automatically and you don’t need to worry about them, hold on a minute. 

It’s true that crafting a registration confirmation email is not rocket science, but you sure can take inspiration from Mailchimp. Their email is short, concise, and to the point, and comes with a clear button to confirm the subscription confirmation. 

transactional email of buzzfeed

Reddit – easy password reset email 

No matter which niche is your business based on, you’ll have to send a lot of password reset emails every day. And these emails should be as simple as it sounds. Just follow how Reddit did with their email. 

transactional email of reddit

Addidas – a tricky reminder of cart abandonment

Customers viewing products and then leaving your website is a common scenario for almost every business owner. And that’s where a transactional email can be your savior if you know how to utilize it. 

Here’s what Adidas did, and let us tell you, they did it perfectly! 

transactional email of addidas

Transactional email vs marketing email: key differences

Both transactional and marketing emails while sharing some similarities, serve their own purposes in your communication strategy. You can’t replace one with another nor can you do without one of them.

Understanding their differences lets you optimize your email campaigns for better results. Let’s dive into the key contrasts:

The purpose

The first thing the transactional and marketing emails differ in, is their respective purposes. While transactional emails serve purposes specified by the customers, marketing emails are sent by the company for their own designated purpose.

  • Transactional emails: Transactional emails have a clear-cut goal, that is to facilitate specific actions or transactions. These emails are triggered by user interactions, such as purchases, password resets, or bookings. Their primary goal is to provide information and confirmation, ensuring a smooth user experience.
  • Marketing emails: In contrast, marketing emails are persuasive and designed to drive sales, conversions, or engagement. They showcase products, promotions, or events, encouraging recipients to take action. Marketing emails are highly personalized and specifically segmented toward their receiver to maximize their impact.

The center of focus

Another key point where transactional and marketing emails part their ways is their center of focus. Where transactional emails are primarily user-centric, marketing emails focus on the conversion of the target audience.

  • Transactional emails: These emails prioritize user needs and experiences above all. They deliver essential information as the user takes an action, such as signing in or making an order. The primary focus is on clarity and functionality, minimizing the risk of frustrating the user. Transactional emails shape how the user experience will be to a great extent.
  • Marketing emails: These emails are specifically crafted in a way that generates maximum user conversions. Its content aims to attract, captivate, and persuade recipients to engage with your brand’s offerings. Though user experience matters, the foremost goal of a marketing email is to drive conversion and gain valuable actions from the said user.

The content

Transactional and marketing emails both have fundamentally different inner body content. While one informs the customers about their purchases and actions, the other promotes various offerings you have for the potential customers.

  • Transactional emails: Transactional emails are informational, meaning, it’s the ideal vessel through which information gets delivered to its recipient. For example, transactional emails provide the specific details of a transaction, like order summaries or account confirmations. The inner content of transactional emails is transaction-centric and usually doesn’t contain any promotional elements. However, a small CTA or cleverly put marketing materials can sometimes be put strategically in transactional emails such as order confirmation emails.
  • Marketing emails: Just like the name suggests, marketing emails are promotional in nature. They highlight your products, services, or special offers, with the help of persuasive language and calls to action (CTAs). The primary focus of marketing emails is to drive prospects to engage further with the brand and eventually make the purchase. Marketing emails are often sent following an email sequence, with the ultimate goal of making a conversion. 

The frequency and timing

Timing and frequency play a vital role in all kinds of emails. And this is where transactional and marketing emails need to be handled differently.

  • Transactional emails: Transactional emails, or triggered emails are ‘triggered’ instantly based on a specified user action. For example, an order confirmation email is sent as soon as a transaction is completed. The timing is crucial here and you have to ensure your customers receive timely information. If not timed correctly or triggered accordingly, your brand reputation might be in jeopardy.
  • Marketing emails: Marketing emails on the contrary are timed and strategized based on factors that are specific to a business. The factors to consider are – user engagement patterns and optimal time slots for delivery to name a few. The re-engagement emails that you send are also part of marketing emails. The planning and the strategies directly affect the open rate and click-through rate of a given email campaign.

Learn about the best email frequency best practices from here 

Scope of personalization

Due to their inept nature, the chances of personalizing the content of transactional and marketing emails are different too. Both emails need to be personalized, of course, but to what extent?

  • Transactional emails: Transactional emails are often short and concise in nature. Being centered around each specific transaction, there are only a few things to include in a transactional email like the recipients’ names, order numbers, and the shipping and transaction details. The good thing is —personalizing a transactional email is easy because all the data needed for the personalization is provided by your customer, so you don’t need to put extra effort into it.
  • Marketing emails: Marketing emails leverage email personalization to a greater extent. In marketing emails, factors like recipients’ preferences, past interactions, demographics, and browsing behaviors are considered to deliver content that resonates with individual recipients. Although this needs a considerable amount of effort, this kind of personalization approach enhances the chance of better user engagement and conversion.

While both transactional and marketing emails are integral to your communication strategy, they serve distinct roles. Transactional emails prioritize user needs and facilitate actions.

On the other hand, marketing emails strategically promote products or services to drive conversions. Understanding these differences will enable you to tailor your email campaigns for optimal results.

So, which email to send?

Transactional and marketing emails are like the two sides of a single coin. Although they are different, they both are integral parts of a successful communication strategy. Hopefully, this blog was helpful enough to help you understand the differences between them. 

Now that you know their differences, we hope you will be able to use these two types of emails appropriately and according to your users’ needs. If you still have any confusion, don’t forget to reach us in the comments!

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