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8 types of transactional emails your platform needs

Transactional emails are automated messages by user actions. The beauty of transactional emails is that they’re the set-and forget-cousin to marketing email campaigns. From password resets, to shipping confirmations, these babies manage a lot of user logistics. Here are the top messages to program into your arsenal.



Transactional emails sometimes get a reputation for being boring when compared to carefully crafted marketing emails. And while that may be true to an extent, transactional emails carry a lot of weight when it comes to daily operations, usability, and even sales.

Transactional emails are built into the foundation of Mailgun. These programmatic emails are perfectly compatible with our API and your large sending volumes. But what transactional pathways will contribute the most to your business? We’ve named eight, do you have ‘em all?

What is a transactional email?

We know that a transactional email is a triggered message, but what exactly does that mean? When a user performs an action, like requesting a password reset, the transactional message is triggered by that action. Maybe it’s a button click, or a form field entry. When the action is completed, the transactional email templates are personalized, and programmatically sent to the user via API.

Learn more about the dos and don’ts of transactional emails, and how you can set them up with Mailgun.

What specifications should a transactional email have?

Because transactional emails are going out to a wide segment of users for various scenarios, we need to ensure they are constructed for success with a few basics:

  1. Set up your authentication protocols

  2. Use the correct sender address

  3. Make your emails accessible

  4. Set up personalization

Let’s get cracking!

1. Set up your email authentication protocols

Before you hit send, remember to set up your email authentication protocols, like sender policy framework (SPF) records, domain keys identified mail (DKIM), domain messaging authentication reporting and conformance (DMARC), and brand indicators for message indication (BIMI). Whether using an email service provider (ESP) or sending on your own, authentication records are important. Think of authentication protocols as your ID card for email sending. They tell mailbox providers that you are who you say you are so they can place you in your reader’s inbox instead of the spam folder.

2. Use the right sender address

We know email isn’t just about metrics, but hear us out. Using the correct sender address can positively affect your open rate. Make it obvious to your users who they’re getting mail from. You can either use your company name or an individual employee’s name as the sender name, but don’t forget to white label your domain name system (DNS) record so that your sender address displays as your company’s email address.

3. Build in accessibility

Accessibility is important – especially for transactional emails. You don’t want your readers to miss out on key pieces of information. Design your email to be accessible for low-vision and special needs readers. Do this by using alt-text for images and contrasting colors that make your messages easier to read.

Let’s be real – many of your readers open your emails on their mobile devices. Create a better user experience by coding responsive email designs that adjust to their device’s viewport.

5. Set up personalization

You want your messages to be triggered automatically, but that doesn’t mean they can’t – or shouldn’t – be personalized. You can create Transactional templates with HTML that will personalize the content with the recipient’s name, account details, etc. to make the message more impactful but also useful.

8 types of transactional emails

Automation is powerful in email. Of all the automated messages you might send, what’s considered a transactional email? Well, here are some common examples of transactional emails you might encounter in your business sending practices:

1. Opt-in email

An opt-in email is a message that requires a confirmation action from the recipient, and they are a fantastic method to grow a clean email list, and boost engagement (which also helps with deliverability). If people opt-in, they are more likely to read your emails and have an interest in the content.

We recommend using double opt-ins as you’re growing your email list. It might seem counterintuitive to add an extra step to the sign-up process, but this helps eliminate email addresses from your mailing list that are generated by bots or other spam sources.

Don’t just stop with double opt-ins when it comes to curating a clean email list. Make sure that your unsubscribe link is easy to find and allow users to opt out without friction.

2. Welcome email

Email your subscribers or new customers when they have signed up to your mailing or completed an account creation.

Welcome emails are a standard type of transactional email for almost any service. Although this is an automated email message, it can also be a personalized email, not just with the recipeint’s name, but through other data points like their geography. For instance, if you sell outdoor gear, you may send a welcome email featuring some winter products for a new user in Canada.

Personalization uses data to optimize messaging and build retention, not just through transactional emails but for your marketing campaigns. Learn more here.

3. Activity notification email

Don’t leave your users in the dark. Activity notifications cover a wide range of actions from account notifications to alerts that an item is back in stock.

It’s a good practice to send confirmation emails when your users complete certain activities or make requests on your app or platform. For instance, if you’re a banking app, it makes sense to build in functionality that alerts users to high-value, or potentially fraudulent transactions.

Activity notification is sort of a miscelaneous category in this list because it’s highly customizeable to your needs. So, here’s some ideas of places where activity notifications can come into play:

  • We miss you: Send an email when your users haven’t logged in for a while.

  • System activity: We’ve received your support request and are reviewing it now.

  • Is this you: Someone has logged into your account from a new device.

4. Password reset email

An automated response to a password reset request is one of the most common transactional emails. When users forget their password to your app, the last thing they want is to experience more user friction. Keep this in mind and design your password reset emails to create a seamless, user-friendly experience for your customers.

5. Abandoned cart email

Ever wondered, “What do transactional emails mean for my bottom line?”

Cart abandonment emails are a great ecommerce examples of transactional emails driving sales. Your user is teetering on the edge of making a purchase. They’ve even added items to their shopping carts. But they’re just not quite ready to click through and make a purchase. An abandoned cart email is sometimes just the nudge they need to complete their purchase.

6. Order confirmation email

Order confirmations are the email equivalent of a purchase receipt, but they can contain information beyond pricing, like a link to an order status page or tracking number that gives a user peace of mind prior to receiving a shipping confirmation email. Take a moment to reassure your user that you’ve received their order and manage expectations by setting a timeline for shipping and delivery.

7. Shipping confirmation email

Keep your users updated with real-time shipping notifications. This may be one of the more obvious types of transactional emails when thinking about companies like Amazon. Shipping updates are not only personalized with name, but with other critical information like tracking numbers and order summaries.

8. Delivery confirmation email

A delivery confirmation email confirms that you (the supplier) received confirmation of delivery. This can be useful for the recipient to follow up with the courier service to troubleshoot why a delivery confirmation was sent if they haven’t received the goods, or alert them that their package has arrived.

However, this isn’t all that a delivery confirmation email can do. This is also a space for feedback that catches the recipient in a state of excitement or appreciation that they have received their order. This is a great space to ask for a review or showcase other services or items that they may have interest in.

Wrapping up

Transactional email services solve communication needs between you and your users but automated doesn’t mean that your messaging has to feel robotic. Check out our tips for creating dynamic transactional email content and remember that these message types will likely be read by your users. How often do you ignore your shipping confirmation emails? Our advice? Use the engagement transactional emails provide to elevate your customer experience.

Just dipping a toe into the transactional email waters? We’ve done the legwork to answer all of your questions about setting up the best email program and achieving a great deliverability rate. Subscribe to our newsletter and become an email geek like us.

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