Transactional Emails Explained, Examples, and Best Practices

What are transactional emails and what steps should you take in order to enhance your customer experience? Learn about sending and optimizing transactional emails, which apps to use to enhance your customer experience, and get our free Transactional Email Checklist to use for your business.

Ashlynne Ray

Let’s imagine you purchase a brand new jacket for $250 from an online store. You check out, process the payment, but receive nothing in your inbox. No order confirmation. You check your spam - nothing. You feel the weight of dread starting to form in the pit of your stomach: have you been scammed? 

This scenario highlights the importance of transactional emails.

So What Are Transactional Emails?

Transactional emails are automated notification emails that are triggered by a transaction between a customer and your brand. They make or solidify a transaction, hence “transactional.”

These are all of the emails that you want to receive when you make an online purchase, and as such they’re an important extension of your store’s customer experience journey.

Customers expect these emails and will search for them in their inbox. They’re highly anticipated, which means you’ll see high deliverability and engagement. For this reason, transactional emails are sent to anyone who purchases from your store. Even customers that are suppressed receive transactional emails, with few exceptions. Because of this, these emails cannot contain marketing content.

Transactional emails are sent to almost all customers and are incredibly important emails for your business to have set up and ready to send. 

Common transactional emails include:

  • Order confirmation
  • Shipping confirmation
  • Subscription billing notification

Example

See this transactional email example: Momofuku Order Confirmation email designed by Flowcandy.

Momofuku Order Confirmation Email by Flowcandy

What Are Not Transactional Emails?

Any marketing or informational email where the person did not make a purchase or a transaction with your business is not a transactional email. 

Both transactional and non-transactional emails can be triggered by an action a customer takes, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two. You legally cannot include marketing content in your transactional emails, and it’s important to make sure yours follow to code. Delivering marketing content to unsubscribed recipients via transactional emails violates the CAN-SPAM Act, so make sure to protect yourself from potential legal ramifications. 

Emails that are not considered transactional emails include:

  • Welcome series
  • Product cross-sell
  • Surveys or quizzes
  • Birthday or anniversary notifications
  • *Post-Purchase (This one may be confusing. Post purchase emails and flows send after someone makes a purchase. This includes a wide variety of emails including: thank you emails, cross-sells, up-sells, and product reviews. While the first email in a flow can be a transactional email, the transactional emails are typically sent automatically via Shopify (or your store’s platform), and the Post-Purchase Flow then follows with marketing content.)

Where Do Transactional Emails Send From?

Transactional emails are triggered when someone places an order in your online store. So, if you use Shopify (or Woocommerce, Bigcommerce, etc.) they likely send from there. There are two transactional emails that are automatically sent by Shopify: Order confirmation and New account confirmation.

Shopify offers an extensive list of Transactional Notification Emails that you can send to your customers, but these are often stock-feeling emails that you should consider elevating.

Alternatively, Transactional Emails can send from a dedicated transactional email service. There are a host of dedicated transactional email service platforms and accompanying apps. We’ll outline a few of them here:

  • Klaviyo is a powerful growth-marketing company that lets you deliver amazing experiences through email and sms. We’ll talk about Klaviyo in depth below.
  • OrderlyEmails is a one time charge app that elevates the design of your Shopify emails by providing customizable email templates designed for Shopify stores.
  • Recharge is a subscription-focused billing tool for Shopify and Shopify Plus stores. We’ll also talk about this one in more depth.
  • Aftership is a great tool to provide customers with information that allows them to better track deliveries.
  • Loyalty Lion allows you to create a loyalty program that goes beyond points and rewards, driving greater customer lifetime value through better customer relationships.
  • Ask your customers to leave a review with Stamped.io.
  • Allow your customers to Buy Now, Pay Later with payment options like Affirm

Be aware that as helpful as these apps are in providing the potential to improve your customer experience, they typically come with their own emails set to send to your customers. Make sure that you monitor the emails that you’re sending so that your customers are only receiving emails relevant to their post-purchase journey.

The Flowcandy team has put together an awesome resource for you to use for your own business - click here to make a copy and keep track of your own Transactional Emails with this checklist.

Transactional Emails Checklist

Which platforms or apps should you use?

Here’s your favorite answer: it depends. Truly, the platforms and tools that you use to elevate your transactional emails depend on what’s most important for your store.

Sending Shopify Notification Emails with Klaviyo

By setting up your Shopify notification emails to send through Klaviyo, you can realize increased value for your e-commerce business. Klaviyo broadens your store’s possibilities by allowing you to create email flows such as win-back flows for customers who cancel or target customers who abandoned checkout. 

Transactional emails are marked on a per-email basis, not a per-flow basis. This is important because it means that you may have one email within a flow that is considered a transactional email, while the other emails in the series are considered marketing content. Using flows in Klaviyo allows you to send the customer marketing content after the initial transactional email, which can help boost your store’s return. Learn how to create a transactional email flow in Klaviyo here.

Keep in mind that Shopify automatically sends the order notification and shipping notification to customers. If you are using Shopify Plus you can deactivate the notification email in Shopify. If you are using base Shopify the notification email cannot be turned off so sending an order confirmation through Klaviyo would send a duplicate notification. Reach out to Klaviyo support if you have questions on getting that set up.

Use Klaviyo, Shopify, and partner apps to reap further benefits. We’ll mention a few of our favorites below.

If you’d like some advice on how to elevate your transactional emails through Klaviyo, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Flowcandy.

Recharge Transactional Emails

ReCharge is a subscription billing tool for Shopify and Shopify Plus stores. You can use Recharge to set up a subscription program and create transactional template emails that are automatically sent to your customers for different triggered events. It’s actually the only Shopify Plus partner specifically for subscriptions.  

By sending your emails through Klaviyo paired with Recharge you can more easily segment subscription customers for campaigns and email flows while leveraging Recharge metrics. Klaviyo V2 integrates directly with Recharge; learn how in this article.  

There are a number of notifications that you can utilize to your store’s advantage toggling them between enabled and disabled. Keep in mind that you will probably not want all of these emails enabled at one time. This is a helpful Recharge article that goes through the various notifications you can set up and which scenarios they work for. Keep track of your Recharge notifications with our Free Checklist:

Transactional Emails Checklist

Example

See this upcoming recharge notification email: Cellucor Upcoming Recharge email designed by Flowcandy

Cellucor Upcoming Recharge Email by Flowcandy

Optimizing Your Transactional Emails

Transactional emails play an incredibly important role in the customer relationship and have the potential to boost ROI. All of your transactional emails have the potential to make a significant impact on customer satisfaction and retention, and the ones worth optimizing really depends on your business and your customer journey.

But here we’ll focus on three important ones:

  1. The order confirmation email
  2. The shipping confirmation email
  3. Upcoming charge for subscriptions

Why are these so important? Numbers 1-3 are self explanatory. As you can imagine, you wouldn’t be happy if you purchased a product online and didn’t receive any order or shipping confirmation. Nor would you be particularly pleased if you suddenly saw a charge to your credit card for a subscription you’d forgotten about, with no notice. 

Now, while you may have these set up already (and they are imperative to have set up) it’s important to make sure that they’re optimized. You could be sending poorly designed emails that are losing you potential revenue. Optimizing your transactional emails not only adds monetary value, but they also build customer engagement and trust. 

Use the 80/20 rule for managing your transactional emails and flows. What does this mean? It means considering which transactional emails should be sent to your customers, and which should be disabled at the moment to prevent too many emails hitting the inbox atone time. Ensure that the most important transactional emails are live and make sure to monitor that further transactional emails and flows do not interfere with one another.

The Flowcandy team has put together an awesome resource for you to copy and use for your own business - click here to make a copy and keep track of your own Transactional Emails.

Transactional Emails Checklist

How to optimize your transactional emails

Borrow some inspiration from some emails that have prompted you to open and engage, and remember to:

  • Get creative
  • Keep it personal
  • Update about the transaction’s status
  • Include contact information
  • Keep it simple

Rejoiner has an awesome blog post: The Beginner’s Guide to Optimizing Transactional Emails. It’s full of example emails, common mistakes, and best practices, so take a look!

Click here to use Flowcandy’s Transactional Emails Checklist for your own business.

Example

See this Abandoned Checkout Example Email: Weller Abandon Checkout Email designed by Flowcandy

Weller Abandon Checkout Email Designed by Flowcandy

Finally, Go Through Your Own Customer Journey!

Place an order and see what comes through. Analyze the emails to find out which emails are best left enabled, disabled, and optimized for your business. There will be a perceivable improvement in your customer journey if you invest your time into making sure that you’re evaluating the journey and putting in the effort to enhance the emails they receive as communication from you and your brand.

Summary

For e-commerce companies, email is the backbone of a successful business strategy, and transactional emails are the groundwork for providing an excellent customer experience.

As you have learned, transactional emails are incredibly important contact touch points with your customers that are necessary for your online business.

There are an abundance of tools you can use to increase your sales through transactional emails and flows. However, the nuances within each of these choices will also affect your business. To get started on learning about the best methods for your business, contact us.

If you have questions or want advice as to how to best integrate and optimize Transactional Emails for your company, feel free to book a chat with the Flowcandy team. 


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