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Transactional Email vs Marketing Email: Know the Difference

by | February 27, 2023

Email marketing consists of many types of messages. Here’s what you need to know about transactional email vs marketing email.
Illustration of transactional email vs. marketing email

What’s the difference between transactional email vs. marketing email? After all, isn’t all email … email?

As digital advertising has evolved through the years, so has email, which is still an essential way to attract attention and build customer loyalty. It turns out, your customers expect to see two different types of email.

Marketing emails are pretty standard. Companies send them to large groups of consumers like advertisements. These emails could be about an upcoming sale or a new clothing line. 

Essentially, marketing emails can contain anything you think a potential customer might want to know. Email design makes a big difference between someone noticing you or sending your message to their spam folder.

Transactional emails, or triggered emails, go out one at a time to one person. A customer’s specific action triggers the email, which only contains information relevant to them. Transactional emails can include receipts or abandoned shopping cart messages. 

Both marketing and transactional emails are effective ways to manage customer expectations when used well. Smart marketers understand how both types of emails help customers interact. They also know the basics of how email technology functions. 

When your email strategy is a well-oiled machine, customers see more of your advertisements and hear about your promotions in a timely manner. Transactional emails also help customers find answers to their questions, so you focus more on sales and less on fixing tech issues. 

Let’s Make a Transaction

Closeup of a cactus

When sending transactional emails, keep in mind that speed matters. Customers expect to see password resets or sales confirmation messages right away. You can expect outstanding open rates on transactional emails, because your customers are already expecting them.

Finally, you don’t need consent to send a customer a transactional email. They’ve already purchased something from you, so you don’t have to provide a way for them to opt out.

The most common types of transactional emails include:

  • Receipts and shipping notifications
  • Password reset links
  • Account updates or notification emails
  • Order confirmation emails 
  • Welcome emails after a customer opts in to a newsletter or loyalty program
  • Shipping information, including estimated delivery dates

Here’s an example of a transactional email from a succulent store called Cactus R Us:

Dear valued customer,

Thank you for shopping at Cactus R Us! We hope you’re enjoying your purchase. If you have any questions or concerns about your order, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

In the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on social media for the latest cactus-related news, tips, and inspiration. We also have a newsletter you can sign up for to stay informed about sales and new arrivals.

Thank you again for choosing Cactus R Us. We look forward to serving you again soon!

Best regards,

The Cactus R Us Team

Take Me to Market

A tray of cacti.

Marketing emails are your digital campaign’s bread and butter. These promotional emails, sometimes called drip campaigns, are typically used for advertising a product or service. You need a customer’s permission to send them marketing emails. You’ll also need to add an unsubscribe link, so customers can opt out of receiving mail from you.

Engagement rates for marketing emails are lower than transactional emails: 20% vs 70% open rates.

The most common types of marketing emails include:

  • Sales or discount notifications
  • New product launch
  • “Upsells,” which build customer retention by offering new products
  • Brand updates
  • Newsletters

Here’s an example of a marketing email from our succulent store:

Dear valued customer,

Greetings from Cactus R Us, your one-stop shop for all things prickly! We’re thrilled to announce a special sale on succulents, starting February 1st and running until February 14th (just in time to buy something prickly for your sweetie!)

Whether you’re a seasoned cactus collector or a newbie looking to add some green to your space, this is the perfect opportunity to stock up on beautiful and low-maintenance succulents at a great price.

From vibrant echeverias to delicate senecios, our selection has something for everyone. And with the prices so low, you can afford to create an eye-catching succulent garden, or give a unique and thoughtful gift to a friend or loved one this Valentine’s Day.

As a valued customer, you have early access to this sale! Simply log in to your account on our website starting Feb. 1 at 8 a.m. to shop the selection before it’s open to the public. The only thing we love more than succulents are our fellow cactus lovers. As a thank you for your continued support of Cactus R Us, we wanted to give you a chance to shop our sale succulents first. 

The sale starts in just a few days, so mark your calendar and don’t miss out! We can’t wait to help you bring a touch of the desert to your home.

Happy cactus hunting,

The Cactus R Us Team

How to Separate Marketing and Transactional Emails

The real transactional email vs. marketing email “debate” comes down to separation. When sending transactional emails use a different source than their marketing emails. Typically, each email type has its own IP address and subdomain. 

Email services such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook recognize IP addresses and subdomains in the delivery process. It happens out of sight and out of mind but it’s an integral part of how we receive our mail. 

For instance, Gmail separates types of email into primary, promotion and social. Spam is filtered out of your primary inbox.

Separate your email streams in the following ways:

  • Use different email addresses for each email type. For instance, and 
  • Create different IP addresses. Many email providers allow you to create different IP addresses for an additional cost. 
  • Set up a new subdomain. Sending emails from separate domains can go a step further than even an IP address. 
  • Using a combination of different emails, IPs, and subdomains is the most effective way to separate email streams. 

Why put in the work to separate an email stream? There are significant benefits to taking the time. The benefits of separating email streams include:

  • Email deliveries improve. To help Gmail and other email platforms categorize emails with different email addresses, subdomains, or IP addresses.
  • Build better customer relationships. Customers want to receive their transactional messages promptly. Create greater brand trust and a better sales experience by ensuring customers get the correct email type in the right inbox. 
  • Make email easier to maintain. Separate email functions are easier to troubleshoot if problems arise. This improves response times to a customer’s tech request. 

Consider an Email Campaign Platform

If terms like “IP addresses” and “subdomains” make your head spin, it might be helpful to consider an email tool like Postmark, Hubstop, and Mailchimp.

These platforms make it easy to streamline these functions. Along with making it easy to separate email streams, they offer methods of A/B testing. A/B testing, or split testing, allows brands to test which emails perform the best and have higher open rates.

Brands can use this data to send marketing and transactional emails their customers engage in the most.

Stay Out of Spam

Let us help hone your email game. We build irresistible drip campaigns and craft transactional emails that will keep your customers smiling.

The Tub Thumper


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