Transactional Email vs. Marketing Email: Explore the differences
Whether you are new or a pro at email marketing, the question remains about the difference between transactional email and marketing email. So, if you’re new, don’t feel bad. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and still ask myself this question (okay, not really).
Simply put, a transactional email is sent to a customer in response to an action they performed. A marketing email entices a customer or prospect to perform a specific action.
You can stop reading, but I don't want you to. There is a lot of good information below. After reading this, you'll be able to brag to all your friends about everything you know. Lastly, you may smile as I write how I speak, which means I add humor to everything I do. My wife gets annoyed occasionally, but she still smiles, and I hope you do, too.
I know I answered what the difference is, but let’s unpack it a little more to drive this home:
- Purpose and content: A transaction email, in its simplest form, contains information about an action the customer performed, while marketing emails tend to deliver content based on actions you want your customer to take. You can think of it as saying “thank you” (transactional email) versus saying “please” (marketing email). I've got more, but you get the point.
- Several ways to send an email: Using Tarvent, there are multiple ways to send email. I'm not talking about using either your right or left hand with the mouse. Using our GraphQL-based API (techie terms, I know) is preferred for transactional email as it enables real-time emails to your customers programmatically, 24 hours a day. For marketing campaigns, our web-based platform is the best to plan, test, send, and report on your marketing campaigns.
- Optimizing deliverability: Due to the nature of transactional email, deliverability is a must. Transactional emails are expected emails that your customers will most likely engage with. Marketing emails are only sometimes expected, which typically leads to less engagement. While many factors impact deliverability, engagement is one of the important ones, without getting too techie. As such, Tarvent can isolate transactional emails by sending them using different Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, providing the most efficient and result-based delivery for each type of email. In layperson's terms, the folks at Tarvent will work to maximize deliverability, so you do not need to learn some of the techie stuff to make it happen.
What is a transactional email?
Transactional email (aka triggered email) is sent in response to an action performed by the customer. At a bare minimum, the activity must be electronically tracked. We’re working on mind tracking (not really), but until then, if you can track an action, you can send a transactional email. Whether you are tracking actions in a mobile app, desktop app, web-based app or website, or even a proprietary internal application, you can easily send a transactional email through Tarvent. Businesses often send transactional emails using an Application Programming Interface (API), which gives the developer control over every aspect of the transactional email, including content, subject line, and more. Don’t worry; the marketing department can still control how the email looks without waiting for developers to change their code.
Transaction email examples
Let’s drive this home even further with some examples of transactional emails. In addition, we’ve included some of the elements you might want in each type of transactional email you send that will enhance your customer’s experience.
1. Order confirmation or purchase receipt
Customers expect a timely confirmation email when an order or purchase is made. Here are some of the key elements these emails should include, at a minimum:
- Order confirmation numbers
- Item details (a list of items purchased, along with quantity, item price, and total amount)
- Billing and shipping address information
- Call-to-action (CTA) buttons or links allow customers to track their order status.
- Additional information and links to access your various policies, including your cancellation policy, return policy, and typical information your customers may have requested.
- Contact information, including the business name, address, phone, and email address.
2. User registration confirmation
When a user signs up for an account, subscribes to your newsletter, or signs up for your service, a confirmation is typically sent to confirm(verify?) the user’s intent. Some of the critical elements of these emails include:
- Date and time of registration
- Email address used to register
- CTA button to confirm registration (put your heart and soul into making this the most clickable link of your email)
- Business contact information, including the business name, address, phone, and email address.
3. Password reset
While Tarvent is a password-less system, many web and mobile applications rely on passwords to access their system. Every now and again, users may need or want to reset their password. This type of email should include:
- User’s name
- CTA button to navigate the user to the password reset page (put your heart and soul into making this the most clickable link of your email)
- If supported, an expiration date and explanation of the reset link
- A friendly message assuring the user of how easy the process is.
4. Notification emails
This type of email covers a wide range of various emails you can send your customers. Within Tarvent, we send notification emails when a marketing email has completed the sending process, when a contact import has been completed when a custom report has been generated, and more. We guess is that, like us, you will also have several notification emails that can be sent. When sending notification email, make sure to include the following:
- Title (aka reason). For example, Report “Daily activity” has been created
- Date and time of the activity being notified about
- Description of the notification
- CTA button to access any online data associated with the notification
- Support contact information in case the user has questions
- Optionally, a link to update their preferences for future notifications
5. Your account is ready
Confirming that a customer’s account has been created is a great way to assure them of the success they have had so far. Additionally, this is a significant first step in a successful onboarding process. When sending these emails, try to include the following:
- CTA to their newly created account
- A reminder of what their new account is for
- A list of next steps they can take to learn more about what they can do with their new account
- Links to resources allowing them to get more familiar with your products or services
There are times when your business has unexpected changes. For instance, if you operate your business out of a physical location instead of a virtual one, you may have to temporarily close your door due to mechanical issues in the building or staffing. For virtual businesses, you may be experiencing a technical outage. In either case, an operational email is used to notify anyone you do business with that something has temporarily or permanently changed. When sending an operational email, make sure to include the following elements:
- Identify the change being made
- Indicate if that change is permanent or temporary
- Date and time that the change will go into effect
- Date and time that the change will be reverted if temporary
- An explanation of the change and how customers will be accommodated
What is a marketing email?
As we mentioned before, transactional emails are sent in response to a customer’s actions. On the other hand, marketing emails are typically initiated by you to drive customer engagement. These “please do this” emails can be sent to a targeted list or through a marketing automation that delivers email based on a customer’s demographic, psychological, and behavioral data at the perfect time to maximize engagement and help navigate a prospect or customer through your customer journey.
Transactional email is typically sent programmatically through an API. In contrast, marketing emails are sent through a web-based platform, such as Tarvent, that allows you to test and schedule your marketing emails well in advance. Since marketing emails are typically commercial, the laws that regulate marketing emails don’t normally apply to transactional emails.
With many platforms, you also get extensive marketing email reporting, while transactional email reports have much to be desired. That's not the case with Tarvent. Reporting is critical, regardless of the type of email you're sending. We provide almost identical metrics for both kinds of email, leaving no rock unturned.
One of the more unique tools you can use with marketing email is A/B testing, or what Tarvent called multivariate testing. While we'd love to dive into multivariate testing, we'll leave that for another time to stay focused.
Marketing email examples
Below are examples of some of the more standard marketing emails that get sent out through Tarvent:
1. Sales and promotions
I'm sure you are familiar with promotional emails. These emails are typically single-purpose emails designed to get the customer to perform a specific action, such as purchasing a product, signing up for a service, or downloading a digital asset such as an e-book, white paper, or coupon.
When creating your marketing emails, there is typically a very intentional design for each email, all focused on achieving a specific goal. This could be brand awareness focused solely on open rates generated from a great subject line or purchasing a product using a CTA that no one can resist. In either case, there is a goal for each marketing email. To accomplish this, here are some of the elements to include in your email:
- Typically, a heavy focus on images is used to showcase the product, service, or download
- An irresistible CTA button or buttons that every recipient is sure to click
- Highly focused content that isn’t too long and provides just enough to entice the recipient
Staying in touch with your prospects and customers is a great way to nurture your relationship with them. Newsletters allow you to keep them informed about what new and exciting things are happening at your company. Employing personalization and dynamic content will enable you to focus on which content is sent to each recipient to ensure they are getting only the information that is important to them.
Newsletters, like blogs, are all about content. Depending on how active your organization is, you might opt for sending headlines with summary content and CTAs that link out to your website. For less active or highly focused newsletters, longer content about a single topic works well within an email to limit how much a recipient must do to get the content they are looking for. This type of email typically includes:
- Catchy title and hero image (Joke about hero image?)
- Rich content with photos to support each topic
- CTAs that link out to additional information, related topics, and more.
3. Blog announcement
When you are ready for eyes on your latest blog, email announcements are a great way to let everyone know your newest blog is available. Using Tarvent, these announcements can be automatically sent as soon as Tarvent detects a new blog posted. These announcements can be sent once a blog is updated, created, or sent weekly with the latest blogs for a given channel. In either case, these announcements are automated and pulled directly from your blog content. Elements in this type of email include:
- Blog channel title and hero image
- A short summary of what the channel is about
- Title, image, and overview of each blog included in the email
This one is tricky, but one that is commonly sent if you have implemented a loyalty program, gift cards, or some other type of account that the customer may have with your business. This is tricky because this is an email initiated by you, which typically falls under the "Marketing email," definitely. However, the email is meant to summarize their account, which aligns more with transactional emails.
Companies often send out e-statements that include account balance information and upsell or cross-sell information. This is where the dilemma comes in. While we are not providing legal advice, e-statements are a great way to inform your customers of the account status and balance. Still, we caution against too much marketing content within the email, which can cause the email to be perceived as a marketing email, thus needing to follow email laws. When sending these e-Statements, we suggest including the following elements:
- Great title and hero image
- Partial or complete account number
- Account balance or other related account status information
- Minimal marketing information
Sending marketing and transaction emails with Tarvent
As we've discussed, there are some distinct differences between marketing and transactional email. Sending them, due to their nature, is typically different. Technically speaking, you can send either type of email using our GraphQL-based API or our web-based platform. However, we usually suggest sending transactional emails using our API to get the customer's email sent immediately. In contrast, marketing emails are best tested and sent using our web-based platform.
Tarvent was built from the ground up to tightly integrate transactional and marketing emails and their associated assets into a single solution. This means you can create custom templates using the template editor used for marketing email templates. There is also tight integration between transactional email and marketing automation, journeys, audiences, and more. Larger companies can leverage Tarvent's capabilities by allowing developers to focus on building the API integrations. At the same time, the marketing team has complete control over how an email looks without being dependent on developers to make any code changes.
A fully integrated solution has many additional advantages, including suppression list checks, adding new contacts from transactional emails to an audience for marketing emails, and more.
Transactional and marketing emails are incredibly effective but with very different purposes. Transactional email is excellent for giving customers the information they need in response to an action they just performed. Marketing email is perfect for enticing customers to perform an action they may have otherwise not acted on their own, such as buying a product because it's on sale.
When you’re looking for an email marketing platform, marketing automation platform, and email API for sending transactional emails, Tarvent has everything you need in a single solution that ties everything together. Try Tarvent for free for 14 days and see how Tarvent can take your marketing to the next level with ease at a price any size company can afford.
Cliffs Notes version
So, you have little time and little patience but need information ASAP. In other words, we must be related. Well, here it is…
You can think of a transactional email as a "thank you" email because the email is sent in response to a customer's actions. Transactional emails are typically sent programmatically using an Application Programming Interface (API) that lets your systems tell our systems to send an email. It works 24/7, never takes breaks or vacations, and never calls in sick (except for maintenance windows). Tarvent has an API and a code builder to significantly reduce integration time with your website, mobile app, or proprietary internal applications.
Marketing emails are more like a "please do this" email to entice the customer or prospect to perform the action you want. Marketing emails are sent using a marketing platform, like Tarvent's web-based platform, that lets you plan, test, send, and track each customer's engagement with your email.
If the Cliffs Notes version leaves you wanting more, check out the full blog above. It will make us feel much better knowing that all our typing, reviewing, and amazing pictures were not in vain. Haha!