Optimize These 4 Transactional Emails to Drive Sales and Improve the Purchase Experience

Attracting new customers is one task, but getting them to stick around is another thing entirely. The biggest faux pas you can make is cutting all communication as soon as you think you’ve landed a new customer. In fact, shoppers today expect you to stay in touch with them at all stages of the sales cycle—when they add items to their cart, when they make a purchase, and even after they’ve received their shipment. 

Transactional emails that are automatically sent to customers when they take a certain action are crucial to building customer relationships and maintaining your brand image at scale. Ninety-eight percent of consumers receive transactional messages every day and spend between 15 to 20 seconds reading them. For 64%, they are the most important type of email. 

With incredibly high open rates hovering between 40% and 50%, and click-through rates upward of 10%, transactional emails provide the perfect opportunity to make more sales and improve customer happiness. 

What is a transactional email? 

A transactional email is an automated email that’s triggered after a customer takes a specific action with your brand. It contains information about the transaction they have taken and is a unique email sent to each individual customer. 

There are four common examples of transactional emails: 

  1. Cart abandonment emails
  2. Order confirmation emails
  3. Shipping confirmation emails
  4. Customer feedback emails

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Whether you’re just getting started or dreaming up your next big campaign, this email marketing guide will provide you with insights and ideas to help your business grow.

How is a transactional email different from a regular marketing email? 

Transactional emails are triggered by an action. They are 1:1 broadcasts rather than mass emails sent to a group of users at the same time, like a newsletter. For example, purchasing a product will trigger an order confirmation email to that specific customer—no one else. 

The best part is that transactional emails are easy to automate. Most email marketing tools have a feature that triggers transactional emails when customers take a specific action. 

Why are transactional emails so important for store owners? 

Transactional emails let you deliver the right message at the right time. Timely and relevant communication builds trust between your brand and buyers, but it can also be a great way to provide personalized offers to promote more sales.

Think about it: If a shopper has added an item to their cart, there’s a high chance they’re interested in your products. If a shopper has made a purchase, there’s a strong possibility they might be interested in other products from your line. If a shopper has just received their shipment, they might be ready to make another purchase. You get the gist. 

Transactional emails target shoppers with relevant emails based on where they’re at in the purchasing cycle. Consistent communication like this improves customer relationships and keeps your brand front of mind. 

The 4 essential transactional emails every ecommerce store needs 

1. The shopping cart abandonment email 

Baymard Institute shows the average shopping cart abandonment rate sits at nearly 70%. That’s a lot of revenue left on the table. What can you do to get those customers back to your checkout page to complete their order?

Abandoned cart emails reach customers who have recently added items to their cart but haven’t yet made it to checkout. They act as a reminder, but you can also increase the chances of conversion by adding an incentive to the mix—like 20% off or a freebie if the customer purchases within the next hour. 

The stats speak for themselves: 45% of cart abandonment emails are opened, 21% of those opened lead to a click-through, and 50% of those who click through end up making a purchase. 

Perigold cart abandonment email

Perigold includes a “Top picks for you” section in its abandoned cart emails to introduce shoppers to other items. 

Alex Mill offers shoppers 15% off if they click through and complete their purchase.

Alex Mill offers shoppers 15% off if they click through and complete their purchase. 

Make sure your abandoned cart emails hit the spot: 

  • Put the main message in text format so customers will see it right away without having to enable images. Include a link back to their shopping cart so they can easily complete the transaction.
  • Remind the customer about an item(s) in their cart that is awaiting purchase so they can get excited about it again. Highlight specific features and show off high-quality product photos.
  • Communicate a specific incentive to return to their carts, such as free shipping or discounts. If an item is running out of stock, let customers know as a courtesy while also instilling a sense of urgency.
  • Dress up emails with reviews and other relevant product suggestions. If a shopper has shown interest in one product, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in others. 
  • Use a clear, compelling call to action. Keep it concise and limit yourself to a single CTA. Multiple CTAs can distract from the action you really want customers to take: to complete their purchase.

Learn more: 16 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails to Recover Lost Sales

2. The order confirmation email

Order confirmation emails confirm that an order has been placed. This gives customers peace of mind and marks the start of their post-purchase relationship with you—one of the most pivotal points in the customer journey. Get this moment right and you can secure a customer for life. 

While the ultimate goal of an order confirmation email is to let shoppers know you’ve received their order, it can also be a good opportunity to highlight other relevant products in your catalog and build trust. The key is to be smart with how you do it. A well-timed order confirmation email with a relevant selection of product suggestions and a personalized message from your brand can work wonders since confirmation emails have the highest engagement rates of any type of email. We’re talking 65% open rates, 17% click-through rates, and 3.77% average order rate.

Allbirds keeps things light and on-brand with its order confirmation emails.

Allbirds keeps things light and on-brand with its order confirmation emails. 

Let your order confirmation emails shine: 

  • Send order confirmation emails as soon as a customer has made a purchase.
  • Showcase your brand personality in the copy, images, and design of your order confirmation emails. 
  • Add relevant content, like product reviews, upsells, and customer photos and videos. 
  • Include relevant product suggestions to introduce shoppers to other items in your catalog.

3. The shipping confirmation email

Shipping confirmation emails are sent out when a product is dispatched to a customer. They are valuable because your customer is already excited about receiving their order—their anticipation and excitement mean they’re likely to engage with the email. 

They’re also an underused opportunity to get creative and delight your customers. This email from Native is a stand-out example:

creative transactional email example from Native

Think outside the box if you want to convert more customers. How can you use your shipping confirmation emails to drive action and deepen a customer’s relationship with your brand? Instead of asking customers to make another purchase for themselves, encourage them to buy a gift for someone else.

Tradesy uses the shipping confirmation email to promote its referral program, encouraging customers to gift their friends and family $20 off.

Tradesy uses the shipping confirmation email to promote its referral program, encouraging customers to gift their friends and family $20 off.

Learn more: How to Create a Referral Marketing Strategy [+Definition]

Shipping confirmation emails are especially effective when the CTAs are personalized to the customer’s purchase. If, for example, a customer purchases a pair of men’s slacks, product recommendations could focus on matching shirts and ties, instead of something less relevant like a full suit or women’s clothing.

Ways to improve shipping confirmation emails:

  • Make it easy for your customer to track their order. Include the expected delivery date and tracking number linked to the shipping company so people can click once to see exactly where their order is in the shipping process.
  • Suggest that the customer refer a friend by forwarding a link to the product they purchased. Incentivize word-of-mouth marketing by implementing a referral program with rewards.
  • Include product suggestions that match a customer’s purchase. Make sure you’re asking shoppers to purchase something they’ll actually be interested in.

4. The customer feedback email

Customer feedback emails are triggered once a shopper has received their product and had enough time to use it and enjoy it. Getting feedback in this way can help you improve the customer experience and ensure shoppers are satisfied. It can give you detailed insights into areas you can improve, as well as where you’re succeeding, so you can continue to optimize the fulfillment process. 

Soliciting feedback can be as simple as sending a survey or a single question about the customer’s shopping experience. You’ll want to send these requests after a customer has presumably received and used the product they ordered.

Here’s an example survey from Death Wish Coffee:

Transactional email survey example from Death Wish Coffee

You can also send customers to a survey available on your website. This makes it easy to prompt a satisfied customer to start shopping once their review is complete.

What about those who are less than happy with their previous purchase? Follow-up is essential here—first to prompt a response and next to figure out how you can improve the experience for future customers.

Make the most of customer feedback: 

  • Focus on customer satisfaction, not sales, so you can get your customers’ thoughts on their purchase. Track these metrics over time and look for actionable insights you can implement in your business to improve over time.
  • Place the review/survey form on your website so the customer can see related offers and products after submitting their feedback.
  • Include the review on the product page as user-generated content to boost future buyers’ confidence.

How to set up transactional emails in Shopify

Shopify Email has all the tools and features you need to automate these important transactional email messages. 

To get started: 

  • Log in to your Shopify store and go to Marketing.
  • Click on Automations and create a new automation.
  • Choose one of the many pre-made templates or upload your own.

Once you’ve created an automation, you can choose what action triggers it in real time, like a purchase, an abandoned cart, or a successful delivery. 

While Shopify offers the ability to optimize your transactional emails for sales with features like automatic abandoned cart discounts, you can also integrate your favorite email service provider for even more powerful capabilities. Shopify integrates with the best ecommerce email tools available, including Klaviyo, Omnisend, and Mailchimp. A/B testing through these tools can help you identify which variations of your transactional emails get the best results. 

Post-purchase touchpoints are crucial 

When you send an email to your customers, you’re starting a conversation in their closely guarded inbox. You need to make your messages count, or risk losing your chance to build a connection.

Getting creative with transactional email campaigns can be an effective way to not only offer transparency about customers’ purchases but also get them back to your store for repeat sales. Get these notifications right and you’ll reap the benefits.

Ready to create your online store? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.

Transactional emails FAQ

What is a transactional email?

A transactional email is an automated email that’s triggered after a customer takes a specific action with your brand. The most common transactional emails are abandoned cart emails, order confirmations, shipping notifications, and customer feedback emails.

What’s the difference between transactional emails and regular marketing emails?

Transactional emails are triggered by a specific action, like a purchase or an item out for delivery. Unlike marketing emails, they are sent individually, like newsletters and broadcasts, which are often scheduled and sent in bulk.

What are some common transactional emails used in ecommerce?

  • Abandoned cart emails
  • Order confirmation emails
  • Shipping confirmation emails
  • Customer feedback emails
  • Welcome emails

Do transactional emails need an unsubscribe link?

Transactional emails are not the same as regular marketing emails and don’t fall within the scope of CAN-SPAM. This means you do not need to include an unsubscribe link in order confirmation emails, shipping confirmation emails, or customer feedback emails.

What should I look for when choosing a transactional email service?

  • Powerful automation functionality
  • Email deliverability and speeds
  • Reliable customer support team
  • Pricing and value
  • Customizable email templates
  • Flexible email workflows