Transactional emails – they’re not exciting. Least of all when they land in your inbox. A notification of this, or letting you know you’ve only got $2 left in your bank account. Typically transactional emails are sent when a customer does something on a website. Creating an account, making a purchase, updating their profile, those sort of things.
Transactional emails have a track record of having a higher engagement rate than your regular marketing emails. Talking opens, click-throughs and conversions here. But they’re often overlooked.
A huge part of my job has been to create transactional emails from scratch. Talking design, figuring out their website triggers, for customers all over the world. Different languages, different cultures. The learning curve has been steep. And I’m still learning. One of the best forms of learning? Teaching others about what you’ve learnt. So here I go.
1. Start Small
We made the mistake of thinking the customer will want to be notified via email for almost every action on the website. You know, like the big boys of retail do. Alright for the big boys, not so much the new players in town. What with being new and relatively unheard of, complaints came in of too many emails. We just didn’t have the street cred with our customers to be okay with them to send them an email for every notification. It’s an easy enough fix to go through. Review your current emails and scale back. What are the important things that the customer needs to know about and they need to have in their inbox. Everything else can be communicated on-site. Start small and build when you need to build.
2. Keep it simple
Design wise, keep things simple. Transactional emails are meant to convey some important information to the customer, which they need to understand within seconds. While it’s tempting to pack the email with glorious hero banners and amazing imagery that take up half the email, this may lead the customer into believing this is a marketing email. With many ESPs there’s no way of unsubscribing from transactional emails, so you may end up getting a complaint off the back of a reaction like this. Keep designs simple and relevant to the point of the email to avoid confusing customers.
3. Code like it’s 1990
With so many transactional emails to build (talking hundreds here, for countless the different countries), the core template for the emails needed to be resilient and stand the test of time. We’re talking relatively simple designs using robust code that won’t break in a week because an email client has decided to stop supporting something or another. Unlike marketing emails, with transactional emails, they’re going to be designed, built and left to sit for a considerable amount of time without being able to review them. While still being continually sent out to customers. So make sure your build is rock solid. Keep the interactive/kinetic email for the marketing campaigns.
4. …But don’t forget about them
While it’s easy to create your slew of transactional emails and kick them off to your customers, you will have to revisit them at some point. Whether it’s to update the content, optimise when its triggered or recode the template because some email client has gone and buggered things up for you. Keep an eye on how the emails are performing. 3 months, or 6 months down the line, make a point to revisit them. After all, transactional emails are high earners, but you’ve got to make sure you keep them that way.
Transactional emails aren’t sexy. They’re meant to be the work horse of email – solidly built and reliable.
Would be great to hear from anyone else who’s been working on transactional emails. Like I said before, I’m still learning and would love to know what you’ve learnt from working with transactional emails?