Beginner’s Guide to Transactional Emails

Beginner’s Guide to Transactional Emails

Posted under Email Best Practices , Latest Trends , Transactional Email on January 19, 2017

Email needs no introduction in 2017. It’s the most used (dare we say exploited) medium to communicate, engage and retain customers. There are different types of emails (some more effective than others) that brands today send – marketing, offers, deals, promotional, newsletter, transactional, triggered, etc.

A simple search on the internet will throw up different numbers for types of emails. No number is more right (or wrong) than the other. But to put things simply and in less confusing way, this whole gamut of emails that brands send out can be broadly classified into 3 – Transactional, Triggered and Marketing. Best practice for sending emails is – 80% emails of the first types and only 20% of marketing emails.

This blog is for beginners in transactional emails and aims at covering fundamentals you need to know before you start sending transactional emails.

What are transactional emails?

Let’s for a minute not go by the definition. Consider emails from Amazon and Uber – some of the top guys that regularly send emails. An email from Uber when your trip ends is a transactional email. Invoice email when you buy from Amazon is transactional. Did you notice anything common in these emails?

They all are coming to you based on your own actions. All are important and re-confirms your act.

Simply put, transactional emails are emails sent basis action taken by users like – signup, purchase, password reset, etc.

What is the difference between transactional, triggered and marketing emails?

All transactional emails are for user generated actions but triggered emails are not necessarily so. They are triggered basis some rule not action. For example, monthly statements, birthday alerts, LinkedIn notifications etc. are all triggered emails that are sent not because the user took action.
On the other hand marketing emails are emails sent by choice by brands to you with an intent of awareness, cross sell and upsell. Brands at times go overboard with these emails and think you love getting these emails. Hence you receive the love every day; sometimes even twice a day!

Why not in-house system for sending transactional emails?

If it weren’t for the volumes or the concerns about emails landing in Spam, your in-house system would have more than sufficed. But it isn’t so. So opting for a transcational email service is more of a need than choice.

We send a lot of transactional emails and there’s no way they can land in Spam.

If this is you, what you need is a good application that you can integrate your system with and start sending emails. What’s more, most of these applications also throw in some additional features like email building templates. So you don’t just inbox emails at scale, you also get to send good looking emails to your customers.

How to choose the right transactional email service?

There are a lot of email service providers out there in the market and almost all offer similar services. Choice only seems to add to the confusion. Ask yourself these 4 questions

  • Does the ESP send transactional emails exclusively?
  • What has been there average inbox deliverability?
  • Do they have SMTP and scalable APIs?
  • Will emails be delivered in less than 3 seconds?

A quick look at what users are saying (reviews from trusted sources) might also help you in your decision-making process.

How to set up my transactional emails?

Your emails may be generated from various sources like CRM, CMS, website, app or any other campaign management tool. You need to integrate these applications with a transactional email service or SMTP relay servers (ESP)

Setting up the system to send transactional emails is a one-time effort. It’s plain, simple and easy. It involves 3 steps:

STEP 1: Set up your DNS – The first step in setting up your transactional emails is to set up a domain from which you will send emails to your customers. One should carefully select this domain. It is recommended to select sub-domain of the main domain to send these emails and also ensure no marketing or triggered emails are sent from this domain, especially if your monthly email volumes are in millions.

Once you have the right domain ensure it is authenticated via SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.

  • SPF: This is permission given to sending servers by the domain. Domain owner can define IPs by going in TXT records of the domain. This will ensure that only those IPs have permission to send emails from this domain. It is one of the best practices and hence you’ll find 90% of industry does it.
  • DKIM: This is a good to follow authentication process where the email that is being sent is digitally signed by domain key. It is then decrypted by recipient ISPs’ server, thus ensuring the content is not tampered on the way and is coming from a trusted source.
  • DMARC: Domain based message authentication, reporting and conformance are another validation that detects and prevents email spoofing. It reports any fraudulent email sent from your domain. This is very critical for transactional emails.

STEP 2: Get SMTP credentials – You can integrate your application via SMTP or API protocols. Your application will need following details to integrate and start sending emails via SMTP protocol.

  • Username and Password of your SMTP key
  • Hostname eg in our case we provide
  • Port via which the connection happens – most used are 25, 2525 & 587

Senders prefer sending emails using SMTP as it is fastest and easiest way to start sending your emails.

STEP 3: Set content and start sending – Keep it simple, don’t load your email with html or many images and use images only where absolutely relevant and required. 3 rules – Don’t sell, don’t confuse and don’t overrate branding in these emails. Just keep it simple.

Now you’re ready folks, let’s start sending!

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Tanishq Juneja|The Strategist

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