The Difference Between Marketing and Transactional Emails and Why You Need Both

If you have ever plunged into setting up email campaigns for your business, you probably met a solid recommendation from email infrastructure experts for splitting your transactional and marketing letters. We also consider it to be the only proper approach. This article will explain the difference between transactional and marketing emails and why they are equally necessary for brand success.

What Is a Marketing Email?

The very term “marketing email” is self-explanatory, as the primary purpose of such messages is to sell a product or service to the user. For this, marketing emails contain a commercial statement encouraging a business action. Every email marketing campaign must follow local laws and target the group of specific users who have agreed to receive such notifications. 

The main advantages of direct marketing emails are their simplicity, speed and convenience. Using an email API/SMTP service with deliverability reports and email logs enables tracking how many people have opened and read your letters. The same goes for the mail links if you want to check the customer interaction level. Modern automation and data analysis software allows tracking the recipients’ behaviour instantly. Thus you can adjust your product to the expectations and interests of your audience.

As a result, you can guide the users through the purchasing journey based on their actions and encourage them to return for more. That’s how the marketing sales funnel makes a full circle. 

Types of Automated Marketing Emails to Close the Deal

To make your email marketing campaign meet various customer requests, make sure to include in the content schedule the following must-types of marketing letters.

Email Newsletters

Sending email newsletters expands the brand’s visibility and product awareness. It is a vital step in every marketing strategy. Your audience will gradually and unobtrusively gain brand trust if they follow your product news, updates and important dates week by week. 

Regular newsletter mailings give customers the feeling of priority, commitment to the brand’s life, and confidence they won’t miss out on an important moment like a sale or a unique offer. To get an idea of what we are talking about, look at this message from Nike.


What makes it work:

  • The newsletter offers additional value beyond the product.
  • The content focuses on what we buy sportswear for: leading a healthy lifestyle, improving well-being and reaching fitness goals.
  • The message shows concern for the client, making the brand a secondary character. It asks users to treat themselves while Nike is here to help.

Yates Jarvis(Linkedin), the founder of 2 Visions, an e-commerce marketing consulting agency, elaborates on this approach: “While email newsletter content can exist in its own distinct email template, you can always mix it up and create hybrid templates. Feel free to repurpose lifestyle or article content by placing it within some of the other template types such as lower-layout rows within transactional or promotional emails.” This strategy highlights the importance of flexibility and creativity in engaging customers through varied content.

Finally, don’t forget about the so-called “curated content letters”, where you can share an important topic you feel is your expertise. Again, the solution to the users’ needs should be at the forefront.

Promotional Offers

Promotional marketing emails include special discounts, coupons or other bonuses that VIP subscribers can receive as a “thank you”. Look at how Identity store rewards its Facebook group members with a discount coupon via email.


Its catchy message appeals to the idea of being chosen. Of course, the proposition itself should be enough to interest the recipients. However, the company also formulates it as an exclusive offer limited in time. This message gives potential buyers a feeling of belonging to a closed group with secret knowledge about the product.

You can make your promotional offers even more effective with these tactics:

  • Bring exclusivity to long-term customers as a reward for their loyalty.
  • Work on design so that CTA (call-to-action button) is easy to notice and attractive to press.
  • Try changing the external attributes of the email in the incoming folder, such as a personalised header or thrilling subject line.

Milestone Emails

Milestone emails celebrating different achievements can make your readers feel special. Send them unexpected greetings, birthday congratulations, or share happy events in the life of your company. Every reason for joy is worth remembering.

Tinybeans shares this attitude in a current affairs letter toward millennial user appreciation.


Look at how The Tinybeans marks customers’ help with reaching “the once in a lifetime” milestone. They don’t merely say it, but also show how the subscription mutually benefits users and the company. The informational numbers are concrete and indisputable proof that the time spent on the brand has been worth it.

Emails with a Review Request

Asking for feedback is a perfect way to get to know your audience. The more you understand them, the easier it will be to create curated emails.

Gathering your customers’ opinions will help to strengthen trust in your brand. Understand weak business points your clients witness and discover what products or services you can offer next to satisfy them.

Check how this Nasty Gal mailing uses these tasks in practice.


The informal tone of voice sets up a confidential conversation. The company focuses on the clients’ interests to take a short survey and get an improved service next time. And the reward for their time will be a bonus opportunity to hold an IRL meeting with the people behind the favourite brand.

Product Launch Announcement Emails

When your new product is coming out, the first people to know about it should be the ones from your contact list as they will most influence the conversion rate in the beginning. Why start the hard way trying to acquire a new client when a loyal customer base eagerly waits for your new and improved products?

Simplicity and taste distinguish this example from the Vans collection dedicated to the legendary David Bowie.


What makes it rock:

  • Clear positioning.
  • An appeal to the brand’s fans without unnecessary intricacies regarding the collection’s design – everything is in the picture.
  • Options for dynamic interaction with the poster.

Marketing Email Best Practices

The earlier examples have demonstrated many essential practices for constructing marketing emails, and here are a few more recommendations that will make any marketing campaign perform better:

  1. Formal features. Make sure your preview text conveys the core point. It is advisable to initialise the from whom item so that the ‘no-reply’ address does not create a feeling of the heartless letter.
  2. Tailor letter types. While new leads could get engaged with simply a link to the product catalogue, longtime customers are more likely to react to emails with discounts or special offers.
  3. Timing. Marketing emails will only bring results if they reach your contacts at the right time and place – when the conversion is most likely to happen. All you have to do is configure proper triggers. 
  4. Split testing. Email marketing is not an exact science. Some things will work as expected, while others may not. Do you have a below-average opening rate for one of your emails? Turn to A/B testing and try to change the subject or the sending time. Is the CTR bad? Check the CTA link.

What Is a Transactional Email?

Transactional emails are tied to a transaction, as the name suggests. It may be confirmation of the recently made order, payment processing notification, information on the planned delivery time or triggered interaction with the customer who has abandoned a shopping cart without completing the purchase. An essential aspect of transactional emails is to deliver the message as quickly as possible as the customer is awaiting for the triggered email. 

Although transactional emails are usually tied to a specific transaction, you should try to make them generate engagement, clicks, or new actions on your site. What’s more, transactional emails can be used to promote products or services that complement the transaction. 

Below are example cases of how successful players in the market of goods and services have incorporated these ideas.

Examples of Automated Transactional Emails 

Account Creation Emails

When new customers create an account or start registration on your site, they get an email to verify their email address and confirm the subscription. You shouldn’t confuse it with the welcome email, sent after the completed registration and primarily used for marketing and not functional purposes.

After users have signed up for your newsletter, there is nothing better than giving them a warm thank you for choosing your service. A vivid example from the HotelsPro displays how to take advantage of the ‘stepping in’ email. In particular, they provide guiding tips on initial starting steps. Here you can also indicate what content you will send next. The customers get contact details and assistance for proceeding further, and the company can direct them to the first purchase.


Confirmation Emails

A confirmation email is a transactional message that you send your customers or website visitors as an evidence of a completed action (for example a subscription or purchase).

Take a look at this confirmation email example from Itemworld.



Confirmation emails should include everything a client may need for that transaction, from finding order information, completing checkout, or trying to contact somebody for help.

Your communication must continue beyond the confirmation email. Review the next two messages for examples on how to inform your customer about their orders path.

Order Status Emails

Transactional emails can also be sent during order preparation or shipment and signal when the package is on its way to arrive. These follow-ups let the customers know where their transaction is in the process of completion and what to expect next. 

For example, the minimalistic look of Outdoors’ message helps the customer focus on the delivery progress. There are no excessive visual details, and even the slightest glance is enough to navigate the text in search of crucial data.


Progress Emails

Seeing progress is motivating. The proof that our actions have made a difference encourages us to continue. Regular progress emails let you keep pushing your customers towards the desired outcome all the while reassuring them it is a worthwhile journey.

The typing assistant and grammar check software Grammarly showcases a nice weekly ‘state of affairs’ email. It is important to note the consistency of the style and native appearance of the letter, familiar to people working with texts. The regularity of informing takes the form of a challenge to improve the performance of the user.


Abandoned Cart Emails

Abandoned carts can be one of the most frustrating aspects of ecommerce. However, it is worth seeing the opportunities they open. Users who have started shopping in your store are valuable leads. They already left details and information about what products or services they are interested in. Reaching a potential customer who is ready to buy and has one step left to close the deal is definitely worth the effort.

Look at this creative example from Asos, and see how they appeal to positive emotions and act in the client’s interest. It reminds the customer of the product benefits and rekindles the fear of missing out on something significant.


Transactional Email Best Practices

You will have to devote time to create unique, memorable, and empathetic content of every transactional mail. Do not forget about consistent branding that is responsive and looks great on milde devices as well. Be creative and change your tone of voice according to your target.

The email’s subject line must be descriptive and also encourage the recipient to engage. An email like “Thank you for your purchase. The order will be shipped shortly” gives the feeling that the communication is already finished and does not stimulate reading the rest of the email. A more impactful title could instead read like this: “Summary of your purchase and shipping information” will encourage opening the email in which you will be able to provide much more information and value to the recipient.

Marketing vs Transactional Emails: Comparison Table

Your marketing efforts will benefit to a great extent by using each type of email – marketing or transactional. We have gathered a  quick summary table below to help you differentiate between the two:

Marketing EmailsTransactional Emails
• are personalised for a specific group of recipients chosen by the marketer;• are a result of an immediate interaction;
• ensure regular customer communication;• enabled by marketing automation;
• primarily sent as part of a particular campaign;• provide confirmations of transactions/events;
• bring educational, tutorial and inspirational content;• go to a single unique recipient are based on a single, permanent template that recipients associate with your brand;
• work with multiple audiences at once;• help towards a successful customer experience.
• have a regular shipping schedule;
• maintain one permanent template look.

To Sum It Up 

Email campaigns are amongst the best tools to keep a direct communication channel between you and your customers. While marketing emails and newsletters allow you to reach existing recipients and get new targeted customers, transactional emails as their name implies are usually the result of a single interaction between your customer and your offering. The secret lies in separating messages and using each type judiciously to achieve your goals and in customer appreciation.

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