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What Are Transactional Emails? (With Tips And Examples)


When did you last receive a well-designed transactional email (such as order confirmations, shipping notifications, etc.) from an ecommerce brand?

We’re not sure about you, but we haven’t seen one in a long time.

Here’s the thing: Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are missing out if they’re not utilizing the full potential of transactional emails.

Most ecommerce transactional emails have open rates of around 80%. On top of that, 64% of customers find order confirmation emails the most valuable of all email communications they receive from a brand.

Many opportunities exist to leverage these awesome emails to grow your business and provide a better customer experience.

What are transactional emails?

Transactional emails are sent to customers after they have acted as your store. These emails contain information that is unique to them, and only they will benefit from it.

While providing the necessary information (like order number and delivery time) in an ecommerce transactional email takes precedence, you can still use these emails for marketing purposes.

For instance, this shipping confirmation email from Schoolyard Snacks contains necessary information regarding shipping details, followed by “Shop Cereal” and “Shop Puff” call-to-action (CTA) buttons that can potentially contribute to additional sales.

Order confirmation email from Schoolyard Snacks. Source: Wonderment

The most critical transactional emails you should know about

As you might already know, there are various types of transactional emails. This category includes everything from account registration details to order confirmation to shipping information and everything in between. But a handful of them stand out when it comes to driving sales and delivering a stellar customer experience.

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1. Order Confirmation Emails

These emails are sent right after a customer makes a purchase. They aim to inform customers that the order has been placed and to communicate essential details like the delivery date, order number, items ordered, quantity, pricing, and payment method.

We love this example from Sas Nola because it displays the essential order details first, followed by an opportunity to cross-sell additional products.

Order confirmation email with recommended products from Sas Nola. Source: Ecom Transactional Emails Swipe File

2. Shipping Confirmation Emails

Customers usually get anxious after they purchase a product. This typically leads to an influx of WISMO (aka “where’s my order”) queries. You can give your customers peace of mind (and clear your customer support inbox) by sending them regular updates on their order status.

Start with a shipping confirmation email when the customer’s order leaves the warehouse. This email should include a tracking link or tracking number for them to check their delivery status whenever they want to.

Check out this email from Baboon to the Moon—it provides all of the necessary shipping details first, followed by several soft-sell CTAs to browse their different product categories and to follow them on Instagram.

Shipping confirmation email with additional shopping links from Baboon to the Moon. Source: Ecom Transactional Emails Swipe File

3. Stalled Shipment Emails

A shipment that hasn’t moved in an unusually long time from either the pre-transit (aka from the warehouse) or in-transit (aka in the carrier’s hands) status is generally called a stalled shipment. Simply put, the shipment is stuck somewhere.

Stalled shipments are more common than you think. It can happen due to bad weather, port congestion, mishandling of documents, products sent out for delivery without a scan, and so on.

A good D2C brand should go out of its way to inform customers about an order delay due to a stalled shipment and provide regular updates. This helps to strengthen the trust between customers and your brand and contributes to a better customer experience.

Here’s an excellent example of a stalled shipment email from Away.

Stalled shipment email from Away. Source: Ecom Transactional Emails Swipe File

4. Out-for-Delivery Emails

As the name suggests, D2C brands send these emails when an order is out for delivery. The purpose is simple—inform customers that their order is coming. This helps to ensure customers will be at the designated location to receive their order and get excited about it simultaneously.

Take a look at this example from Plant Provisions. It flaunts a clean design with a subtle offer to follow them on social media.

Out for delivery email with social media links from Plant Provisions. Source: Ecom Transactional Emails Swipe File

5. Delivered Emails

These emails are a formality of sorts, but customers love them. You have been hand-holding your customers throughout the entire post-purchase journey, so when their order finally arrives, they’re thrilled!

That one “Your order is delivered” email is like a “Hey, we’re here if you need us” message, assuring the customer that you’ll continue to be there for them. This is also an opportunity for you to thank your customers for their purchase and to talk more about your product.

Here’s how Hydrant does it:

Order delivered email with product tips and suggestions from Hydrant. Source: Ecom Transactional Emails Swipe File

6. Shipping Soon Emails

This is catered explicitly to brands that offer subscriptions. It’s a heads-up email you send to your customers telling them that their credit card is about to be charged. Shipping soon emails should be sent to active subscribers a few days before their subscription renews.

Here’s an excellent example of a shipping soon email from Kettle & Fire:

Shipping soon email with additional product links from Kettle & Fire. Source: GetARPU

Get the most out of transactional emails with these 4 tricks

Transactional emails are hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. Here are 4 tips to help you to get 110% out of these emails.

1. Communicate the transactional information first

There’s a reason why they’re called “transactional emails”. Before you add any marketing material, ensure all the necessary info is laid out.

For example, if it’s an order confirmation email, the first order of business is to inform the customer of the order details like item name, quantity, price, shipping plan, and payment method. Following that info, you can add personalized product recommendations that the customer might be interested in based on their purchase history.

An astonishing 8% of stores don’t send any links for customers to track their order status—a big no-no if you ask us.

It’s common for customers to experience post-purchase anxiety, especially when shopping with a new brand. An easy way to put them at ease is to share an order tracking link. This helps them to relax, knowing that their order is “on the way” and not lost in a ditch somewhere.

To take it one step further, send them to a well-branded tracking page on your top-level domain. This not only delivers a stellar experience to the customer but allows you to upsell other products.

Take a look at how Kettle & Fire does it:

Order tracking page on Kettle & Fire’s website. 

3. Be timely and accurate

Transactional emails are not to be taken lightly—they should always be sent on time and share accurate information.

Sometimes, specific ecommerce platforms can’t track your order status correctly. This typically happens when your brand uses a carrier your ecommerce platform doesn’t support.

This is where an order-tracking app like Wonderment can help. Wonderment’s platform supports hundreds of carriers across the globe and fetches data in real-time. Once you connect your Klaviyo account to Wonderment, you can easily send accurate order status notifications to your customers.

4. Put effort into designing your emails

Transactional emails are generally bland. But they don’t have to be!

Once you turn off any default shipping notification emails, your door to creativity opens up. You can now custom design transactional emails for your brand within your email service provider and send on-brand, visually appealing emails that wow your customers. This also helps to improve customer retention since customers generally come back to brands that provide incredible experiences—and are even willing to pay a premium price for it.

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Ready to ace your transactional email strategy?

Whether you’re sending a marketing or a transactional email, delivering value to customers should be your top priority. Transactional emails are diamonds in the rough—if you know how to leverage them, you have an additional customer retention channel unlocked to help you one-up your competitors.


This originally appeared on Smile.io and is available here to cast a wider net of discovery.
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