10 transactional email best practices with examples

Feb 27, 2024

When it comes to high-volume email sending, brands are using two key types to support their business operations: marketing and transactional.

Can you guess which receives more engagement? Not only do transactional emails outperform their marketing counterparts with up to 8 times more opens and clicks, but they also generate a staggering 6x more revenue. That spells opportunity.

Let’s delve into the top ten transactional email best practices you can implement to reinforce your brand, boost engagement, and drive conversions.

What are transactional emails?

A transactional email (sometimes referred to as triggered) is an automated email sent to an individual based on a specific action they’ve taken, such as completing a purchase or requesting a password reset.

A typical example of a transactional email is a shipping update that includes the estimated delivery of a recently purchased item. Others include email receipts, payment confirmations, account alerts, and other event-driven notifications.

How are transactional emails different from marketing emails?

Transactional emails differ from marketing emails in that the main purpose isn’t to engage customers to take a specific action; it’s to inform or update recipients via an email they’re likely expecting to receive.

Transactional emails are usually triggered by specific customer behavior or events, and their primary purpose is to provide information or confirm a particular user action.

Marketing emails, on the other hand, aim to promote a product, service, or brand. The main goal is to encourage recipients to take a specific action, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or visiting a website. The content in a marketing email tends to be specific to a predefined audience segment.

Read on to learn ten best practices for ensuring your transactional emails don’t get blocklisted, filtered into spam, or worse, ignored.

1. Avoid using “no-reply” email addresses

Many brands use no-reply email addresses to avoid clogging their inboxes with responses to automated messages. While this approach can filter out unwanted contact, it can also hinder the user experience and frustrate customers who have questions or need support.

If feasible, keep your door open by allowing customers to reply to an actual email address or by placing a “contact us” link to your preferred communication channel in the email. That way, you’ll avoid alienating customers, improve the user experience, and decrease your chances of ending up in the spam folder.


Crocs no-reply email


In this no-reply email from Crocs, they clearly direct customers to the appropriate channel for getting support or answers to their questions.

2. Keep your subject line and pre-header text concise

The subject line and pre-header text act as the first impression of your email. Crafting concise yet impactful subject lines (60 characters or less) is an art that can significantly impact engagement. Check that it summarizes your message, is relevant to each recipient, and refers to the specific action they’ve taken, such as “Confirm your subscription” or “Your order is on its way!”

Similarly, your pre-header text should be concise (try keeping it to less than 100 characters) and offer an engaging preview of your email’s content.


Garmin registration email


After registering a new smartwatch with Garmin, recipients receive an email with a thank you in the subject line and suggested next steps in the preview text, keeping the customer engaged and informed.

3. Adopt email authentication and security practices

Transactional emails, being critical in nature, should consistently reach customers’ inboxes rather than landing in their spam or junk folder. Improve your deliverability and protect your sending reputation by implementing these three authentication protocols:


DomainKeys Identified Mail signature (DKIM): DKIM is an email security standard used to ensure messages are not modified while traveling between the recipient and sending servers.


Sender Policy Framework (SPF): SPF is an email authentication standard that protects against phishing, spoofing, and spam.


Sample SPF record for sending with MessageGears


Domain-based Message, Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC): DMARC is a protocol that builds on DKIM and SPF to tighten the protection of your domain from fraudulent emails.


These three security practices work together to prove who you really are, avoid potential email breaches, and prevent domain spoofing.

4. Boost engagement using social media links

You don’t have to limit your transactional emails to just confirming or acknowledging a customer’s interactions with your brand. Including links to your social media profiles can help expand your reach and is an opportunity to engage customers on other channels. You can easily insert social media icons into your email templates so they’re automatically included in all your campaigns. 


Depop social media links


Depop displays social media icons prominently at the bottom of their emails, facilitating further connection with the brand and creating a holistic brand experience.

5. Use separate email and IP addresses

Given their informational and time-sensitive nature, it’s important your subscribers receive and open your transactional emails. Marketing emails can often face deliverability issues because they’re more likely to be flagged as spam or users fail to engage with them. If you send transactional emails from the same address, they could be considered spam, too. You can avoid deliverability issues by using different email and IP addresses for each type of communication. For example, using for, you guessed it, order updates and for monthly marketing newsletters.


💡 Related content: IP/Domain Warming Best Practices


Amazon knows a thing or two about transactional emails. Operating on such a large scale means they need to use multiple IP addresses to make sure they maintain seamless email processes across all business functions.


Amazon password reset email


For example, Amazon uses “account-update” for this password reset email and “store-news” for certain promotional content.


Amazon Alexa promotional email

6. Include a plain text version of your email

Enhancing accessibility by including a plain text version of your email is crucial to cater to a diverse audience. Some recipients might only have access to low-bandwidth networks. Others could be using a language translator, screen reader, or a high-contrast theme for better legibility.

Pairing a plain text email with the HTML version will ensure the widest possible reach for your campaigns and improve your deliverability rates. Just keep in mind that your plain text and HTML email content should be similar, so there’s little deviation between the core messaging of the two versions.

Too Good To Go HTML version


Here’s how this email from the food-saving app Too Good To Go appears in HTML versus the plain text version.


Too Good To Go plain text version

7. Use a recognizable sender email address

Building trust and recognition begins with a clear and recognizable “From” email address. Email messages with cryptic sender names, strange reply addresses, or odd email sub-domains are one click away from being ignored, deleted, or marked as spam.

You can make your emails easy to spot (and trust) by using a recognizable “From” name, a simple reply-to address, and BIMI to attach your brand’s logo to your messages. Include a descriptor such as “Customer Service at [Brand]” so recipients can instantly recognize your brand and the purpose of the email.


ASOS refund confirmation email


ASOS’ refund confirmation email ticks all the boxes. The “From” email states the purpose upfront, there’s no ambiguity about who the sender is, and any subject line with the word “refund” is bound to bring a smile to your face.

8. Ensure your email templates use responsive design

When sending millions of transactional emails, you want to make sure they look good on every device and screen size your customers use when they open them – from small mobile devices to large-screen desktops.

Using responsive design will ensure your email content automatically adjusts to fit the recipients’ screen size and email inbox window. For further reassurance, use a mail preview tool to display the message on various browsers and screen sizes so you know it has full functionality across all devices.

Revolut responsive design on mobile


Look how Revolut’s email is perfectly sized on a mobile device. The font is legible, there’s no need to scroll to see a call to action, and the design even factors into account when a recipient is viewing in dark mode.


Revolut responsive design on desktop


Here’s the same email displayed on a laptop screen. The graphic adjusts to fit the wider screen, and more whitespace surrounds the email copy. Beautiful! 🤌

9. Match your emails with your brand voice and design

Transactional emails don’t have to be boring or mundane. Just like your marketing emails, they can align with the voice and design of your brand, giving customers a consistent brand experience across all campaigns. Certain types of transactional emails, such as a password reset, probably don’t leave much room for creativity. But others, like an order update or subscription confirmation, are perfect opportunities to convey and showcase your brand identity, as long as they still clearly communicate the relevant details of your message.


Revolut free trial reminder email


This free trial expiration email speaks to Revolut’s target audience through its unique voice and fun, conversational tone. More importantly, Revolut uses the opportunity to build trust and show customers they care about their experience by using language like “we’re not one of those companies that hopes you don’t notice your trial expire.”

10. Make the most of your email footer

When an email recipient wants to find more information about your brand, they’ll often scroll to the email footer for contact details or links to your website. You can make it easy for recipients by optimizing your email footer with links to contact information, support documentation, social media profiles, and other important resources.


Cult Beauty email footer


Cult Beauty’s email footer is a great example of using this often overlooked email real-estate to its full potential by creating a mini resource hub for customers. As well as finding social links, the privacy policy, and a link to add them to the safe senders list, they also include links to shipping information, FAQs, user accounts, the blog, and refer a friend.

Transactional email as a part of cross-channel engagement

Email is just one channel for reaching customers with helpful updates and transactional messages. Using a customer engagement platform like MessageGears, you can seamlessly extend your updates across every channel, including email, push, in-app, SMS, and web.

Learn how your brand can elevate transactional emails from mere confirmations to strategic tools that contribute to your brand’s overall success.

About the Author
Sarah is looking at the camera and smiling. She is a young white woman with long blond hair, wearing a black turtleneck.

Sarah Kelly

Sarah is a passionate marketing professional devoted to crafting thought-provoking content that fuels business growth and success. With over a decade of experience in the ever-evolving marketing world, she brings a strategic and data-driven mindset to her role as SEO.