Get More from Transactional Emails (without getting canned)

Email marketers are obsessed with open rates, and for good reason. Everything else is downhill from open rates, from click-through-rates to conversions. Across all industries, open rates hover around 21.6% – which is pretty damn good for a marketing message.

But businesses regularly send out other emails that getting a staggering 47.1% open rate – transactional emails. That’s a 218% increase in open rates. And many businesses are missing out on an opportunity to turn those opens into increased sales.

Today we’ll look at an easy (and legal) way to turn your transactional emails into an additional marketing channel.

What are Transactional Emails?

Transactional emails are non-promotional emails that deal with an established relationship or transaction. The FTC identifies five areas of transactional emails:

  1. Facilitating or confirming a commercial transaction already agreed to
  2. Giving warranty, recall, safety, or security information about a product or service
  3. Giving information about a change in terms or features or account balance information
  4. Providing information about an employment relationship or benefit
  5. Delivering goods or services as part of an already agreed to transaction

Does your business send any of these transactional messages? Almost every business has reasons to send order confirmations, warranty information, digital deliveries, or similar emails. And they get over double the open rates of your marketing emails.

But that doesn’t mean you should pack your transactional emails full of spam. There are some pretty strict guidelines around the FTC’s CAN-SPAM act.

CAN-SPAM Compliance

If you’re sending commercial email for your business, then you are subject to the rules and regulations of the CAN-SPAM. And violating those rules can subject you to penalties of $41,484 for each violation! So, getting your compliance right is extremely important!

We looked at the FTC’s definition of transactional emails above, but that leaves some questions not answered. Primarily, can a transactional email also contain promotional content? Fortunately, the FTC provides some additional information on mixed-message emails. Basically, it comes down to two elements: the subject line and the content.

Regarding the subject line, the FTC states:

“When a message contains both kinds of content – commercial and transactional or relationship – if the subject line would lead the recipient to think it’s a commercial message, it’s a commercial message for CAN-SPAM purposes.”

For content, it’s about the ratio and placement of transactional vs. promotional:

“Similarly, if the bulk of the transactional or relationship part of the message doesn’t appear at the beginning, it’s a commercial message under the CAN-SPAM Act.”

So here’s the basic idea: if the subject line and the bulk (80%+ is a good rule of thumb) are transactional, then you can include a short promotional message at the end without running afoul of the FTC and the CAN-SPAM Act. You can browse the CAN-SPAM rules for yourself by clicking here.

Supercharged Transactional Emails

All this means that you get roughly 20% at the end of every transactional email to promote your business. And almost 50% of recipients are going to open that email. Don’t leave all that opportunity on the table – find ways to turn your transactional emails into effective marketing tools.

Here are our four favorite ways to supercharge transactional emails:

Connect on Social

Social media is a powerful way to turn your customers into loyal brand ambassadors. But first, you have to get them to connect with your brand. Hopefully, you have social media links in all your emails but consider adding an explicit ask in your transactional emails. It’s easy and nobody is more likely to like your page than your existing customers.

Refer a Friend

Do you have a referral reward program? Highlight that in your transactional emails. You can include the details or just throw in a link to your referral program. It’s a great way to spread the word about it while also providing real value to your customers.


If you’re selling a service, consider adding upsell opportunities into your transactional emails. When paired with a discount, it’s a great time to bump your customers up into a higher service package or level. As a provider of digital marketing services, this is one of our most successful transactional email promotions.

Related Products or Services

Highlighting related products or services is a great tool to include in order confirmation emails. Once a customer has made a purchase, you can target related products or services based on their needs. This is just email marketing 101, but it somehow gets overlooked on transactional emails.

Email Marketing FTW

Email is still one of the most powerful tools in the marketer’s toolbox. But finding success in today’s landscape will require some out-of-the-box thinking. Blindly blasting another dozen promotions might not grow your business. But smartly targeting opportunities in your transactional customers can get your message in front of a surprising number of customers.

At Fusion Group USA, we delight in building successful email marketing campaigns – from the simplest to complex funnel building. Contact us today to learn more about our email marketing services.

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