• Blog
  • How To Take Advantage Of Transactional Emails To Increase Sales
Andrea Serventi
19 June 2018
Reading time: 7 mins

How To Take Advantage Of Transactional Emails To Increase Sales

They have a very high open and engagement rate. So why not optimize them to promote, upsell, and cross-sell? The following are 7 practical examples of transactional email marketing.

For convenience, we still call them transactional emails, underlining their logisticbureaucratic character.

Yet after the evolution of Email Marketing techniques and strategies, things have changed, and transactional emails are now far from being just bare notifications of a user’s action.

Activate now the free trial to discover MailUp's potential.

From developing integrations to strategic support, from creating creative concepts to optimizing results.

Today they are full-fledged marketing tools. In this post we want to give you some practical tips and ideas for converting transactional emails into business opportunities.

What is a transactional email?

As the name suggests, transactional emails are connected to a transaction. Examples are the emails sent by Amazon following a purchase to confirm the successful order, the shipment of the product, and its delivery. Transactional emails bend for every use, notifying about a ticket or service purchase, the activation of a free trial, or the most classic newsletter subscription.

One aspect of transactional emails has been neglected for too long: the ability to record results and performances that are clearly superior to other types of emails, first and foremost the promotional ones.

Transactional emails have very high open rates and, consequently, higher interaction rates compared to DEM promotional messages and newsletters.

Transactional + Promotional = ?

The reason for these brilliant performances is intuitive: transactional emails are the result of user behavior. In other words, their sending is triggered by an action from the actual or potential client who is then keen on openingreading the communication, and eventually interacting with us via a link and call to action.

Therefore, brands are more than likely to take advantage of this potentiality for reviving the business relationship. It is a matter of changing perspective on this category of mailing. The transactional email is not the final communication in a cycle of relationships (“thank you for purchasing, your order is on its way”), but rather the place where such relationship can expand and receive new impulse.

Let’s then look at some ways of using transactional emails for promoting content, up-selling, or cross-selling.

7 ideas to take advantage of transactional emails

1. Thank you email

When the customer/recipient has just made the purchase is one of the moments when he is more receptive to our communications. The thank you email is therefore suitable for many companies to relaunch or supplement the offer.

Upselling techniques and strategies play the most important role in these emails. The best examples come from the airlines, which, as we well know, strive to integrate the basic purchase with complementary services and offers.

Here is the easyJet welcome email:

thank you email cross selling example

Orientation → Upselling

2. The order confirmation email

The e-commerce world is, by necessity, the sector that uses transactional emails the most. Every recipient action is in fact notified by an email. As a result, the most articulated plans for sending transactional emails belong to online stores.

Let’s look at a very good example of a transactional email aimed at order confirmation.

transactional email example_order confirmation_crate and barrel 356x1024 356x1024 1

Orientation → Cross-selling

The Crate & Barrel email is rigorous in its “transactional” function and, at the same time, full of new products and offers. Everything from order data to related products is functional. In other words, the transactional email of Crate & Barrel has a strong promotional vocation without showing it.

3. The shipment confirmation email

A small variation on the previous theme. Many e-commerce send a transactional email to also notify that the product has been shipped. For marketers, the opportunity is similar or identical to that seen in order confirmation emails. In this case, the difference will be in the details and the ability of brands to fit the upselling or cross-selling goal into the theme.

A brilliant example is offered by the Dollar Shave Club.

order confirmation cross selling email example

Orientation → Cross-selling

The brand of shaving products and accessories minimizes transactional communication (“the order was sent on that date”) to focus on the proposal for a new order. This while playing on the concept of box, the package containing the ordered products: Your next box.

4. Account expiration reminders

Netflix does it, but only partially. In order to take care of the relationship with the user who activated the 30-day trial, the American giant relies on the drip campaign to guide the recipient to the purchase.

Netflix Free Trial Email Sequence 8 Email 6 Reminder free month ends 2017 06 26 1

Orientation → Conversion into purchase

We said that Netflix partially profits from this touchpoint because the TV series and film proposal (as you can see) is relegated to a call to action. However, this is a good illustration of the promotional potential of notification emails for imminent service expiration.

5. Text-based customer care emails

Customer care is another moment of “transactional” contact to make the most of. It is a set of emails (more or less manual) that do not rely on a graphic design layout. They are entirely textual emails but have a good margin of maneuver to relaunch the offer.

We have been doing this for years at MailUp, using the signature at the end of all the textual emails we send. We did it by promoting new services.


… or proposing content: ebooks, white papers, and Observatories.


Bonus: double opt-in and welcome emails

We have labeled the last two cases as bonuses because they are not properly included in the transactional mailings. From a strategic point of view, however, they in all respects represent opportunities for contact and promotion that are indispensable.

6. The confirmation email

This is the very first interaction between brand and recipient: the email confirmation. We all know what it is (if not, here is a detailed article where we explain why the double opt-in is a best practice of Email Marketing). It is the email that we use to confirm our willingness to subscribe to a newsletter.

The point is that many brands still use a pre-packaged, basic, and practically bare confirmation email. Here is one of the most classic examples:

Schermata 2018 06 15 alle 17.48.44

The confirmation email can be an opportunity to immediately propose an advantage, an opportunity, or an offer. This is what Macy’s does:

transactional email example_double opt in_macys

 Orientation → Promotional

 The simple confirmation lets the new contact benefit from a discount coupon. One could object that this email from Macy’s is too focused on promotion. In fact, this is a choice that threatens to undermine the goal of bringing a new contact into the database. However, it is a good example of how to take advantage of even the most bureaucratic of transactional emails.

7. The welcome email

It is the email that marks the beginning of the relationship, and which represents the real business card of the brand. It helps form the idea and the expectation of that company’s future mailings. As a result, the more positive the impact of the welcome email (both in terms of graphics and content), the greater the responsiveness to the following items.

It is unthinkable to give up using this touchpoint to amplify the offer. Let’s look at what Skillshare sends to each new user: an e-learning platform.

cross selling email example

Orientation → Cross-selling

In addition to the platform welcome and course preview (with relative call to action), Skillshare suggests three video-course proprosals that may interest that particular user.

To conclude

If you think it is too complex to include products and related offers in every transactional email, then you need to know that there are tools that simplify and automate the process.

We added two new features to MailUp a few weeks ago: content sources and custom forms. Simplifying, this is what you can do:

  • Import content into the MailUp editor via RSS/Atom feeds or CSV, Json, or Zip files
  • Recover it in the editor as ready-made modules – with optimized titles, texts, links, images, and call-to-actions
  • Easily filter the different content sources, choosing the most suitable content for each message in one click.

This way, in a few operations, you can introduce products (with related text and images) into your transactional emails.

All the technology you need is just a click away, and you’ll find it in MailUp. Request a free 30-day trial today if you have never tried the platform.

7 1 20

Share this article

Andrea Serventi

I was born in 1986 in Milan, where I graduated in Modern Literature and started writing for online newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. Having now converted to marketing and the digital world, I am a Content Editor at MailUp: I read, listen, collect ideas, and write about what email marketing is and how to use it strategically.

    Subscribe to our newsletter