10 Crucial Elements for Great Transactional Email Messages

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Igoe Realty P.A.
Written by Wendy Roth   
Tuesday, 24 August 2010

If I sent you a present, you'd send me a thank-you note, right? Not just to say thanks (even if you hated it), but also to let me know it got to you safely and because we're friends. So, when people buy from your online store or sign up for your email newsletter, why wouldn't you use your transactional email to let them know how pleased you are? Sad to say, a lot of them sound like thank-yous written by sullen 7-year-olds: "Thanks for the socks, Grandma."

A passable transactional email focuses on only the event that just happened or is about to happen, such as a subscription request, a hotel reservation, a product order or a recurring payment. A great one describes the event in detail, uses language that makes the customer feel good about what just happened, invites him or her back to the website for more information or to expand on the event, and provides contact information for questions or concerns.

Anatomy of An Excellent Transactional Email Message

Superior transactional email messages include the following elements:

1. A personalized greeting. This is nice for general events like newsletter subscriptions, but it's essential when the transaction involves money, such as a shipping confirmation or hotel reservation.

2. A detailed description of what happened. Not just, "Thanks for your order. Your items will ship soon." Instead, list what the customers bought, the prices they paid, any special instructions, payment status, out-of-stock notices, shipping locations, order numbers, etc.

3. Customer-support contact information, including toll-free phone numbers, mailing addresses and links to online contacts.

4. Other links that encourage the recipient to go deeper into the relationship, including:

  • Email newsletters or offers  
  • RSS feeds for product information or updates
  • Loyalty programs
  • Offers that cross- or up-sell products that relate to a purchase
  • Customer forums, blogs, social-network sites
  • How-to information for the product

5. A clear, action-oriented email subject line.

6. Any data, except a password, that the customer needs to complete a pending transaction. This may include information needed to pay a bill or go back to a past one, change an order, or update email preferences.

7. All copy in either text or HTML text -- not images -- so that the crucial information is received even if the reader views the message in text on the tiny screen of a low-rent cell phone.

8. A link to your home page. You never know what's going to drive someone back to your site, and this basic element gets left out more often than you can imagine.

9. A statement about what you will do with the customer's email address, plus a link to your privacy statement.

10. Any terms or conditions that apply to the transaction, such as exchanges and returns, hotel policies or posting schedules for account payments.

3 Transactional Email Makeovers: From lame to lovable

Pulled from the real world, here are three lame transactional email messages and how you can turn them into relationship-building events.

Example #1: Email newsletter confirmation

Sender line: NewsletterName@example.com This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Subject line: Your newsletter request

Copy: Thanks for signing up for our email newsletter. Click this link to activate your request. Your first issue should be coming soon. (Signed) The Editors.

Here's how to make it better:

Sender line: Newsletter Name

Subject line: Please confirm your subscription request

Copy: Thanks for subscribing to Newsletter Name! Please confirm your subscription now. Confirming your subscription tells us you really do want to subscribe.

After we receive your confirmation, you'll be able to view past messages online and customize your profile so you get the email you really want.

Got questions or concerns? Send them here: concerns@example.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it View our latest issue online here: [URL].

And thank you again for subscribing!

Confirm now / No thanks

Editor Name
contact@example.com This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Example #2: Order confirmation

Sender line: CompanyName.com

Subject: Your recent order

Copy: Your order has been received and is being processed. Your items will be shipped as soon as they're available. Thanks for shopping with Company Name.

Here's how to make it better:

Sender line: Company Name

Subject line: Confirming your order with Company Name

Copy: Dear Customer Name: Thanks for your order from Company Name! This message will confirm your order details. You'll receive another message from us when your items ship.

Your order number:

Your order date:

What you ordered (all details, including product photo):

Any backorders or out-of-stocks:

Your total order cost, including shipping or other fees:

Where we're shipping it:

Who's paying for it:

How it was paid for:

Is everything correct? If you spot any problems, contact us right away at 800-XXX-XXXX begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-XXX-XXXX      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email customersupport@CompanyName.com This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

P.S.: Was this your first time visiting CompanyName.com? If so, welcome! Check out our email program to get exclusive news and product offers here [URL]. You can find out more information about the products you bought here [URL]. And while we're at it, come join our group on Facebook! [URL]

Example #3: Credit card payment acknowledgement

Sender line: CreditCardCompany.com

Subject line: Payment due

Copy: This is to inform you that your credit card payment has been received and is being processed. Note that online payments may take up to a week to be posted to your account.


Here's how to make it better:

Sender line: CreditCard Account Alert

Subject line: We've received your online payment

Copy: Dear Customer Name,

Re: Your BigBank Account ending in 7123

Thank you for your payment.

Details regarding your payment:

  • Amount: $1000.00
  • Date applied to your account: Sept. 29, 2008

To view your statements or recent transactions, log in to http://www.creditcardcompany.com/.

Questions? Please send us a secure email from our website at http://www.CreditCardCompany.com/contact. Or, call us at 1-800-XXX-XXXX begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-XXX-XXXX      end_of_the_skype_highlighting between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. ET.

If you prefer not to receive these account alerts and/or other email messages, call 800-XXX-XXXX begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-XXX-XXXX      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or just log in to http://www.creditcardcompany.com/ and select Alerts/Profile. From the Customize screen, you can choose which Account Alerts you'd like to receive, or unsubscribe from all Account Alerts.

Comments (1)

Michele Miller ~ REALTOR®, LMC, HSE, CHS, SRES, CMRS
ERA Key Realty~Worcester County Realty Group - Worcester, MA
'Helping You Make the Best Move"


Thanks for the email etiquette!

Aug 24, 2010 10:17 PM