Transactional Emails, Order Confirmation Emails, and eCommerce businesses

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Happy Friday!

Let’s talk about something else email-related today, although it’s not strictly “email marketing” related. Transactional emails are a second type of email separate from marketing emails that every company that does business online should have in their repertoire.  eCommerce businesses especially need to know how and when to send out transactional emails because those businesses quite literally rely on constant internet-based financial transactions for profit.

What is a transactional email, anyway?

“What are transactional emails?” you might ask at this point. Excellent question! A transactional email is an email sent to someone in your client list that you send in response to a transaction you have made with that person. Many transactional emails are sent in response to financial transactions (i.e.: Bob bought a widget from your Shopify store. You send Bob an email confirming his order and that you have received payment for the widget.)  

However, other emails also fall into the category of transactional emails! An email confirming that you’ve signed up for a new user account or an email responding to a request for a password reset would also qualify for the title of “transactional email.” One way to think of it is like this – imagine any action a person could take that would require a response from a business or website. That response typically can be classified as a “transactional email.” 

What sort of transactional emails should eCommerce businesses have prepared?

Okay! So, we’ve established what counts as a transactional email. “What transactional emails should eCommerce businesses in particular have at the ready?” you may ask at this point. Again, that’s an excellent question! 

I’m of the belief that it’s impossible for an eCommerce company to have too many emails prepared. Having set templates ready to be sent off when a user acts in a way that pulls your email marketing service’s trigger saves you time and money – it’s much faster than responding individually to every order or password reset request that comes in. However, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to highlight one particular type of transactional email you should have ready, set, and automated to be sent out if you’re in the eCommerce space. Let’s talk about order confirmation emails. 

Order confirmation emails are super important! It’s important to send out an email to your customers whenever you receive an order and whenever you’ve received payment for everyone’s sanity and for your accounting records. Order confirmation emails also provide eCommerce businesses valuable documentation of that transaction if there’s ever a dispute with a customer that you need to contest. 

Here’s an example of a particularly great order confirmation email.

An example might be helpful here. Here’s an screenshot of an order confirmation I received when I ordered two bicycle locks from Amazon.  

  1. They have thanked me for being a customer, which is a habit all businesses should maintain. People like feeling thanked and will spend more money with you if they feel valued.
  2. They have confirmed exactly which items I purchased, providing both the merchant and the customer with useful documentation. It’s also a good feeling for your customers to receive notification that you’ve received their order and intend to send it out. I can’t imagine anyone enjoys entering their debit card number into a website only to receive no confirmation that their money was accepted specifically for the purpose of buying a particular item.

  3. In terms of email copy, the last sentence – “We’ll send a confirmation when your items ship” is also a nice touch. It’s short, to the point, and lets me know that there are next steps that will be taken to get my bicycle locks to me.

The next part of the email – the details section – is also well done. Here’s a screenshot of that particular section:

Amazon uses the same formatting for every order confirmation they send. That’s great! Providing a consistent email experience is key to customer satisfaction. It also means I know exactly where to find the information quickly in any order confirmation email they send because I’ve seen this sort of email before and know how it’s laid out.  

A few key elements here are the “View or manage order” button, the “Arriving” section, and the financial details off to the right of the grey box. It’s pleasing to the eye and scans quickly, allowing me to gather all the information I need quickly. That’s ideal.  

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the bottom of the email. Amazon takes this opportunity to suggest two additional products I might like to buy from them based on the bicycle locks I’ve already purchased. 

Here’s a screenshot of what that looks like:

 

This represents a bit of overlap between what you might consider a marketing email and a transactional email. It makes complete sense for Amazon to take this opportunity to advertise products that there’s already evidence I might be interested in, so there’s another point to Amazon. Here’s a caveat regarding that overlap: try to be cautious about adding too much marketing content into your transactional emails. Transactional emails are not governed by CAN-SPAM Act regulations, whereas marketing emails are. You also don’t want ISPs marking your transactional emails as unwanted marketing materials and sending them into Spam folder purgatory. Use your own best judgment when deciding which amount of marketing content is just enough to add on to a transactional email. 

Thanks for reading. If you have a sudden and strange desire to chat about email, just know that I’m here for you. I can always be reached at mariana@marianawrites.com.

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