Marketing vs Transactional Email? What You Need to Know.

Charanjit Singh
01 Sep 2015

We are familiar with marketing emails - emails that frequent our inbox. But as of late, a new form of email has emerged, known as “transactional email”.

What is the difference between marketing email and transactional email? It does seem like they both mean the same thing - emails that are sent to end users from businesses. That definition is not wrong; however, it is merely a general explanation for the terms.


Before we get to the differences, let’s define the two types of email we are talking about.

Marketing Email: Usually contains a commercial message or content intended for a commercial purpose. It is generally sent to prospects or customers - emails delivered to many people.


Transactional Email: Emails that contain information that completes a transaction or process the recipient has started with you. A transactional email is sent to individuals rather than a large list of recipients.


And now, the differences …

Type Function When to use?
Promotional Email

Emails with an offer inside, and usually nothing more than that.

When you have a promotion to offer to your subscribers.


It is sent on a schedule - weekly, biweekly or monthly emails. It includes information valuable to your subscribers.

When you’d like to build relationships with people who are interested in whatever it is you talk about, create, do or sell.


Email digests are content that’s quick and concise, such as blog posts from around the web. These emails are usually short on words and heavy on links.

When you have a lot of content to share - be it the content that you produce, or you re-market. Or when you are part of a network or body of active content producers.

Type Function How to use?
Order, Receipt or Shipment Confirmation   

An email delivered to the recipient when they have purchase something (or have signed up to be on your mailing list). This is also when they’ve given consent to be notified about you and the product or service you are offering.  Usually the final transactional email when something is purchased or downloaded digitally.

It is one of the most valuable message in the inbox – having significantly higher open, click, and engagement rates. Because people expect a receipt – it officialises a purchase and allows for trackback. So, optimise your email title and use design elements to create a visually appealing email. Give your readers an ideal experience.

Reminder or Update   

An email triggered by important brand news - such as systems going down for a period or a store closing, or a reminder that their gym membership is due for renewal. Things that are important to your brand, but also relevant to your readers.

Use this to make your readers aware of anything about your brand. For example, you may have a new mobile app launching in which benefits the readers because now they can make bookings for your service on the go.

Others (welcome emails, password recovery, social media notificaitons)   

Such emails are typically short, simple and straightforward. It is generated based on the action of the recipient, coupled with a call-to-action button or link from the brand.

Cultivate and forge relationships! Apart from telling your readers what you want to tell them, or what they requested to know; tell them what they need to know at this point. In a “Welcome” email, add in some “get started” FAQs or tips for them. Go the extra mile!











































Now that you've understand the different types of emails out there, you are on the right track to be a savvy marketer!

Stay tuned for the next post where we will discuss the benefits of transactional emails and how you can harness it for your business.

This blog post is part of our series on Successful Email Marketing Campaigns. Cant wait for the rest of the posts? Then just click here to download our free Email Marketing Success Checklist for all the pointers you need to supercharge your email marketing. 


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