By Stephen Jukic

First of all, what are transactional emails? Quite simply, they are all those one-at-a-time email messages between you and your existing clients or subscribers which are triggered by interaction with your site, services or applications. These aren’t direct promotional emails, instead they’re messages for receipts, order confirmations, thank you emails, renewal notices and notifications such as password resets etc.

This quality is where the power of transactional emails really lies; because they’re of a more practical nature instead of purely promotional, the open rates for them from your subscribers can go as high as more than 100% (because they’re often opened multiple times by their recipient).

With these kinds of open rates, you absolutely need to take advantage of this power line of communications with your users and make the most of it to increase your sales.

Let’s take a look at some numbers around transactional messages and examine just how you can use them to your advantage. You can also check out this awesome infographic that also covers what we’re about to go into below.

Crowded Inboxes, Ignored Promotions

Just how hard it is to get readers’ attention with your promotional emails in the midst of their deeply crowded inboxes can’t be understated. Even if you’re doing a great job of crafting valuable email content and creating attention grabbing subject line headings, the numbers work against you: 191 billion emails are sent and received every day to millions of inboxes and over 108 billion of these are business emails, creating a massive cluttering glut per mail account. This glut averages out to 47 messages per inbox worldwide and of these 47, about 27 are likely to be business related.

Because of these numbers, it’s easy to see why so many email promotion campaigns have such low open rates and why every possible edge is something that you need to take advantage of.

How Transactional Emails Cut Through the Clutter

Because of their very nature as messages that actually give valuable and action relevant information to your email subscribers, transactional emails are far more likely to be opened again and again as opposed to bulk promotional mailings such as scheduled newsletters. Your users already have a clear and transaction-relevant reason for opening transactional messages and because of this they sort of promote themselves.

The numbers on this speak for themselves: The average open rates for most transactional messages are consistently shown to reach above 100%, an enormous difference from the typical average open rates of 15% for bulk promotional email send-outs. Furthermore, the click-through rates on links within transactional messages are also astonishingly good, averaging out at 17% as opposed to the typical 3% margins for links inside bulk mail messages.

With these numbers, you’re looking at a veritable gold mine of promotional opportunities that many email marketers completely miss out on. However, to really take advantage of the already excellent conversions your transactional emails are giving you with your list of existing site users, you need to make sure that the promotion augmentation steps you take are specific and effective without ruining user experience.

Let’s look at how to do this.

How to Take Advantage of Transactional Email Openings and Get Conversions

First of all, because of the CAN-SPAM Act and for the sake of not turning the genuine interest in your transactional messages off, you need to keep the essentially transactional nature of your messages intact. This means that their subject headings still need to be about the specific action they were mailed for (an order receipt, a renewal confirmation, etc).

Also, the core message of your transactional emails should still be about the transaction itself, don’t make this secondary to some sort of large promotional offer.

However, going beyond these essential requirements, you can and should take certain key strategic steps to make your transactional messages work as sales tools.

For one thing, brand your messages with a clear and catchy marketing message that grabs attention at the periphery of your core transaction notices. Test different email templates and use analytics to track their conversion rates across the board.

Secondly, be sure to personalize your emails as much as possible to the previous buying history of the specific customer they get mailed to. This also means cross-selling by including offers for sales on new items in the buyer’s interest areas and be sure to include crucial simple personalization markers such as each users name in their own specific email messages. These two modifications to transactional messages have been shown to increase unique clicks by as much as 41% and sales revenue by 20% respectively.

Going further, turn your introductory transactional welcome emails into a series of messages with specific purpose to each of them. Doing this in favor of sending out a single larger transactional message has been shown to create revenue increases of 13% or more.

Additionally, make every one of your messages social friendly with links to your social media accounts. Taking this step can increase click rates by as much as 55%.

Finally, don’t forget to say a heartfelt thanks to your customers in each and every message you send them. This alone can make a positive difference of 35% in terms of click rates!

How do you use transactional emails in your small business?