There’s no doubt you’ve heard someone explain why you should separate transactional and marketing emails. But what’s the difference, and what qualifies an email to get separated? Today, we’ll talk about transactional emails vs. marketing emails and explain everything you need to know.

What Are Transactional Emails and Marketing Emails?

Before we talk about the differences and present you with some examples, let’s take a look at the definition of these two main types of email.

Transactional Email

Transactional emails are one-to-one and contain information that completes a process or transaction that the recipient initiated. One common example is in eCommerce; after an item is purchased, a transactional email is sent containing information about the order, price, item, and shipment. This type of email is sent to one person rather than a list of recipients.

Marketing Email

Marketing emails contain content or a commercial message intended for marketing purposes. These emails must adhere to local laws but are usually sent to a large list of customers or prospects.

What’s the Difference: Transactional Emails vs. Marketing Emails

This is one of the most common questions that we get from existing and potential clients. The truth is there are several ways you can explain the differences, such as the content and purpose. Transactional emails contain information about actions that the recipient has already completed. On the other hand, marketing emails are intended to influence the recipient toward taking a specified action.

Another key difference is that since transactional emails are sent to an individual, they usually have higher open rates than those used for marketing. One similarity is that marketing and transactional emails utilize automation to send emails based on a predefined event or trigger. More specifically, time-based automation sends emails based on a predetermined time and date. In contrast, behavior-based automation focuses on allowing you to personalize what you send and when these emails are sent.

Examples of Transactional Emails

Transactional or triggered emails are sent after a user makes an interaction with a business. Companies usually send these programmatically through API or via SMTP relay.

Depending on the purpose of the transactional email, these should include information such as:

  • Contact information that the recipient can use to reach the business for any reason.
  • A clear explanation of why the user is receiving the transactional email.
  • Explicit user actions to be taken (if there are any)

Let’s take a look at the most common examples of transactional emails.

Purchase Receipt or Confirmation

Customers expect to receive a confirmation email or purchase receipt after doing business with a company. These emails should include confirmation numbers, purchase details, additional links, or a call-to-action.

Feedback Request

Once the customer receives their product, most businesses send a follow-up feedback request. Though asking for customer reviews is commonly a marketing tactic, these emails are transactional when tied to a purchase or action triggered by a client. Examples of information you’ll find in these emails include incentives, a direct link to the platform, and a link for terms and conditions.

Identify Verification

Email marketers understand the importance of having a double opt-in system when new users are signing up for email campaigns. The main reason is that when the recipient enters their email address on a sign-up form, the double opt-in sends a verification email which serves a dual purpose. First, this email verifies that the person correctly entered their email handle. But second, it ensures that the recipient meant to sign up for your email communications. Identity verification emails typically contain a call-to-action button, company contact info, and an unsubscribe link.

Password Reset

There’s no doubt that you’ve had to request one of these transactional emails at some point. These emails are unique and contain time-bound links to a password reset page. They commonly contain an appealing call-to-action button, branded elements, and an explanation as to how long the link is valid.

Account Notifications

These emails cover a wide range of communications that notify users of recent activity on their account or alerts them to information that will impact them. These emails help build brand trust by informing users and providing them with easy access to actions they need to take. Examples of these emails include monthly statements from payment apps or financial institutions, account reminders, security alerts, and policy changes.

Examples of Marketing Emails

Unlike triggered, transactional emails, marketing emails are strategically sent to recipients with a specific goal in mind. The purpose is usually to sell, and for this reason, there are laws regulating marketing but not transactional emails.

One of the key differences between transactional and marketing emails is how these messages are sent. In other words, they can be sent using a web API or SMTP relay. This is why many businesses choose to use a complete marketing solution such as Mail Ex, as this allows you to:

  • Build content and templates with the email editor
  • Perform A/B testing on various templates
  • Track performance metrics such as clicks and opens
  • Advertise sales and promotions
  • Schedule emails
  • Send messages to targeted groups

Let’s take a look at a few common examples of marketing emails:


The purpose of building a relationship with the email recipient is to maintain brand awareness, and newsletters are considered a more subtle type of marketing email. Hence, they usually contain some valuable content for the reader rather than just serving as a promotional item. Newsletters often contain information such as appealing hero images, multiple call-to-action buttons, content, and smaller images.

New Product Announcement

Another common type of marketing email is a new product announcement. Small and large brands alike use this strategy to announce new offers for products or services. For example, a nutrition company may send out these marketing emails to inform their customer list that they are now offering a new type of supplement. These emails usually contain engaging photos, product information, a call-to-action button, and an explanation as to why the recipient would need the product.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, modern companies should utilize both transactional and marketing emails. Each form of communication serves its own purpose, but both are equally as important when it comes to connecting with customers and building trust.


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