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Transactional Email: Challenges and Opportunities

email marketingIs the transactional inbox on the verge of becoming the Next Big Thing?

In the Email Insider newsletter, George Bilbrey explored this in The Transactional Inbox’s Promise and Peril In 2014.

Just to clarify, for those who may not be familiar with the term, transactional email—as you can probably guess from the name—is email sent to someone who has initiated some sort of interaction or transaction with you, such as by registering for an account or putting something in their online shopping cart. The message is something the recipient expects or wants, and is usually sent automatically based on a specific trigger.

Transactional email isn’t new—businesses have been using these sorts of triggered emails for a long time. However, recent technological developments have allowed marketers to make these emails more personalized, dynamic and visually exciting than ever before. It is now possible to include geo-specific details, time-sensitive material and dynamic content in your emails. So instead of just seeing a generic reminder to come back to your site, the recipient can see images and content related to the things they most recently viewed on your site. This makes the messages not only more interesting and personalized but also increases the likelihood of your recipient taking a desired action or continuing to interact with you.

As Bilbrey points out, there are also recent and upcoming changes to the way these messages are delivered and filtered. Not surprisingly, Gmail is a big part of this discussion. They recently added the Promotions tab, which is where many transactional emails now land. Despite initial concerns by many marketers, Bilbrey said this new tabbed system hasn’t been a death blow to those messages—and, in fact, among engaged readers the response rate has actually increased.

On the other hand, other recent changes haven’t been such welcome news—such as Gmail’s new way of handling images in emails via their own cached system, which will now make it more challenging to include dynamic content.

As with many other areas, marketers will need to stay on top of the constantly changing landscape when it comes to how transactional emails are handled, and be ready to adapt quickly as needed. But this seems to be one tactic that marketers should really focus on in 2014, as there is considerable opportunity to strengthen relationships with the valuable contacts who have already expressed an interest in engaging with you.

Need help planning or managing your email campaign? Check out the email marketing services we offer.


With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.