Communication between a business and its customers is essential to the business’s health.

A common way to conduct it adequately is by using emails to reach out to new as well as existing customers. It’s straightforward, low-cost, quick, and while we all get a ton of emails, it has proven to still work!! There are two main types of emails businesses use to sustain communication with their customers: Bulk (or marketing) emails and Transactional emails. In this post, we’ll cover the details of each and point out how they differ from one another.

Bulk email

Bulk email, also known as marketing email, is commonly sent by a company to a large group of recipients, all at once. The goal of this form of communication is often to promote a business, sell merchandise, and cultivate relationships. The advantages include an easy, fast, and economical way to inform the recipients of news and updates that affect customers as well as the business that sends them.

Here are a few examples of bulk (marketing) emails:

  • Promotional emails -  A simple, yet powerful way to advertise a service or product. Their purpose is to raise awareness, increase income, and preserve customer loyalty.
  • Retention emails - Emails sent to existing customers with the intention of keeping them as clients.
  • Newsletters - A commonly used way to keep an audience well-informed of updates, news, and releases related to products, services, or companies. The newsletters’ purpose is to share feature updates, interviews, roundups, blog posts, and other valuable information.
Bulk mail comes in all shapes and sizes
Bulk mail comes in all shapes and sizes

Transactional email

Transactional emails are automated, real-time messages sent to a particular recipient after a certain action has been executed within an application or a website - by them, or by the sender. They are an essential method when it comes to the preservation of customer relationships and should be an extensive part of your marketing operation. Like bulk emails, transactional emails are also made up of different types.

Here are a few examples of transactional emails:

  • Receipts and confirmations - A frequently used transactional email example is an order confirmation. It is sent to a customer following a transaction and includes information regarding that transaction and the product. Purpose: to ensure the customer that the transaction was successful and provide them with a record of the details.
  • Referral emails - A widely used way for businesses to expand their audience and reach out to new customers with the help of existing customers, by offering them incentives to spread the word about their business.
  • Feedback requests - Asking customers, through email, for their honest feedback regarding a purchased product, customer support services, or overall user experience. Feedback helps build customer loyalty and provides useful data that can be used for the improvement of your product or service.
  • Account notifications - Email notifications aren’t an explicit request made by a customer. Instead, they are triggered when changes occur within their account. They are meant to inform the user about those changes or updates, such as: reaching or exceeding account limits, event reminders, shipping updates, website maintenance, and more.
Where's my receipt?

The difference between bulk email (or marketing email) and transactional email

The difference between bulk and transactional emails boils down to a few important aspects:

  • Purpose - While marketing emails are meant to promote and inform, transactional emails are aimed to satisfy the customer’s communicational needs that are essential to business proceedings.
  • Personalization - A personalized email is targeted to a specific subscriber and can come in many forms, from the basic use of a subscriber’s name in the subject line, to the adjustment of content based on gender, location, etc. Marketing email can be personalized by using the recipient’s name, or by having certain content sent to specific segments of leads or customers. Transactional emails are however even more personalized since they have to do with a specific event or transaction directly affecting the recipient. Thus, transactional emails should also include information directly related to the event or transaction that just occurred.
  • Opt-in / subscription requirements - in order for bulk emails not to be considered spam, they should only be sent to individuals that have opted-in and provided consent to be contacted by your company.
    Contacting individuals that have not subscribed to your email list breaches rules set by data protection laws such as the European GDPR and American CAN-SPAM act. Marketing emails must also provide a way for subscribers to opt-out. Transactional emails do not require an opt-in method and opt-out option if the sender demonstrates legitimate interest.
  • Legitimate interest - Spam and privacy laws around the world such as GDPR and the CAN-SPAM act require email senders to obtain consent from each individual they wish to send marketing email to. However, according to these laws, if you establish a legitimate interest for sending your transactional emails, the recipient’s consent is not required.
    What exactly is “legitimate interest”? Legitimate interest means that emails are a proportionate means of communicating vital information to your customers or users. Accordingly, the information you’re sending to your customers is something that they really need. For instance, it's reasonable to assume that a customer would want to get billing receipts, or "forgot your password" emails helping them to gain access back to their account.
    The lines between marketing and transactional email may become blurry in some cases. For example, a welcome email that requires the receiver to verify their email address doesn't require consent, but if you add marketing content to it, you may go over the line. As a general rule, try to avoid mixing marketing and transactional content in a single email.
  • Unsubscribe buttons - All marketing emails must provide a way for subscribers to opt-out, meaning an unsubscribe link. Transactional emails, on the other hand, are not required to include an unsubscribe button/link, but it is a good practice to explain to your recipients why they get a specific email in the footer of the email. For example "This email is a required notice about <reason>. It is not a marketing or promotional email, and as such, it does not contain an unsubscribe email.").

Mailer To Go is used to automate transactional email quickly and effortlessly from your domain. It was built with developers' needs in mind, with a simple setup process and support for standard interfaces to allow any programmer to send email right away. If you feel like upping your transactional email game, check out Mailer To Go.