Transactional Email vs Marketing Email: What’s The Difference?

Transactional Email vs Marketing Email - DemandSage

The world of marketing keeps on transforming, but still, email marketing continues to dominate the space by giving the highest returns. Businesses send several emails, from order confirmations and welcome emails to promotional emails. These emails come under two categories, i.e., transactional email and marketing email. Both serve a different purpose, but they’re vital to ensuring smooth operations and customer satisfaction.

 It can be pretty puzzling to distinguish between these emails. So, to make things easy for you, we have outlined the critical difference between the two types of emails, so you’ll know how to utilize them for your business best.

In this article, we will discuss transactional email versus marketing email, explain what these two types of email are, and outline how they differ from each other.

What Are Transactional Emails & Marketing Emails: An Overview

A transaction email is an email that is automatically generated and sent to a customer after a transaction or a specific action is taken by that customer.

Examples of Transactional Emails include:

  • Order Confirmation Emails
  • Password Reset Emails
  • Invoices or receipts
  • Notification emails like delivery updates

A marketing email is an email that conveys a commercial message to a particular group of people with a specific marketing strategy is considered a marketing email. Marketing emails are sent to a specified group of potential customers who have opted to receive them.

Some examples of Marketing Emails are:

  • Newsletters
  • Promotional and Sales Emails
  • Updates and Announcements
  • Discount emails

Transactional Email vs Marketing Email: Key Differences

Marketing and transactional emails vary from one another in multiple aspects. However, below we will be pointing out some of the key differences between a transactional email and a marketing email. 

Transactional Email vs Marketing Email

1. Content

Transactional email comprises data related to a transaction or action that has already taken place. In contrast, a marketing email aspires to compel the recipient to take action or complete the transaction you want them to.

Transactional emails are formal reports of monetary transactions or similar actions. On the other hand, marketing emails are details highlighting a product or service illustrated in a way that publicizes it.


The content in transactional emails is more personalized and explicit in contrast to the content in marketing emails, which is more generic and innovative.

2. Engagement Rates

Typically, marketing emails have lower engagement rates in comparison to transactional emails. Transactional emails contain information like order confirmation, order number, or expected delivery dates which are very valuable to the customers. Since they usually anticipate this email, transactional emails have a high engagement rate.

Open rates for advertising campaigns are usually between 10 to 20%. These rates are comparatively lower than the 60 to 70% open rates that are standard for typical transactional emails, such as password reset emails.

3. Recipients

Recipients of marketing emails are those who are already subscribed to the mailing list. These recipients are usually either prospective or existing customers. Businesses often use email marketing software to send these emails at a set time interval. This software is also used to track data analytics and observe engagement rates. Marketers also use this data to customize marketing emails for individual customers.

On the other hand, recipients of transactional emails are customers who have either commenced or completed a transaction. These recipients are genuine existing customers and not prospective customers. Since transactional emails usually contain confidential or financial data, these emails are very personal and are sent to that person only. Businesses usually send these emails automatically using customer management software.

Contrary to transactional emails, marketing emails can only be sent to people who are on your mailing list. To send a marketing email to someone, they must have signed in to receive your advertising emails. You don’t have any legal rights to contact someone if they haven’t subscribed to your email list. Additionally, all marketing emails are required to have a one-click unsubscribe button to unsubscribe anytime.

4. Laws And Regulations

Several laws and regulations govern the use of email marketing. Laws and regulations also vary region and country-wise, so it’s necessary to study your regional protocols. 

Laws And Regulations

Some examples of common marketing protocols are:

  • Law related to data privacy and collection
  • Honest advertising laws
  • Assuring only people on the mailing list receive marketing emails
  • Including a one-click unsubscribe option 

Transactional emails must adhere to even stricter laws because they involve financial affairs. Some examples of these laws are:

  • Obligatory receipts for financial transactions
  • Truth in lending law which protects the customer from unfair credit card billing
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act

Marketing Emails Are Prone to Human Error

Both marketing emails and transactional emails come with their unique set of vulnerabilities. Transactional emails can easily fall prey to bot attacks by spam through online forms.

Marketing emails are more creative and thus more susceptible to human error. This can also lead to the mishandling of data or sending emails to the incorrect mailing list.

Final Words

Now that you know the critical differences between transactional and marketing emails, you understand that transactional and marketing emails perform several functions and strategies and have different objectives. But, still, they work in harmony and belong to the exact mechanism. This means that you need to integrate both types of emails to get the best out of them.

We hope our comparison between transactional vs marketing emails was helpful to learn the difference. 

FAQs On Transactional Email vs Marketing Email

How many marketing e-mails should you send in a week? 

Two emails a month is a good start, and then you can build it up to weekly e-mails. If you have frequent offers or regular promotions, you can send two to three weekly e-mails.

Do marketing e-mails need an unsubscribe link?

It is mandatory by law for marketing emails to provide a one-click unsubscribe link within the e-mail. Additionally, this unsubscribe link should give recipients a no-cost option to unsubscribe without needing login information.

Is it necessary for transactional emails to have an unsubscribe button?

No, transactional emails don’t require an unsubscribe link or button. This is because you don’t need the receiver to be subscribed to your email list. 
Since these emails are solitary emails related to a specific transaction, the receiver doesn’t expect to receive any more emails from you. However, you can provide a chance to join your mailing list during checkout.

Are abandoned cart emails considered transaction emails?

Abandoned cart e-mails are generated when a customer leaves a cart without placing an order at an e-commerce site. These e-mails are marketing emails, not transactional. 

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