In very short, a transactional email is sent in response to the recipient’s action and contains information relevant to that action, while a marketing email is sent to drive the recipient to take action.
There’s more to it, and I’ll explain that below, but this is the high-level big difference between transactional and marketing emails.
Before I get into transactional email vs. marketing email, though, I want to clarify the definitions. So…
What is a transactional email?
A transactional email is a one-to-one email sent to a user in response to an action taken by that user, like creating an account or making a purchase. Transactional emails contain information specific to each user and are sent to individuals one at a time. Here are a few examples:
Transactional emails are emails that users should expect to receive when they complete an action, again such as creating an account on a website or making a purchase. They may contain important information, such as passwords or order confirmation & shipping details.
What is a marketing email?
A marketing email is a one-to-many email sent to users from one person or, more likely, one email address. Marketing emails contain general information that isn’t intended to cater to one person and are sent to individuals en masse. Here are some examples:
Marketing emails aren’t ever particularly expected unless there is a schedule they’re being sent on, and the timing depends fully on the company after a person joins their mailing list. They contain marketing information such as deals, promotions, and more.
Transactional email vs. marketing email
As said earlier, the high-level difference between transactional email and marketing email is the purpose, that being in response to a recipient’s action or to drive a recipient to action. Below are the more detailed differences between transactional email and marketing email:
- Engagement rates: The average open rate for marketing emails is around 21%, whereas the average open rate for transactional emails is around 80 – 85%.
- Time to inbox: Considering transactional emails can contain important information, fast delivery is a top priority for them. As for marketing emails, they can be sent on a looser schedule, meaning longer time to inbox.
- Methods of sending: Transactional email is usually sent using either web API or SMTP relay, while marketing emails are sent using an email marketing service.
- IP addresses: Usually, if a company sends a high volume of emails, they send transactional emails and marketing emails from different IP addresses. This is because marketing emails have a much lower engagement rate, and that low engagement rate can impact deliverability and sender reputation. A company wants to ensure transactional emails are always sent and always received, so they separate their emails through IP addresses.
|Transactional Emails||Marketing Emails|
|Unsubscribe Link||Not required||Required|
|Trigger||Action from recipient||Action from sender|
|Legal||N/A||GDPR, CAN-SPAM, CASL, etc.|
|Objectives||Notification, user engagement||Engagement, conversion|
How do you separate transactional emails and marketing emails?
There are three ways to separate your transactional and marketing emails: email addresses, IP addresses, and subdomains.
For email addresses, you could have your marketing emails come from “email@example.com,” and your transactional emails come from “firstname.lastname@example.org.” This is a small measure and should be done on top of other methods, but it does help separate your transactional and marketing emails.
For IP addresses, many email providers let you set up a dedicated IP (at extra cost, of course). Your sender reputation does hinge on your IP address, but it has become more possible in recent years for spammers to burn through new IP addresses. Thus, using separate IP addresses shouldn’t be the only thing you do, just like only using separate email addresses.
For subdomains, you could have your transactional emails come from “email@example.com,” and have your marketing emails come from “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
The best way to separate your transactional emails and marketing emails is to do all three: use separate email addresses, separate IP addresses, and separate subdomains.
If you’re looking for a platform that can do all three of these things, I’d recommend MailerLite. They do marketing and transactional emails (the latter through MailerSend), and you can easily request a dedicated IP to send emails with.