Transactional email definition:

Transactional email is a method of customer communication in which automated, real-time messages are sent to users through email after a specific action has been performed within an application or website. Sometimes referred to as ‘triggered emails’ or ‘automated emails’, transactional emails typically contain personalized information that pertains directly to the action taken by the user. Examples of transactional emails include password resets, purchase receipts, shipping notification, and legal notifications. These emails often contain valuable information that is critical to the customer experience.

When implemented correctly, transactional emails can have very high user engagement rates.


Take the common scenario of requesting a password reset for a given software application account. Once “Reset Password” is selected, users expect to easily update their password and log back into their account quickly.

transactional email

In most cases, software applications send password reset instructions via email, as does SparkPost in this example.

transactional emailAfter selecting “Reset Password”, an automated email with password reset instructions is delivered to the user, allowing them to complete the reset and continue using the application. Transactional emails accomplish an agreed-upon transaction between the email sender and recipient, ultimately strengthening user engagement.

Why send transactional emails?

As illustrated above, one of the main goals of sending transactional emails is to instantaneously connect and communicate valuable information to customers at key moments of the customer experience. After all, what customer wouldn’t want on-demand services and communication when they need it most? A great customer experience begins with excellent communication.

Marketing and product communications teams spend a significant amount of time researching the customer journey to understand the most critical moments of customer communication to drive positive relationships.

The following examples of transactional emails are known to have a significant impact on customer relationships:

  • Account creation and activation emails
  • Welcome and onboarding messages
  • User invitations and shares
  • Security and account alerts
  • Password resets and two-factor authentication
  • Purchase receipts and shipping notifications
  • Legal notices

These transactional emails provide essential information to customers and help them successfully manage websites, applications, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) products.

Find more examples of great transactional emails here.

Who sends transactional emails?

Most businesses send transactional emails or app-generated notifications in some form or another, whether it’s delivery receipts, account creation notifications, user invites, or another important type of message.

Many SaaS businesses execute transactional emails by directly embedding an email delivery service into a website or application. This can be done through an email API integration which gives product teams the power to take control of how they communicate with customers via email sent directly from their app or website.

curl -XPOST \ \
  -H "Authorization: <YOUR API KEY>" \
  -H "Content-Type: application/json" \
  -d '{"options": {"sandbox": true}, "content": {"from": "", "subject": "Oh hey", "text":"Testing SparkPost - the most awesomest email service in the world"}, "recipients": [{"address": ""}]}'
const SparkPost = require('sparkpost');
const sparky = new SparkPost('<YOUR API KEY>');

    options: {
      sandbox: true
    content: {
      from: '',
      subject: 'Oh hey!',
      html:'<html><body><p>Testing SparkPost - the world\'s most awesomest email service!</p></body></html>'
    recipients: [
      {address: ''}
  .then(data => {
    console.log('Woohoo! You just sent your first mailing!');
  .catch(err => {
    console.log('Whoops! Something went wrong');
from sparkpost import SparkPost

sparky = SparkPost('<YOUR API KEY>')

response = sparky.transmissions.send(
    html='<html><body><p>Testing SparkPost - the world\'s most awesomest email service!</p></body></html>',
    subject='Oh hey!')
use SparkPost\SparkPost;
use GuzzleHttp\Client;
use Http\Adapter\Guzzle6\Client as GuzzleAdapter;

$httpClient = new GuzzleAdapter(new Client());
$sparky = new SparkPost($httpClient, ['key' => '<YOUR API KEY>']);

$sparky->setOptions(['async' => false]);
$results = $sparky->transmissions->post([
  'options' => [
    'sandbox' => true
  'content' => [
    'from' => '',
    'subject' => 'Oh hey!',
    'html' => '<html><body><p>Testing SparkPost - the world\'s most awesomest email service!</p></body></html>'
  'recipients' => [
    ['address' => ['email'=>'']]
package com.sparkpost;

import com.sparkpost.exception.SparkPostException;

public class SparkPost {

    public static void main(String[] args) throws SparkPostException {
        String API_KEY = "<YOUR API KEY>";
        Client sparky = new Client(API_KEY);

                "Oh hey!",
                "Testing SparkPost - the world's most awesomest email service!",
                "<p>Testing SparkPost - the world's most awesomest email service!</p>");
var transmission = new Transmission();
transmission.Content.From.Email = "";
transmission.Content.Subject = "Oh hey!";
transmission.Content.Text = "Testing SparkPost - the world\'s most awesomest email service!";
transmission.Content.Html = "<html><body><p>Testing SparkPost - the world\'s most awesomest email service!</p></body></html>";

var recipient = new Recipient
    Address = new Address { Email = "" }

var client = new Client("<YOUR API KEY>");
// or client.Transmissions.Send(transmission).Wait();
package main

import (
    sp ""

func main() {
    var sparky sp.Client
    err := sparky.Init(&sp.Config{ApiKey: "<YOUR API KEY>"})
    if err != nil {
        log.Fatalf("SparkPost client init failed: %s\n", err)

    tx := &sp.Transmission{
        Recipients: []string{""},
        Options:    &sp.TxOptions{Sandbox: true},
        Content: sp.Content{
            HTML:    "<p>Testing SparkPost - the world's most awesomest email service!</p>",
            From:    "",
            Subject: "Oh hey!",
    id, _, err := sparky.Send(tx)
    if err != nil {

    log.Printf("Transmission sent with id [%s]\n", id)
alias SparkPost.{Content, Transmission}

defmodule MyApp do
  def main(args) do
      recipients: [""],
      content: %Content.Inline{
        from: "",
        subject: "Oh hey!",
        html: "<p>Testing SparkPost - the world's most awesomest email service!</p>",
      options: %Transmission.Options{sandbox: true}

Transactional email for SaaS businesses

Successful SaaS businesses view transactional emails as an integral component of their customer communication and engagement strategy. Communicating with customers instantly and at critical moments of the customer journey can increase product adoption, brand loyalty, and reduce churn. In some cases, transactional emails are even utilized as core product features.

Transactional email and the customer journey

It’s clear that transactional emails are essential throughout the user lifecycle and when implemented correctly, can significantly improve engagement, retention, and conversion.

Account creation emails, onboarding welcome messages, password resets and notifications, and other types of transactional emails are perfect opportunities for organizations to communicate with customers and should be seen as opportunities to build stronger relationships. Transactional emails are standard methods of business-to-consumer communication that are expected by consumers in order for them to stay loyal.

How to improve the transactional emails you send

SparkPost surveyed over 300 email professionals in charge of transactional and marketing communications across diverse verticals to discover emerging trends and identify the challenges they’re facing.

You can access the full 2020 Transactional Email Benchmark Report here and the accompanying infographic here. Here are a few highlights:

  • Only half of survey respondents said that their company had plans to adopt BIMI in the future.
  • Security is key to a successful email program. But, of senders that do authenticate their transactional emails only 22% use DMARC.
  • A/B testing is a huge opportunity when it comes to email and yet only 36% of those surveyed said that it is part of their email strategy.

Every business is unique, so it’s critical to truly understand the needs of your customers before making decisions on your transactional email program. With this information as a foundation, you can start sending successful transactional emails today that grow your business AND your bottom line.

~ Jen