Pick the Best Channels for Your Transactional Campaigns

Tips to get the most from your transactional emails, push, and more

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Transactional campaigns are an invaluable element of any marketing strategy, but with all the channels now available to marketers, they can be tricky to execute to best effect.

Since users are expecting to see your subscription confirmations, receipts, and the like, they’re often more likely to open and engage with those messages, meaning your transactional campaigns are great opportunities to build relationships that will encourage long-term retention.

What transactional campaigns do

First, let’s define what we mean by “transactional.” Transactional messages for you brand could be limited to major actions like subscribing or making a purchase, but you could also build campaigns around other actions, like joining a group or marking something as favorite.

Your company’s actual definition of what is and isn’t transactional will vary by vertical and will depend on how customers interact with your brand. For example, a banking app might only want to send transfer confirmations, but a social app for teens might consider each share, like, or message a “transaction” and want to notify the user.

The point is that every transaction is an opportunity to continue your brand’s relationship with a user, to provide value directly tied to your company’s main purpose in your users’ lives, and to suggest other options that might appeal based on the transaction.

A major advantage is that transactional emails are more likely to be opened than promotional emails, and push notifications related to transactions are less likely to seem intrusive.

Whether you’re just getting started or looking to revamp your transactional messages, read on for the best channels to use and campaign planning tips.

Push notifications

Push notifications are great for time-sensitive information, like “your food is ready” or “your car share has arrived,” since they’re alerting users to the status of an order or transaction they’re likely waiting to hear about. The notification will cause their phone to buzz or light up, alerting them to the update immediately.

Depending on your business model and audience, push notifications can be great for social activity. Social apps for young people might want to notify users that a video has been liked by their friends, for example. But keep in mind that these kinds of activity notifications would likely seem out of place, or like overkill, in something like a shopping app.

There is potential for overuse, especially if you use push for promotion or re-engagement campaigns as well, so it’s important to be selective about what transactions trigger a push and to consider frequency capping (more on that below). If you can remind users of the value of their transaction, it’ll help to keep your brand top of mind, and a push is worth sending.

transactional push notification

A transactional push notification

Email

Emails are ideal for many transactions, but especially welcome messages and purchase receipts. Compared to short-and-sweet push messages, emails can allow for more personalization, feature other offers, and enable long-form content and rich images to highlight the value of the transaction. They’re also more permanent than push notifications or in-app messages, meaning users can refer to them later if they’d like.

  • Emails may take more time to craft but they can highlight and provide access to other products or features.
  • Emails are the best channel for image-rich content. A purchase receipt, for example, could even come formatted on an image of a receipt, to instantly convey its importance and meaning.
  • Emails stay in the user’s inbox until they delete them, meaning they can keep a permanent record of a transaction, and even sort it into their email folders for safekeeping.
  • Email can combine well with other more immediate channels, like push and SMS, because there’s likely to be a lag between viewing on each channel. A banking app, for example, might have an in-app message confirm a transaction, and later the same day, send an email re-confirming the transaction and showing further details.
  • Emails can allow for a more personal touch since they can come from specific individuals within your company.
transactional email

A transactional email

SMS/Text messages

The all powerful text message: the original mobile communication channel (after calls, of course). These stand out in a powerful way and will catch user attention but you’ll want to use them sparingly to avoid seeming intrusive. Texts are uniquely positioned for two-step verification for secure transactions or communicating critical information. These may be even better than a push notification for something as important as a bank telling you about potential fraud or an overdraft, or a delivery company telling you about a package arrival, and they can encourage interactions through quick and easy replies.

SMS is an interesting in-between channel and TNW makes some good points: texts are not as easy to delete as a push notification and are more likely to be read, but are harder to reference later than an email.

  • Like push notifications, SMS messages are better for shorter messages, with a maximum of 160 characters, and that has to include a few words indicating that the message is from your company (unlike a push notification which will come with your icon and app name).
  • Encouraging users to opt in is also crucial for SMS since you need written consent before you can send text messages to users.
transactional text message

A transactional text message

These channels will pair well with…

So you’ve mapped out your transactional campaigns across emails, push notifications, and SMS. What can you add to complement and further the value to your customer?

In-app messages pair well with emails if they pop up immediately following the transaction and indicate that an email will be sent. There’s some design flexibility in the message style, as you could use a full-screen, modal, or slider within the app for different message lengths and possible image inclusion.

News Feed Cards are a great place to feature recent accomplishments and transactions. MyFitnessPal, for example, lists recent workouts or milestones at the top of their News Feed. This channel is also great for encouraging new users to complete onboarding, as part of a welcome or sign-up transaction campaign. Like emails, they’ll be re-accessible down the line, although admittedly they’re not as easy to reference far down the line as an email.

A word about frequency capping

You’ll want to think through your frequency caps, because transactional messages get special treatment. Technically, transactional messages get a free pass on frequency caps, since they’re considered so important, but they can end up blocking other messages.

For example, if someone’s daily cap is two messages and they get one regular and one transactional, they will not receive another non-transactional sent later in the day. Be aware of how your frequency caps will affect how your users will see your campaigns.

Before you go

There is no one perfect answer that works for all companies when it comes to picking channels for a transactional campaign but in general, your shorter and more urgent transactional messages should go through SMS or push, and longer content with more details through email. Pairing channels can work well as long as you’re intentional and don’t overdo it with too many messages.

And as always, keep your brand voice consistent across channels and customize and personalize where you can. Following these best practices will allow for building loyalty with your users, beyond the transactional message itself, to lead to future purchases and increased engagement.

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