New guests in the house! The folks at Mailtrap have developed a very successful email testing tool, trusted by over 700,000 devs, QAs, and managers worldwide. With Mailtrap you can inspect and debug emails before sending them to real users. Among Mailtrap’s clients, you can recognize Adobe, Atlassian, Yelp, and many more. We’ve invited the Mailtrap Growth Manager, Andriy, to explain to us how to send transactional emails from WordPress websites. And he really knows the drill. Let’s hear him out!
As a business owner using a WordPress site, you want to stay in touch with your customers to boost conversion and create a better experience. And the most effective way to connect with consumers is through email marketing.
According to Statista, the daily number of emails sent daily will reach 350 million by 2023. But not all these emails are generic marketing communication. While some are part of bulk marketing campaigns, others are transactional emails triggered by on-site user activity.
But how can you configure these triggers on your WordPress site?
In this article, we explore ways to send transactional emails and why your company needs them to foster growth and communication.
What are transactional emails?
Transactional emails are any email messages that your site sends to users automatically after they perform an action. The action might be a purchase, subscription, or account detail recovery.
Also, transactional emails are called “triggered emails” because only specific triggers (user actions) can activate them. Often, applications or website plugins generate and send these triggered emails. But you can also set up a locally-hosted email protocol server to handle these operations.
Examples of transactional emails
Here are standard transactional emails:
- Account creation — users always get a confirmation email whenever they register with their email. This mail often contains a verification link to ensure that the user is active.
- Welcome emails — once the user verifies their profile via email, they receive another message welcoming them to the service.
- Security alerts — users receive these alerts in cases of suspicious, unauthorized attempts to access their profiles.
- Two-factor authentication alerts — consumers using double opt-in or two-factor authentication get instant alerts during login.
- Password reset — when users request to reset their password, they get a message in their inbox.
- Purchase invoices — the consumer receives digital receipts and bills related to their on-site transactions.
- Order statuses — Businesses send order statuses to consumers after an order is placed. This email notifies the customer that the order has been “received,” “rejected,” or “in processing.”
- Cart abandonment — when consumers leave items in the cart without completing a purchase, they receive email reminders to nudge them into action. However, cart abandonment emails are tricky under new GDPR rules. Here’s an example from Alex Mill:
- Double opt-in emails — just like two-factor authentication alerts, business owners can use double opt-in emails to eliminate inactive emails and spam traps.
Differences between transactional emails and marketing email
Most people erroneously group all commercial emails under one umbrella. In reality, marketing emails differ from transactional emails and cold emails.
Here are the key distinguishing factors between both email categories.
Triggers control transactional emails. The user only gets information related to an action they carried out on the WordPress website. Conversely, marketing emails come from the site’s (business) owner. The content ranges from pre-planned email campaigns to product release announcements.
As a site owner, you can send marketing emails with any software. You can even craft the emails and send them manually to your mailing list. But why do that when you can automate the mailing process with plugins and apps?
When sending transactional emails, you might need an API to handle the triggers. You can also set up a dedicated SMTP server to handle the automated (and instantaneous) responses.
Site users can receive transactional emails even if they don’t subscribe to your newsletter. On the other hand, only subscribed users can receive marketing emails. The user must have opted in to receive the email.
If you send marketing emails to non-subscribers, you risk breaking data laws like GDPR, which decreases your brand’s email deliverability.
Consumers can decide to unsubscribe from your marketing emails for many reasons. And you are obligated to provide this opt-out option to them.
However, users cannot unsubscribe from automated emails. Most transactional emails are one-offs, which means that the consumer only receives them once for every unique action.
5 factors that affect WP transactional emails
Just like bulk marketing campaigns, transactional emails feature many moving parts that must work in unison to get the best results.
Here are some factors to consider before you start working on triggers for your transactional emails.
Whenever you open the spam folder, you always see some shady email addresses and content. Sometimes, you might even find an email from a legit brand in the spam folder.
How does this happen?
Several factors can confine triggered emails to the spam folder, but email authentication tops the list.
Email authentication is paramount if you want to keep your transactional emails out of spam folders. Domain authentication protocols like DMARC, DKIM, and SPF verify your domain and DNS records. If your domain and email ID are not authenticated, most emails you send will end up in the spam folder.
Although authentication is not a surefire guarantee that your message will evade the spam folder, it improves the chances of your email reaching its destination.
Email deliverability is the ability of your email to enter the customer’s inbox. And this key metric is connected to email authentication.
Apart from authentication, send volume can also hamper your email deliverability. You also need to regulate the frequency of transactional emails. In ideal situations, you should not send more than one triggered email for a single action.
If you are worried about your deliverability score, you can use services like MXToolbox to check it.
Mail service provider
Nowadays, many mail service providers are available in the online marketplace. As a WordPress site owner, you can add one of these services as a plugin or mail handler on your website.
Services like Sendinblue offer both bulk mail and transactional email capabilities. You can use these services to craft the email and set the automated email triggers. Sendinblue has a free WordPress plugin that allows you to connect your Sendinblue account to your WordPress website.
Alternatively, you can hire experts to create an SMTP server to handle your triggered emails. With SMTP servers, you have ultimate control over the mailing parameter, from authentication to maintenance.
For large businesses, building and maintaining an SMTP server might not present a financial strain. However, small retailers using a WordPress website might struggle to afford the maintenance costs.
Alternatively, you can subscribe to mail service providers for a low price and use the available features for your transactional emails. You can even use the Google SMTP server if you have a small clientele.
The last thing any business owner wants is any technical issue that affects the smooth running of business operations.
Just imagine a user requesting a password request and not getting any notification in their inbox. If you want to improve the customer experience, try to anticipate and mitigate these problems.
And what can cause the user not to get their triggered email?
If your SMTP server or mail service provider malfunctions, you need a contingency plan to continue the smooth running of operations.
How to fix email sending problems on your WP site
We hinted at server downtime and how it affects your transactional emails. Now, we’ll discuss what you should do when your WordPress site stops sending trigger emails.
But before addressing this issue, let’s explore why triggered emails fail on WordPress sites.
WordPress uses a basic mail delivery protocol based on a PHP function (wp_mail) to send transactional emails by default. Unfortunately, this function does not feature any authentication protocols.
Also, your WordPress site might not be sending triggered emails because you configured the SMTP server terribly. You can check the status of the transactional email configuration using the Check & Log Email free WP plugin.
Besides, you don’t want to use the default WordPress mailing protocol for transactional emails. In the case that your domain name gets labeled as “spam”, you will spend a lot of time and resources recovering from this debacle.
To avoid unnecessary headaches, use a dedicated transactional email provider. You can also download SMTP plugins for your WordPress website.
If the problems persist, contact your hosting provider for assistance or hire a WordPress developer to troubleshoot the problem.
7 tips to ace transactional emails on a WordPress site
Now that you know how transactional emails work, you are now at the last checkpoint — this is where you learn the most effective triggered mail practices for WP sites. Since transactional emails convert better than other messages by 20%, let’s explore ways to boost WordPress conversion rates.
Personalize the email content
Transactional emails often originate from online forms, where the consumer inputs some personal data. This presents an opportunity to personalize the email content by addressing them by name. In this welcome email, the folks at Loom are using some of the most basic personalization out there: mentioning the name of the recipient.
Personalization can go even further, in both B2B and B2C.
In B2B you can use the data enrichment tools to understand more about your contact, and send out relevant emails for their industry, job title, etc. In e-commerce, you can personalize content based on age, sex, history of orders, website interactions, and more.
Besides, data from 99Firms claims that personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversions by 10%. And since 96% of businesses back email personalization, you should add the personal touch to your triggered mail.
Specify the purpose of the email
Communication platforms like Slack rely on transactional emails to protect user data. At the same time, these services also send a lot of email updates and newsletters. But the difference is that they use clear subject lines to specify the purpose of every triggered email.
As the owner of a WordPress website, you want the consumer to open the transactional email. Therefore, you need to add the relevant subject line and preheader to the email.
Practice good email etiquette
When consumers open triggered emails, they expect to see what the header says and nothing more.
But most marketers see transactional emails as a clickbait opportunity to sell a new product. As tempting as this sounds, this practice can tarnish your domain reputation.
Good email etiquette involves:
- Specifying the content to the triggered action
- Avoiding ALL CAPS in the header
- Optimizing the content for mobile
- Identifying the source of the message
- Identifying the trigger
- Using appropriate, gender-neutral greetings
- Avoiding the excessive use of exclamation points
- Treading lightly with humor. Maintain a friendly and conversational tone.
Use the right tools
Setting up triggered emails is a challenge, but you can position your business for success with the right tools.
While crafting the content, use mobile-friendly templates since over 60% of emails are opened on mobile devices.
You should also test the email triggers using a fake SMTP Server. Why? Testing with a fake server allows you to preview email messages for potential issues and design flaws before sending them.
Also, use WordPress plugins to simplify the task of generating triggered emails. If you are using Gmail, use Postmaster Tools to determine your domain reputation. Alternatively, MXToolBox can check if your domain or IP address has been blocklisted.
Offer value (and bonuses)
Since transactional emails should be specific to one trigger, why add other stuff in the content?
Well, here is why…
You can offer dynamic recommendations as related services to the customer. This technique improves conversion rates by 35%.
For example, if a customer orders a shoe from your WordPress site, the order confirmation email can offer them socks — this is cross-selling.
But the trick to this approach is to present the bonus as a secondary option: the main product always comes first.
Also, you can include special offers and discounts to incentivize the customer to shop more. A study conducted in 2020 found that 86% of millennials said that they could be persuaded to try new brands if offered a discount.
Data gathering and analysis are centerpieces in transactional email marketing because the metrics show what works and what doesn’t.
For starters, you need to monitor the open, bounce, delivery, and click-through rates (CTR). Then, observe the conversion rates from the transactional emails (where applicable).
Ultimately, use insights from A/B testing to find out the best strategy for your triggered emails.
Transactional emails are messages that the consumers receive when they trigger a specific action on a website. Unlike bulk emails, transactional emails only go to the recipients only once, without the option of unsubscribing.
When using WordPress hosting for your site, factors like authentication can affect how consumers receive your emails. So, you should fix these problems to improve the user experience.
Always keep a contingency plan in case your SMTP server or transactional mail service provider stops working. And most importantly, use the best practices to boost WordPress conversion and email metrics for your transactional emails.
Till next time!
Andriy is a Growth Marketing Manager at Mailtrap, a product that helps people inspect and debug emails before sending them to real users. He has over 5 years of experience in the field of marketing & product. Andriy loves to network with people. Running is his hobby and he enjoys discovering new places. Connect with Andriy on Linkedin or Facebook and share your feedback on the article.