Transactional Emails Work If You Work Them: Benchmark Study

Most firms say transactional email is a priority. But their actions don’t always reflect it, according to Transactional Email Benchmark Report 2018, a study released on Wednesday by SparkPost.

Of 1,800 firms surveyed, 38.5% have received email delivery complaints. Worse, 41% of those who see transactional email as “very important” have received them.

They can only blame themselves. Of those who report delivery problems, for example, 23% do not use email authentication. And 46% fail to use dedicated IP addresses for these emails.

In a broader way, 72.5% do not conduct A/B testing of their transactional emails.

The term “transactional email” used to mean automated emails that dealt mostly with utilitarian issues — i.e., ecommerce, receipt and shipment notification. But it now covers a broader range of interactions.

And companies seem to recognize this — 82% see this practice as important to customer engagement, 80% see it as important to retention and 72% to conversion.  



Of those studied, 45.9% cite operational functions as the business purpose of transactional emails, while 32.1% cite user onboarding and setup as the goal and 21.4% list ongoing education.

As for actual practices, they send these types of transactional emails:

  • New user welcome messages — 77.8%
  • Application notifications — 69.6%
  • Password resets — 68.9%
  • Onboarding — 40.7%
  • Education — 35.8%

But the messages don’t always get through, although some industries are worse than others. Among the industries that have received complaints:

  • Software and technology — 43.3%
  • Retail and ecommerce — 38.8%
  • Financial services and insurance — 38.5%
  • Media and publishing — 30.7%

As indicated, this may be attributable to internal practices and staffing. Of the firms polled, 42% dump transactional email copywriting — an activity requiring skilled writers — on engineering, IT or operations teams.

At the same time, 37% of the large senders use DIY processes or marketing infrastructure. Here are the sectors that rely on in-house teams or so-called marketing tools:

  • Financial services — 33.3%
  • Media and publishing — 29.7%
  • Retail and ecommerce — 29.5%
  • Software and technology — 16.6%

How do brands know if their emails are working? The respondents measure opens (65.5%), click (69.7%), delivery (48.4%) and time to delivery/latency (19.5%). 

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