The Transactional Terrain: What Brands Are Doing Right And Wrong

For all the talk about transactional email, few companies are doing it properly, judging by 2020 Transactional Email Benchmarks, a study by email sending platform SparkPost.

For instance, 48.7% of brands have received complaints from customers that they had not received the emails they were due -- an increase over 38% in SparkPost’s last survey two years ago.

Of those emails, 37.7%), are ending up in spam folders, 32.1% are blocked 15.5% are lost and 15.1% are the subject of other complaints.

Moreover, 63.6% of brands fail to conduct A/B testing of their transactional emails.

"There is a direct correlation between a lack of investment in fundamental elements — such as testing, deliverability authentication and email analytics — and the increase of customer complaints," states April Mullen, director of strategic insights for SparkPost.

Yet 95% say these emails are very or somewhat important for engagement, 88% for conversion. and 83% for retention. And nearly half are sending one million or more a month.



What precisely are transactional — or triggered — emails? In order of importance, they are used for:

  • New user welcome
  • authentication notifications
  • password
  • user onboarding/feature familiarization
  • Ongoing user education/nurture
  • New feature alerts
  • Shipping confirmations

On a practical level, sending transactional emails is typically handled by engineering and operations teams. And while writing them is usually done by marketing departments, engineers and developers — who have little understanding of the customer journey — write them in over a third of the cases.

Among the methods for sending transactional emails, 54.4% use an email API service, while 29.2% use a marketing ESP or other service provider and 13.2% use in-house emails servers. Another 3.2% don’t know.

Over half use email authentication. However, only 21.7% of those firm employ DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance). Another 38.3% use SPF and 39.9% use DKIM.

Meanwhile, 34.9% of emails are opened on mobile devices, and 14.5% more than 75%. But 37% of the firms polled don’t know.

In better news, 50.4% plan to implement BIMI Brand indicators for Message Identification) in the near future.

Here’s how brands measure transactional success:  

Open — 26.2%

Clicks —23.4%

Delivered — 23.4%

Clicks — 16.6%

Time to delivery/latency  — 8.3%

But engagement rates are high — 30.3% report that they exceed 50%, 32.9% from 20% to 50%, and 11% from 10% to 20%. Only 7.3% are getting less than 10%, and 17.9% don’t know.

Despite the above issues, there are “significant opportunities for brands to remedy some basic issues with minimal investment, resulting in positive impacts on customer experience," Mullen concludes.

SparkPost surveyed 329 email professionals. 

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