Transactional Email vs Marketing Email: What's the difference?

Today inboxes are flooded with emails and users don’t really know when something is a transactional email or a marketing email but it’s important if you are delivering email to know the difference. 

The regulations around each of these types of emails are different so it’s important to get it right. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to understand the difference.

Transactional Emails

Email sent from one sender to one recipient, usually related to account activity or a commercial transaction. Examples include password reminder emails, purchase confirmations, and personalized product notifications.

Here are some examples:

-      password reminder emails

-      purchase confirmations

-      personalized product notifications

These do not require the same compliance as marketing emails.Think of these as the emails that go out AFTER a purchase.

Marketing Emails

The use of email to promote a business’s products and services is considered marketing emails. Email marketing is used to make the customers on your email list aware of new products, discounts, and other services. It can also be used to educate your audience on the value of your brand or keep them engaged between purchases. 

Think of these as the emails that are sent BEFORE a purchase.

Examples of marketing emails include:

-      newsletters

-      product offerings

-      personalized product notifications

To ensure that you meet CANN-SPAM regulations you must include the following elements in your footer:

-      Your business’s full name and contact information. This establishes your legitimacy and builds your brand.

-      An unsubscribe link. Make sure this is easy to find - it helps keep your list healthy and clean.

Increasingly it is becoming a best practice to include:

-      A link to your privacy policy. This helps ease objections and ensures that you are complying with regulations and guidance for data collection and use


GDPR is a little more complicated. The GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is a European privacy law that went into effect in May 2018. It regulates how personal data of individuals in the EU can be collected, used, and processed. The law impacts European companies, businesses that target European individuals, and those that collect, use, or process the personal data of European individuals. This means the GDPR will apply to most organizations that process personal data of EU individuals—regardless of where the business is established and where their processing activities take place.

EU citizens have rights under the GDPR, including the right to be forgotten, the right to object, the right to rectification, the right of access, and the right of portability. You must ensure that you can accommodate these rights if you are processing the personal data of EU citizens.

Interested in more on how to create beautiful email? Here’s how to develop engaging emails.


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