Every time a customer makes a purchase in your eCommerce store, they’re typically sent a few emails (with most eCommerce plugins). These include order confirmations, new account information, order status updates, and more. These type of emails are called transactional emails because they result from an action the customer takes. This article details a few reasons why you should start using a transactional email service now.

Deliverability

WordPress has a built-in email system that WooCommerce and many other eCommerce plugins use to send these emails, but it’s not exactly reliable. Any number of reasons can cause the sent emails to end up lost or spammed. Normally this isn’t a big problem for emails like comment notifications, but for an eCommerce site lost emails are a big problem.

Customers have come to expect immediate email confirmations for their orders and are likely to call or email if they don’t receive one. Even worse, if a customer needs to resets their password before logging in to make a purchase and doesn’t receive the reset email, they may decide not to follow through with the purchase. Transactional Email services solve this problem and more by offloading the responsibility to deliver emails from WordPress.

Services setup multiple email servers all over the world and carefully tune them specifically for delivering email. They have relationships with major internet service providers (like Comcast and AOL) and email providers (like Gmail and Yahoo) to make sure that email sent from their servers is delivered promptly.

They also monitor the type of emails sent and block spammers so your emails aren’t mixed in with spam emails. When you’re hosting your site on a shared server (along with many other sites), there could be a malicious site that is sending spam. Because the email providers will see the same IP address when receiving email from your site as they do from the malicious site, they’re likely to block or spam your emails as well.

Finally, transactional email services act as a buffer between your site and email providers. If Yahoo is having issues receiving email, a transactional email service will queue the email and deliver it later when Yahoo is available, where as your WordPress site will simply not deliver the email.

Tracking & Analytics

Have you ever had a customer contact you and say they never received their order confirmation email? Or maybe a reset password email got lost somehow? A transactional email service can help you track down these lost emails by showing each email sent and whether it was delivered or not. You can even view the content of the email with some services!

Even better, the email service will insert a bit of code into your outgoing emails (the customer does not see this code) which will tell you whether the customer opened the email. You can also optionally enable click tracking which will show what links in the email the customer clicked.

One way you can use this feature is to improve your open rates (the percentage of customers opening a given email). Let’s say you want to encourage customers to come back to your site and review a product after they’ve placed an order, so you add a “Review now!” link in the order confirmation email. The standard subject line “[Your Store Name] Order Confirmation” may have a low open rate (say 20%), but you could test a different subject line “Thanks for being awesome and ordering from [Store Name]” and see how it affected your open rates. More opens means more customers reading the email and likely coming back to review the product they purchased. This is a simple example and there’s a lot more that you can optimize about your emails when you have access to the right analytics.

Services

Here are our favorite transactional email providers (each has a dedicated WordPress plugin which makes setup and configuration really simple):

To get started, just sign up for the one of the services, download and install the plugin in your eCommerce store, and follow the setup instructions in the respective plugin. That’s it!

Further Reading

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Posted by Max Rice

Max Rice is a frequent Sell with WP contributor and cofounder of SkyVerge. He develops eCommerce plugins for WordPress, and specializes in WooCommerce development. He likes writing articles about random WordPress and eCommerce topics.

7 Comments

  1. How much configuration does it take to get these services performing smoothly with e-commerce software?

    Just thinking of the overall complexities of HTML emails, and how finnicky they can be. Can Mandrill take whatever HTML you pass it and send it on untarnished? (other than tracking data)

    Clif

    1. I’ve tested Mandrill (using their wpMandrill) plugin pretty extensively and it’s pretty easy to get setup. I believe it intelligently adds it’s own tracking pixels before the end of your HTML email so it doesn’t mess with the formatting.

  2. Is it possible to send HTML emails from an e-commerce system through Mandrill without it reformatting or otherwise tarnishing them?

    I assume it has to add some tracking by changing URLs or adding a tracking pixel, just wondering if I should expect to have to massage my input to make it work well with their pre-processors.

    Any experience with this?

  3. Great article…Thanks!!
    Do these transactional email plugins automatically disable the built in emails that woocommerce sends out?

    1. They don’t disable them, rather the emails are sent through the transactional email service so you automatically get all the benefits of open rate/click tracking 🙂

      1. So any editing and/or changes to the emails is still done thru modifying the template in WooCommerce?

        1. Yep, that’s the best way to edit the emails WooCommerce sends.

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