The Importance of Separating Marketing and Transactional Emails

Email Marketing Questions

Every company needs to engage subscribers and customers with marketing emails, with messages about new product and service offerings, or sales. These usually contrast with the hyper-targeted, 1:1 transactional emails sent in response to user actions, such as double opt-in confirmations or welcome emails. However, if your email system’s sender profiles are not set up correctly, your entire program’s deliverability can be impacted in a major way.

Terms

For our purposes, we’ll be using the term “sender profile” to represent the domain/subdomain and IP address combination used to deliver messages to your user lists. “Commercial” or “Marketing” sends refer to advertising or promotional programs sent based on a campaign or product calendar. “Transactional” sends refer to emails meant to facilitate or complete a commercial transaction and reach one particular user in a timely manner, such as purchase confirmation emails. Another way to think of the distinction is that commercial messages require an opt-out, while transactional messages do not. More information can be found here.

Reaching the Inbox

The primary reason for separating your marketing and transactional emails is to ensure your most important emails get to the inbox. Marketing emails are much more likely to get blocked due to spam complaints, filters, or traps. This can be caused by sending to a bad or old list, or user complaints triggered by poorly received content from an experimental campaign. Some marketers believe they aren’t at risk from spam traps because they have a double opt-in in place, but spam complaints and spam traps are a risk, even for the best programs with the cleanest of lists and a double opt-in. Read more about how to avoid spam traps here.

Throttled marketing sends will also slow down transactional placement rates if the IPs are shared by both transactional and commercial message streams. Transactional emails need to be delivered within seconds of a user taking action on the site – examples include password reset emails, welcome emails, and double opt-in confirmation emails.  If you are sending a large batch of commercial marketing messages and using the same sender profile as your transactional messages, the large amount of marketing volume being processed by the ISPs could cause those transactional messages to be delayed. This can impact delivery of crucial things like password-reset and order-confirmation emails.

Additionally, your own internal company email system — such as an Outlook system set up on an Exchange server — can be blocked due to poor commercial email practices. Watchdog groups such as Spamhaus have the ability to put your company on a domain-level blacklist, meaning all emails sent to inboxes that reference the Spamhaus DBL will be rejected outright and thus not delivered. This blacklisting can lead to significant revenue and time lost.

How to Separate Marketing Emails from Transactional Ones

The goal is to divide your marketing and transactional email streams between dedicated IP and subdomain combinations, so that inboxes are easily able to tell how to handle each message. If the inboxes see consistently low volumes with consistently high engagement rates coming from a specific subdomain and IP, they will usually prioritize that message higher than those with lower engagement and high volume. Major ESPs such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Sendgrid have dedicated teams to help companies work through the details of how to do this.

Conclusion

It is vital to split up commercial and transactional email streams. Separate your Marketing and Transactional emails between different, dedicated IP and Subdomain/Domain combinations to ensure all mission-critical emails get delivered. This can be accomplished within the ESP by using different sender and delivery profiles built specifically to handle transactional and commercial email sends separately.

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