Ecommerce User Experience Vol. 12: Transactional Email and Confirmation Messages

4th Edition

  • Topics:
  • Email

Part of Series:Ecommerce User Experience

Automated email is one of the most important touchpoints to inform a customer of their transactions — purchases, returns, account changes, contact requests, and other types of confirmation messages.

Good email usability can save money by reducing customer service costs. This report identifies how real people interact with email, starting with the inbox (where many messages are ruthlessly deleted) through their consumption of the email content.

This216-pagereport contains112 recommendationsfor improving the design of transactional messages that are generated automatically (the report doesn't cover human-authored customer service). Discussions and134 screenshot illustrationssupplement the findings.


  • Get an inside look at how customers handle transactional email messages in their inbox
    • How email affects your relationship with customers
    • Common issues with transactional email
  • Subject, sender, and message body
    • Writing sender, subject line, and message body
    • Recommended features for all transactional messages
    • Message sequences (for example: order confirmation, shipping notification, and delivery notification)
    • Conveying important information using only the subject line (where appropriate)
  • Guidelines by message type
    • Order placement and fulfillment
      • Order and service confirmations
      • Shipment, pickup, and delivery notifications
      • Cancellation, return, refund, rebate, and bonus notices
      • Failure notices
    • Reservations
      • Reservation confirmation and etickets
      • Status notifications
    • Product and service updates
      • Abandoned cart reminders
      • In-stock notifications
      • Agreement change notices
    • Accounts, registration, and billing
      • Registration and account information
      • Account-update notifications
      • Billing and payment notices
    • Customer service
      • Automated customer service messages
      • Information request responses
    • Reviews and recommendations
      • Information and posting notifications
      • Recommendations
  • Email attributes
    • Trust
    • Completeness
    • Timing
    • Value
    • Ease of use
    • Content
    • Design

Research Method

The information in this report is based on a usability study and longitudinal diary study.

  • Usability study— Representative users processed 92 transactional email messages from more than 80 organizations.
  • Diary Study— 9 representative users reported on 169 transactional email messages.