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5 Types of Really Good Emails

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But first…

Before we really dive in, it’s important to understand the distinction between transactional emails and one-to-many emails. MailChimp does a smashing job at describing them here, but allow me to summarize:

  • One-to-Many Emails are s̶p̶a̶m̶m̶y̶ marketing emails sent to many recipients to inform lots of people of something. They’re kind of like giant megaphones that only Men in the Pacific Northwest, Ages 25–31 can hear. Example: 96%-Off Entire Store — “Winter Wonderland” by Old Navy

1. Behavioral Emails

  • Type: Transactional
  • Purpose: Emails that encourage or respond to user behavior(s)
  • Examples: New Comments, Product Feedback, Recommendations, Customer Survey, Unsubscribe
  • Style: Short, simple design with one primary action

2. Inaugural Emails

  • Type: Transactional
  • Purpose: Emails that welcome a user to something new
  • Examples: Activation, Onboarding, Registration, Free Trial, Welcome
  • Style: Usually very verbose, with multiple actions the user can take

3. Promotional Emails

  • Type: One-to-Many
  • Purpose: Sellin’ sh*t, lol. But seriously, emails that publicize something to a group of recipients
  • Examples: Contests, Discounts, Giveaways, Offers, Product Updates
  • Style: Large imagery, large text, and usually one primary action

4. Punctual Emails

  • Type: Transactional, occasionally One-to-Many
  • Purpose: For delivering time-sensitive information
  • Examples: Newsletter, Price Change, Reminder, Security, Support
  • Style: No consistent style, but very few actually mention time, which is surprising given the category name

5. Notification Emails

  • Type: Transactional
  • Purpose: Used to inform the user of something specific
  • Examples: User Activity, Error, Order Confirmation, Password Reset
  • Style: Short and simple, showcasing a single detail and/or action



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Jon Moore

Principal Design Partner Innovatemap in Indianapolis. Creator of The Design Encyclopedia (https://www.designencyclopedia.io). Email: 1jonmoore@gmail.com