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How transactional email subject lines can help users save time

You want your users to open some transactional email you send, like password reset or authentication notifications. But, sometimes users shouldn’t have to open your emails: plenty of emails could have all the info customers need right in the subject line. And if you can say something in 20 words instead of 200, do that: simplicity is often the best choice.

For example: here’s a receipt from Lyft that requires no further action for me. I could have gotten all the info I needed (aka, how much I paid) from the subject and archive the email for the future. Instead, I had to open it to check the amount.

A screenshot of an email with the subject "Thanks for riding with Gurban"

There are several other types of transactional email your users should not have to open and read: you can save them time simply by having a descriptive subject line. 

1. Invoice and receipt emails #

Whenever your product sends customers receipts, allow them to get all the information they need from just the subject.

What matters to customers in receipts? Well, that depends on what they buy. The relevant info in the receipt for a service or digital product is its name and price, whereas the relevant info in the receipt for an order of physical products is price, store, and how much stuff you bought.

A template for a subject line for a receipt for a service or digital product might be:

From name: [store_name] e.g.
Subject: Thanks for purchasing [name of product] for [$price of product]. 

From name: [store_name] e.g.
Subject: You purchased [name of product] for [$price of product]. Thanks! 

If I got a receipt for a digital product that looked like that, I’d be ecstatic. I wouldn’t have to spend time reading through it, and could just move it to my receipts folder.

For an order of physical products, you could consider a template like this one, for the from name and subject line:

From name: [store_name] e.g. Pets at Home
Subject: You just completed a [$order_total] purchase

2. Shipping notification emails #

People order physical goods from Amazon or other stores all the time. You usually get an email telling you when a product ships: this is another type of email you and your customers shouldn’t have to open.

What should you include in this email’s subject? Customers definitely want to know what store the order is from—but you can just put this information in the from name. Customers also want an estimate of when their order will arrive and a brief reminder of what’s in the order. These two things could go in your shipment notification emails’ subject lines. Here’s a template:

From name: [store_name] e.g. 
Subject: Your order of [item1] has shipped! Expect delivery on or around [date].

3. Refund notification emails #

When someone asks for a refund, they generally want confirmation of it. This lets them know you actually gave them their money back. Generally, most companies notify customers of refunds via a transactional email.

They want to know the name of the company who issued the refund, the amount you’ve refunded them for, and that’s it. They don’t need to know which items you’ve given them a refund for. The price will tell them that information.

Here’s a template for telling customers what they need to know about a refund in an email’s subject line:

From name: [store_name] e.g. RedBubble
Subject: We’ve refunded your order from [name of store] for [$amount of money]

We’re not saying you should always use wordy subjects for your transactional email. Instead, there are some emails your users receive in response to transactions that require no action. Most users archive these emails as a reference for later and don’t open them upon receiving them. The details for these emails should still exist in the body, but there’s no need to require those people who receive a million shipment emails to open them.

Pro tip: if you're just getting started with sending transactional emails, take a look at these free and ready-to-use transactional email templates we put together to help 😉 

Jack Kaufman