Transactional and marketing email both serve specific use cases. Far and away, the biggest question we get from potential and existing customers alike is this:

“What’s the difference between marketing email and transactional email?”

Whether you’re sending a newsletter, coupon, promotion, password reset, account update, or any other email communication, we can help you get those messages delivered.

The difference between marketing email and transactional email, when it comes to SendGrid’s platform, is how you send those messages. As we usually explain to the people that call us:

With SendGrid, there are multiple ways for you to send email: Web API, SMTP relay, or through our marketing email application. Many of our customers choose to send both marketing emails AND transactional emails through SMTP relay or via Web API, while other customers choose to use our marketing email user interface to create campaigns, upload sending lists, create templates, and send. In the end, it’s not the content of the email that matters, but how you choose to send it.

Transactional Email

Transactional emails may also be called “triggered” emails because they include any email that is triggered by a user’s interaction with a web app (think of a purchase receipt). Often times, transactional emails are sent through SMTP relay or programmatically through one of our APIs.

Examples of transactional email include:

  • Order Confirmations
  • Password reset
  • Email receipts

Transactional email customers use SendGrid to programmatically send transactional email messages. You will be creating your email templates, content, and recipient lists, and then using SendGrid as the delivery engine.

Marketing Email

Unlike the transactional emails that are triggered and sent programmatically, marketing emails are timed and sent strategically to your recipient list. You can still use SendGrid’s SMTP relay or Web API to send these messages, but traditionally, their content and purpose are different than transactional messages.

Examples of marketing email include:

  • Welcome email series
  • Promotional and sales email campaigns
  • Newsletters

Again, the content of these messages could be considered transactional or marketing, the difference is how SendGrid is used to send them. For customers that want to create campaigns, upload sending lists, create templates, and send email from one place, we have a comprehensive email solution that allows you to:

  • Build templates and content within the email editor
  • See what messages are being opened and clicked
  • Perform A/B testing on different message templates
  • Segment recipient lists to target specific customers
  • Schedule sends in advance

To learn more about SendGrid’s transactional and marketing email solutions, visit our pricing page. All features described here are available through both solutions—there is no need to purchase two plans.

In the end, the most successful companies use integrated transactional and marketing email campaigns. This means that transactional emails and marketing emails share branding, messaging, and voice. 
Learn more about how SendGrid can help get your messages delivered, no matter what kind of content you’re sending, by downloading the Marketing Vs. Transactional Email Guide.


Warren is the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at SendGrid, specializing in email and content best practices, he develops many of the new guides you see SendGrid release as well as other pieces of content, including blogs, videos, case studies, and emails.