21 Types of Emails Explained (With Tips & Examples)

August 08, 2023
Written by
Jesse Sumrak
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

21 Types of Emails Explained (With Tips & Examples)

Product, event, promotion, oh my! There are many different types of emails that you can send for a variety of purposes. To help you craft the best email for your business goals, we’re sharing examples of 21 different types of emails and tips for each.

Keep reading for information on products, privacy, event, educational, and promotional emails.

Different types of emails

Different types of emails will fall into different categories. Some operate better as standalone emails, while others will work better as part of a series or campaign.

For example, a welcome email might be the first in a series of emails, and a marketing email might be an entry point to the top of your sales funnel.

Experiment with all of these email types to see what works best for your email marketing strategy. You might find automated email marketing campaigns with trigger-based notifications work better than email blasts.

1. Product release email 

When sending a new product or update email, refrain from including every detail about your product. We know you’re excited to tell your recipients about this awesome new offering, but over-describing can be overwhelming to the recipient.

Instead, pare it down to the most important takeaways for the recipient. Then, point them to a blog post or your website where you have more information about your product release or feature.

Check out this new feature email from Wistia, a video software company. It hooks your interest by promoting the new feature in the subject line, “A/B testing is here! 🎉 Ah, that new feature smell.”

From there, it quickly describes the new feature and leads to a call-to-action button for you to learn more. Nicely done, Wistia.

different types of emails

For more tips on shortening emails, take a look at our blog post, Email Length Best Practices.

2. Privacy policy update email

When sending a privacy policy update or, perhaps, an email that account information has been compromised, you really need to check your attitude and your personality at the door.

Many people highly value their privacy and account information, and it can be offensive to make light of a bad situation. Avoid being cute or funny with this important message, and instead, get to the point, keep it dry, and crystal clear. It may not be enthralling, but it’s not supposed to be.

In this example with crowdfunding website, Indiegogo, their email describes their privacy policy update in accordance with GDPR without getting into any fluff.

Also, notice in Indiegogo’s email how the updates are bulleted and bolded, so you can get an idea of what’s changing without needing to fully read the additional text. Follow Indiegogo’s lead and spell out the updates or problem with brevity and visual comprehensiveness.

For more tips on crafting privacy policy update emails, check out our post, Best Practices For Sending Updated Terms of Service or Privacy Policy Emails.

3. Event email 

For event emails in particular, keep your desired action in mind. Do you want your recipients to add the event date to their calendar, submit a form to RSVP, or go to your website to purchase tickets? Once you determine the action, you’ll be better able to structure your email. We usually see more information about the event in the first email of the series, and in subsequent emails there’s a bigger push to the website.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see RSVPs or ticket purchases right away. When people are dedicating their time to an event, they need reminding and plenty of it. Maybe someone clicks an event they’re interested in, checks their calendar to see if they’re available, and then gets sidetracked with another task. I know I’m guilty of this!

To get these recipients back on track try segmenting those that click to learn more or add their tickets to the cart and forget to check out.

Here’s a great example of a “Go buy your tickets!” reminder from the Grandoozy music festival. This colorful, funky email would look very different if it was for a networking event or career fair, but for a music festival, it works!

Reflect on the type of event and your audience when designing your email. Try to add some of the flavor of the event in your email by visualizing how you want your recipients to feel at your event. Let those feelings flow and influence your email design.

4. Educational email

Have you ever felt bombarded by the number of promotional offers in your inbox? Especially during the holiday season, the quantity of holiday deals can feel overwhelming. Give your recipients a break by providing educational information. It’s a great way to continue your relationship with your recipients without coming off too pushy.

Rather than pushing me to sign up or upgrade, this email from Bonusly, a platform for recognizing and rewarding employees, offers valuable information on employee habits and how to provide employee recognition.

This type of email works really well for Bonusly, but really any business can take advantage of this opportunity. A retailer, for example, could provide a what-to-wear guide for holidays, weddings, and company events. A home improvement business could talk about how to prepare your home for winter. And a communication platform can inform recipients with tips on how to engage their customers.

Still unsure about educational emails? Provide an article or guide in the email to help you track engagement and click to open rates (CTOR). Let the data be the deciding factor.

5. Promotional email 

The promotional email is arguably the most common form of email marketing. This email offers you discounts or deals with the goal of persuading you to purchase their product or service.

Our data from last year’s holiday season showed that emails with percentage discounts (i.e. 20% off) in the subject line performed up to 6% worse than those without percentage discounts. We suspect this is due to the sheer number of emails in the inbox highlighting percentage-off discounts, making it difficult for these emails to catch recipients’ eyes.

Try testing other ways to phrase your promotion, such as “Buy one get one free”, “$20 off”, alongside more creative slogans, and see if that connects more with your recipients.

This email from Postmates, a food delivery service, hooked me in with the subject line: “FREE delivery to try the best of Denver!” The colorful gif of tacos caught my eye, and the simple copy with one call-to-action, led me exactly where I needed to go to get my taco fix. Huzzah!

With these emails, be careful that the deal promoted in the subject line matches the actual offer. It’s so disappointing to open a $20 off email to then realize you have to spend $100 before it can be applied. Be frank about your deal, and highlight that information in the subject line or preview text.

For more suggestions on promotional email content, check out Promotional Email Examples | How To Improve Your Subject Lines & More.

6. Transactional email

Transactional email has become crucial for businesses that operate through applications. It's how you communicate with your subscribers, expand your customer base, and drive revenue. If you're running flash sales or daily deal sites, transactional email is your go-to for delivering time-sensitive messages to your audience and confirming purchases once they're made.

As a retailer, you rely on email to provide shipping updates and confirm orders, giving you the chance to suggest additional products. And if you're into location-based apps, transactional email is what connects your users with their friends and local businesses.

Transactional email boasts the highest open rates, actively driving engagement among your recipients.

Here are some examples of transactional email:

7. Marketing email

Marketing emails are strategic and targeted emails sent to a specific audience with the primary goal of promoting products, services, offers, content, or events. These emails aim to nurture leads, engage customers, and drive desired actions, such as purchases, sign-ups, or website visits.

Here are the key characteristics of marketing email types:
  • Value: Marketing emails are carefully crafted to deliver value and resonate with the recipients. They often include persuasive content, compelling visuals, and clear calls to action (CTAs).
  • Segmentation: Effective marketing emails are often segmented based on factors like demographics, behaviors, purchase history, or engagement level.
  • Personalization: Personalized marketing emails use the recipient's names, preferences, or past interactions to create a more individualized experience.
  • Call to action: Marketing emails aim to guide recipients toward a specific conversion goal, such as making a purchase, signing up for a webinar, downloading a resource, or visiting a website.
Types of marketing emails include:
  • Newsletters
  • Promotional emails
  • Drip campaigns
  • Abandoned cart emails
  • Re-engagement emails
  • Announcement emails
You could send your audience special offer emails, coupons, limited-time offers, or other valuable content.

8. Welcome email

Welcome emails mark your recipients' first interaction with your brand in their inbox. As the first touchpoint, they shape their first impression of your brand—and they're probably the most important nurturing email.

Your welcome email should achieve three key objectives:
  1. Purpose: Remind your email subscribers of the reasons they joined while expressing gratitude for their engagement.
  2. Interaction: Foster engagement by presenting an exclusive offer or a compelling call to action.
  3. Expectations: Establish the tone and expectations for your future email communications
Your welcome email is your opportunity to secure your new customer's loyalty. Make the most of this chance to establish a strong initial connection with your new subscribers.

Here are some free welcome email templates.

9. Abandoned cart email

When someone adds items to an online shopping cart but leaves without buying them, that's called an abandoned cart.

Imagine this: You get an email about a big sale (50% off) and find awesome shoes for a great price. You add them to your cart. But then, you see an extra $10 for shipping. You get disappointed and leave the website without buying anything. That's an abandoned cart.

Now, let's talk about abandoned cart emails.

An abandoned cart email is a friendly reminder. It's sent to the existing customer who didn't finish their purchase.

For example, the shoe company might send an email to remind you about the shoes you liked. They could even give you a special code for free shipping. You might think, "Okay, I'll get those shoes now." So, you go back to the website and buy the shoes.

In simple terms, abandoned cart emails try to get you to finish your shopping experience.

Here's a free abandoned cart email template to get you started.

10. Re-engagement email

A re-engagement email has one goal: to ask inactive subscribers if they still want your emails.

You want to make them interested again and engage with your brand—if they don't, it's time to remove them from your email list.

These emails should connect with subscribers and offer something good to make them take action. You're not selling, just asking to reconnect and get them engaging again.

Here are a few best practices to improve your re-engagement email campaigns:
  • Segmentation: Divide your list into engaged recipients and those inactive for around 1-2 months. Focus on crafting tailored content for the engaged and targeted content for the less engaged.
  • Friendly inquiry: Reach out to inactive readers politely to understand their disinterest.
  • Standout email subject line: Create subject lines that grab attention and differ from regular emails.
  • Preference center: Offer recipients a preference center to adjust email frequency or content. Allow unsubscribers to share reasons for removal, guiding future strategies.
  • Incentives and offers: Motivate engagement with appealing offers. Examples: Exclusive discounts, freebies, unique content, personalized recommendations, milestone rewards, gamification, and loyalty programs.

11. Feedback request email (or survey email)

Feedback request emails are a valuable tool for gathering insights, opinions, and suggestions from your audience.

Here are different types of feedback request emails that can help you collect valuable feedback:
  • Post-purchase feedback: Collect opinions on buying experience and product quality.
  • Customer satisfaction surveys: Measure overall satisfaction and experience.
  • Product usage surveys: Gather insights from long-term users.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys: Assess customer loyalty and referrals.
  • Customer support feedback: Evaluate support effectiveness.
  • Website/user experience feedback: Identify website usability issues.
  • Event or webinar feedback: Assess event content and organization.
  • Product improvement surveys: Gather ideas for enhancements.
  • Abandoned cart feedback: Inquire about cart abandonment reasons.
  • Employee feedback: Gather insights on company processes and culture.

12. Announcement email

Announcement emails serve as direct communications for sharing important news and updates with subscribers, customers, or stakeholders.

These emails are designed to be concise yet engaging, often featuring a compelling subject line, relevant content, and a clear call to action.

These emails come in various forms:
  • Product launches
  • Upcoming event invitations
  • Company news
  • Sales promotions
  • Content releases
  • Policy updates
Whether it's inviting subscribers to webinars, notifying customers of sales, or sharing brand milestones, announcement emails facilitate communication and engagement.

Impactful announcement emails keep your recipients informed, engaged, and up-to-date with your brand's latest developments.

13. Thank-you email

Thank-you emails express gratitude and appreciation to customers, subscribers, or contacts. These emails are brief and heartfelt, conveying genuine thanks and reinforcing positive relationships.

The content is personalized and may reference the specific action or interaction that prompted the thank-you email. These emails can take various forms:
  • Thanking customers for a recent purchase
  • Acknowledging their subscription to newsletters
  • Appreciating their engagement on social media
  • Recognizing their participation in events
Thank-you emails contribute to building a strong rapport with recipients, fostering loyalty, and enhancing their overall experience with your brand.

14. Holiday greetings email

Holiday greetings emails let you share seasonal wishes and spread joy among customers. These emails feature festive designs, heartfelt content, and inclusive language that embraces a variety of celebrations. They often feature personalized touches, like using the recipient's name and engaging subject lines that capture attention.

These emails express warm wishes for holidays such as Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, and other cultural celebrations. They can also incorporate special promotions or offers to make the festive season even more exciting for recipients.

It's a meaningful way to express gratitude, celebrate shared values, and foster a sense of community.

15. Referral email

Referral emails enlist your current customers, subscribers, or contacts to refer new customers. These emails leverage the existing relationships and trust established with current customers to expand the customer base through word-of-mouth marketing.

In referral emails, incentives are typically provided to both the existing customer (referrer) and the new customer (referred), such as discounts, credits, or rewards. The content of these emails explains the referral program's benefits, mechanics, and the brand's value proposition. Clear calls to action prompt recipients to share the referral offer, often providing personalized links for tracking.

Referral emails can take various forms, including direct invitations, shareable offers, rewards reminders, milestone-based referrals, influencer collaborations, and double-sided rewards. By capitalizing on customers' positive experiences and social connections, referral emails tap into an effective channel for acquiring new customers and nurturing brand loyalty through advocacy.

16. Testimonial email

Testimonial emails strategically leverage the customers to establish trust and sway potential customers. By presenting relatable success narratives and authentic experiences, these emails effectively steer recipients toward confident purchasing decisions.

You can use testimonial emails and social proofs email in a few forms:
  • Product endorsements
  • Customer quotes
  • Case studies
  • Success stories
  • Client spotlights
  • User-generated content
  • Before-and-after stories

17. Cross-sell email

Cross-sell emails introduce complementary or related products or services to existing customers based on their previous purchases or interactions. These emails capitalize on the customer's existing relationship with the brand to encourage additional purchases.

They already trust your brand (hopefully), so why not make another purchase?

Cross-sell emails strategically pair products that naturally complement each other or fulfill related needs. The email content showcases the synergy between the products, highlighting how the combination can provide enhanced value, convenience, or a comprehensive solution.

18. Personal outreach email

Personal outreach emails establish a direct and personalized connection with recipients, often customers, prospects, or industry contacts. These emails prioritize one-on-one interactions and are crafted to resonate with the recipient's specific interests, needs, or context.

Personal outreach emails can serve various purposes:
  • Nurturing leads
  • Following up on inquiries
  • Inviting collaboration
  • Requesting feedback
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Completing purchases
  • Solving customer issues
They are designed to spark meaningful conversations and foster a sense of connection that goes beyond automated or mass communications.

19. Onboarding email

Onboarding emails introduce recipients to key features, benefits, and functionalities of your product, service, or platform. The content is organized in a logical sequence, gradually building the recipient's understanding and proficiency.

Your onboarding emails could include instructional guides, tutorials, tips, and best practices to help users get started. They often provide actionable steps, encouraging recipients to take specific actions that align with their goals and interests.

20. Newsletter email

Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) ads, sponsored posts, or cold calls—whether appreciated or not—email newsletters are a result of your customers actively choosing to receive them by clicking the "Subscribe" button. Here's how you can use them to engage with your audience:
  • Spotlighted content: Elevate the latest and most captivating pieces from your website, including insightful blog posts and captivating YouTube videos.
  • Timely news highlights: Amplify news stories that feature your business.
  • Product alerts: Notify customers about significant product enhancements, offering a sneak peek into what's new and on the horizon.
  • Inspiring customer stories: Share firsthand accounts from satisfied customers.
  • Upcoming events: Extend invitations to upcoming virtual or in-person events.
  • Exclusive deals: Highlight premier products, exclusive promotions, and enticing discounts.

21. User-generated content email

User-generated content (UGC) emails showcase content created by your customers or users. These emails leverage the authentic and relatable experiences of individuals who have engaged with your brand's products, services, or community.

The power of UGC emails lies in curating and featuring user-generated content, such as reviews, testimonials, photos, videos, or social media posts. Sharing genuine stories, opinions, and visuals of satisfied customers provides powerful social proof.

How to know which type of email to send

Use the above tips and examples to help guide your variety of email marketing sends. This blog post, of course, doesn’t discuss every possible email type, so when creating an email that’s out-of-the-box, or when you want a simple framework to make sure you’re hitting the right notes, ask yourself three basic questions:
  • Why are you sending this email?
  • Who are you sending this email to?
  • What action do you want recipients to take?
These questions will inform how you're going to create your content, the content’s tone, and the design and structure of your email. If you ever feel you’re getting off track in your email marketing, circle back to these questions.

Send the right email type every time

Marketers have one primary goal: to send the right email, at the right time, to the right person, on the right channel.

A big part of that is choosing the right email—and with so many different types of emails, that's easier said than done.

Want to get started sending different types of emails? We have dozens of free, responsive email templates to get you off on the right foot. Sign up for a free Twilio SendGrid account to start experimenting with them today.

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