The FTC defines commercial email as any “electronic mail message the… purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a… product or service.”

The basic functional difference between a commercial and transactional email has to do with why and how the message is initiated.

Why does this matter?

As a marketer, you are likely subject to regulations about the mail you send and the type of consent you need from your customers and prospects. Regulations tend to differentiate between the type of communications you send for example, the rules may differ depending on whether you're sending an email with a receipt for a purchase your customer made (transactional) or sending an announcement about a new business promotion (commercial). 

The exact details of these regulations depend on where you do business and who your customers are. If you are new to email marketing, take steps to familiarize yourself with any laws that apply to you, such as GDPR in Europe or CCPA in California.

Transactional mail

Transactional emails are prompted by a commercial transaction or user activity. In Kartra, this includes actions like a purchase, where a confirmation email is sent with an invoice. It can also include actions like a helpdesk ticket submission or a password reset request for a membership. Both of those user actions trigger an email response.

  • Emails configured in the Email notifications area of your account or while setting up an asset (such as the welcome email for a form) are transactional emails.

Commercial mail

A commercial email is any message you send that is not in response to a user action, such as broadcasts with information about your services or emails from an automated sequence.

  • Emails sent as a Kartra broadcast or sequence email are regarded as commercial emails by the Kartra system.
  • All Kartra sequence emails are commercial, even if subscription to the sequence is in response to a product purchase or similar user action.