Working with Triggered Emails in Email Studio

A triggered email is an email message that’s sent to a subscriber when they perform an action. A common example is an order confirmation message that’s automatically sent to a customer after they complete a purchase.

To send triggered emails, begin by identifying the events that cause your emails to be sent. Next, write the code that interacts with the API to trigger the email. This code also captures any subscriber information that is included in the message. Finally, create the triggered email interaction.

When you define a triggered email interaction, you provide the information that the system uses each time an email is triggered. Interactions have a unique External Key value that the API uses to initiate the interaction.

The Marketing Cloud Engagement SOAP API has a robust integration with Email Studio. For this reason, SOAP API is the preferred method to integrate triggered send emails with your business applications.

This information applies to the triggered messages that you manage in Email Studio. Alternatively, you can use the transactional messaging components of the Marketing Cloud Engagement REST API to send transactional messages across several communication channels including email and SMS. For more information, see Transactional Messaging API.

Send Classification

A send classification lets you define parameters for an email job in a central location and reuse those parameters for multiple triggered email interactions.


The content is the message to send when the interaction is triggered. Messages can include personalized content and dynamic content.

Destination Management

When you create a triggered send, you can optionally choose a data extension. When a subscriber who isn’t in the selected data extension triggers the interaction, you can add the subscriber to the data extension. When a subscriber who is already in the data extension triggers the interaction, you can update their information.

The fields that are required to add a subscriber are based on the definition of the data extension instead of on the subscriber attributes. The data extension you use must be created from the TriggeredSendDataExtension template. Don’t identify any column as a primary key when you create a data extension from the TriggeredSendDataExtension. TriggeredSendDataExtensions are designed to have a single row for each triggered email request.

Send Options

The send options that you specify on a triggered email interaction relate to how the interaction tracks statistics from the messages. You can also specify a keyword to categorize the triggered email interaction. API calls can use the keyword to find one or more related triggered email interactions.

Keep these factors in mind when you configure triggered email sends in Email Studio.

Triggered email interactions must be started before you can use them to trigger live or test emails. You can use the send options on the interaction to prevent activity from your test sends from appearing in tracking and reports.

Marketing Cloud Engagement collects summary tracking and subscriber-level tracking for a triggered email. You can see this tracking in the application or retrieve the tracking with the API.

When a subscriber triggers an email, the List Detective tool scans the email address. The List Detective protects your deliverability by preventing the sending of email to bad addresses. If the email address of the person triggering the email is identified as bad by List Detective, the system doesn’t send the email message, so the send doesn’t appear in your tracking. If you collect the triggering email addresses in a data extension, the List Detective prevents bad email addresses from being collected.

If your account has message priority enabled, you can choose the priority of triggered sends. Priority dictates the time a new triggered send request could remain queued for processing. After processing is completed, the request is handed off to mail processing systems to evaluate the message content and send the rendered message content. You can specify High, Medium, or Low priority.

High priority messages are queued immediately and sent as soon as possible. Medium priority messages are added to the queue every 3 minutes, and are sent up to 1 minute after being added to the queue. Low priority messages are added to the queue every 5 minutes, and are sent up to 5 minutes after being added to the queue.

Marketing Cloud Engagement offers the ability to use asynchronous processing at the API layer with triggered sends. Asynchronous processing allows your API calls to be queued in an async server before being processed. When using asynchronous processing, an instantaneous response lets your system know that the call has been queued. The response doesn’t provide details on if the request was invalid due to missing required fields or other validation concerns. If you need immediate feedback on these types of errors, use standard synchronous processing.

HTML attributes are a type of attribute that can be used only with triggered sends. Subscriber attributes of this type can contain more than 2,000 characters, which is the limit for a typical subscriber attribute. HTML type attribute can contain Unicode characters to be delivered to an email template dynamically.

Ideal use cases for HTML attributes are passing preprocessed tabular data (like an order confirmation) along with other subscriber information when an event is triggered.

The name of an attribute indicates whether the attribute is of the HTML type. The triggered send email engine treats attributes with the prefix HTML__ (with two underscores) differently. Using HTML attributes in the content of an email is similar to using other attributes.

HTML attributes don’t have robust support for link tracking, so ideal use cases don’t rely on the need to track links in the HTML content.

The data extension that you use to capture subscriber data supports automatic data retention policies. When you define a triggered send with a data extension, you must specify the data retention period. The default period is six months. The minimum retention period is one day, and there’s no maximum retention period. The system deletes the data at the end of the retention period. The data retention policy removes data extension data, but doesn’t remove subscriber data.

You can delete data from the data extension. You can also import the data back in using AMPscript.

This feature obscures any information permanently stored in Marketing Cloud Engagement that personally identifies a subscriber, including the email address and subscriber name. Marketing Cloud Engagement creates a one-way hash for all incoming data, and it retains the only hash key. Marketing Cloud Engagement encrypts and decrypts the data. For future reconciliation purposes, we recommend that you keep a copy of all of your subscriber records.

To activate the data retention or data obscuring features, contact your Account Executive.

Before you use SOAP API to send triggered emails, you must meet a few prerequisites.

  • Create a user account that is enabled to use the API. An API user’s name and password are required in order to interact with the API.
  • Identify the events that trigger the email message.
  • Capture the subscriber attributes that you want to include in the email message body.
  • Find the External Key of the interaction to trigger. You can create the interaction within the Marketing Cloud Engagement web interface or by using the API.
  • Download the WSDL file for your Marketing Cloud Engagement tenant. For more information, see WSDL and Endpoint Links for SOAP API.

When you’re ready to start building triggered emails, view the Triggered Send Scenarios and Code Examples to see real-world usage examples.