3 Essential Elements of Successful Password Reset Emails

You put a lot of effort into the look, feel, and copy of your newsletters and promotional emails.

You carefully craft subject lines, design attention-grabbing calls to action, and, if you’re fancy, build in fun, interactive elements.

Want to know something? Those aren’t your most-read emails. Not even close.

Transactional emails (like the typical password reset message) generate anywhere from 4–8x the level of engagement of the marketing emails you spend so much time on.

Password reset emails serve a very specific, necessary function. Your customers have to open them if they forget their credentials; they have no choice (well, besides abandoning your product, but let’s not go there).

But because they’re so heavily integrated into products, password reset emails are often overlooked by marketing teams. This is why, if you do a quick scan of your inbox, you’ll find that password reset emails from your favorite companies will tend to look off-brand.

We’ve made the case before that email is an extension of your product — and transactional emails are no exception. Creating consistency across all emails — product, marketing, and transactional — is kind of our bread and butter and should be your goal as well.

We analyzed over 40 password reset emails to figure out what the most effective messages had in common. We determined that the most effective emails are:

  • Purpose-driven: They help your team accomplish your intended goal quickly and without friction.
  • Reassuring: Through design and copy, they make your customers feel like everything is going to be okay.
  • Branded: They use this necessary transaction as an opportunity to subtly strengthen their brand image.

Purpose-Driven

Above all, password reset emails must be purpose-driven: They must help your customers accomplish their goal (of getting back to using your awesome product) as quickly as possible.

If you really want bonus points, you can send two emails:

  • The first email helps your customer update their password
  • A second email that confirms that their password has been updated

The purpose of the first email is clear: It’s to help fulfill a request for a password update.

The second has a dual purpose: If the customer completed the update, it’s confirmation (and a record) that their password has been updated. If they didn’t personally complete the update, it serves as a helpful alert that someone else has.

Personal money management tool Mint does an excellent job of demonstrating the right way to approach the latter:

The subject line is straight-forward: Your Mint password has changed. As a personal finance tool, it’s clear that security is one of Mint’s most important brand values. This is why the brand goes a step further, to say:

We’ll always let you know when there is any activity on your Mint account. This helps keep your account safe.

Slick move, Mint.

They solidify their place on our list of favorites, by saying: If you didn’t make the request, contact us (with a direct link to their support center).

Purpose-driven? Check.

Reassuring

Think about how you felt the last time you failed to log into one of your favorite apps. It was probably a combination of frustration, panic, and resentment. Failed login attempts are a total workday buzzkill.

While the purpose of password reset emails is to help users reset their passwords, enlightened brands understand that there is a deeper purpose behind that purpose: To help soothe the frustration and anxiety users feel when they forget their credentials. Standout password reset emails do a great job of supporting customers through frustration. Here’s how:

  • Clear, direct subject line: No need to get fancy here. A simple, “Reset your password,” does the trick.
  • A familiar design: An email design consistent with your marketing emails can help users feel more comfortable.
  • A visible CTA: Have a big, colorful button that says “Reset My Password” or “Create a New Password.” Or a distinguishable, clean-looking link.

Most companies include a statement to the effect of: “If you didn’t request a password reset, ignore this email.” This has always made me feel incredibly anxious.

I’m left wondering: But who did? And why? And what happens now? This statement is an excellent opportunity to offer some reassurance to your password-forgetting user. We like how Eventbrite handled it:

They have all the elements recommended above (direct subject line, visible CTA button, consistent branding), but they also provide comfort with this statement:

If you didn’t ask to change your password, don’t worry! Your password is still safe and you can delete this email.

Thanks for clarifying, Eventbrite!

Branded

A lack of branding is what keeps transactional emails feeling, how you say, transactional. None of the unbranded password reset messages that we analyzed held a candle to the ones with pretty colors, carefully selected fonts, and recognizable logos.

Why? Because every bland, unbranded email you send to customers is a missed opportunity to further your brand promise. “Brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touch points,” William Arruda explains in this article on Forbes.com.

Password reset emails are significant because they’re a touch point that usually feels negative, or at best, neutral. Sending a friendly, branded message can help turn this interaction into a positive touch point.

Here’s a friendly, familiar-looking example from Slack:

In addition to looking like your brand, password reset emails should also sound like your brand, through the tone and language of your message.

Ask yourself: Is your brand’s voice excited and energetic, with colorful language and lots of exclamation points? Is it cool and casual, like talking to a friend? Is it elevated and elegant?

In order to keep your branding consistent, it’s important that whatever your brand’s voice is, it comes through in every email — including password reset emails.

Tech-savvy nonprofit charity:water does an excellent job of infusing branded language into their password reset email:

The sad reality is, a small barrier — such as forgetting your password — could be enough to get you to abandon good causes. Charity:water recognizes this hurdle and takes the opportunity to remind users of their mission in their password reset email: “Then you can get back to bringing clean water to people in need.” This statement helps remind users why they should make the effort to reset their password.

Breathe Life Into Your Password Reset Emails

Password reset emails present an important opportunity to create a positive touch point with your customers. Take a long, hard look at the current state of your password reset email.

Ask yourself: Is it purpose-driven? Is it reassuring? Is it branded? If you answer “no,” to any of these questions, spend some time refining the copy and design of your email. It’s worth taking the time to get it right.

Have questions about password reset emails or other transactional messages? Ask your questions in the comments below.

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