Your WooCommerce sends a lot of emails, to the customer when signs up for an account or when a order is placed. It also sends different emails to you the store owner to let you know about orders, customers or other things. These emails are called Transactional Emails:
“A transactional email is a type of email that’s triggered by a user action on a website or mobile app. Some common examples of transactional emails include password resets, shipping confirmations, invoices and receipts, account notifications, social media updates, and welcome emails.” from here.
Bellow we have an image of the transactional emails WooCommerce sends.
Like the most plugins that send email it’s using the wp_mail() function that is a core function of WordPress. This function uses PHP to send the email and PHP is using the local email server where your website is hosted to send it.
So why do we want to use an external service if it’s already working?
Reduce server load
Using an external SMTP service reduces the load on your website and keeps your website fast, especially on the end of a transaction. At this moment a lot of things happen, payment processing and response, completion of the order, thank you page generation and on top of that it sends several emails to the customer and to you.
Email delivery and spam
This will help you also reach the inbox with the transactional emails WooCommerce and WordPress send. On shared hosting plans your website usually is hosted along with hundreds if not thousands of websites, that might or might not be ok. Sometimes these neighbors are naughty and send spam and guess what, you are affected also especially if you share the same IP.
Sometimes you can encounter issues with the email server on the hosting, depending on the host and how crowded is the server you are on. Some dedicated WordPress hosts don’t have an email server and you have to use your own anyway.
If you are using a dedicated VPS you have to set it up yourself and maintain it which is a hassle with spam filters, settings and delivrability and I don’t recommend it.
Recommended SMPT services I’ve tested and I recommend:
- SendGrid (Plugin) – Send 40,000 emails for 30 days, then 100/day forever.
- Mailgun (Plugin) – Send 10,000 emails free per month.(Not the greatest delivrability on the free tier)
- Mandrill (Plugin) – From MailChimp as a paid add-on. It costs $10/month for up to 25,000 emails. Emails are tracked and tagged for stats in the Mandrill Dashboard, and it can be used with MailChimp.
- Amazon SES (Plugin)- if you send from an application hosted in Amazon EC2, the first 62,000 emails you send every month are free.
- PostmarkApp (Plugin)- from $10 per month.
You can use any other service for that, I don’t necessarily use the plugins of the respective service, I use the Post SMTP(Postman) plugin, easy to setup and I have everything I need, including logs. Don’t use SMTP plugins that save the password in plain text, that’s a security flaw.
Gmail as a SMTP
Some recommend using your Gmail as a SMTP server but I wouldn’t do that, it’s harder to setup and not professional at all. Also it’s not meant for that, Gmail is for your personal stuff not to use it for your shop.
I hope I gave you an idea why this is a good option to use and not that hard to setup, plus is free if your store is small. Are you using a SMTP service and if you do what is your feedback so far?