And With Recent Regulations, Be Sure To Know The Differences In Your Email List
Are You Looking At Email Statistics Enough?
Communicating to your customers is more important than ever and email serves as a great channel in which to do so. Not only is email the cheapest option for communication, it allows you to communicate to many people at one time. I know, very obvious stuff so far, but stick with me. My question to you is, how often are you looking at your email list? Your engagement? Your subscribers’ status? For many of us, that answer is not often. However, with recent regulations in place and laws becoming stricter, it is going to become increasingly more important to start focusing and learning who is on your list, how they got there, and what their current level of engagement is.
At Ascent360 we help you track engagement, first source and subscriber status on every individual within your database. What this means is we can see who is clicking your emails, who is unsubscribing, who isn’t even on your email list, and also help you become compliant with current laws such as GDPR and CASL by tracking email permission based on country and tracking first entry source. Engagement statistics are pretty straightforward to understand and help you look at who is still an active email subscriber and who perhaps has become lapsed or disengaged. But have you really stopped to think about email permission or where the people on your email list came from? And what that really means? There is a grey area of email marketing that we want to talk about and help you understand.
Why First Source Matters
Email marketing tends to get a bad rep for being “spammy” or “annoying” and with good reason. Many companies are participating in practices that are unethical, thus giving email a bad name. Purchasing or acquiring a list of email addresses is never a best practice and something you not only want to avoid but need to avoid. While growing your list overnight could sound enticing, the backlash of doing so is harsh. These types of practices will often ruin your email reputation, putting you on spam lists or even becoming blacklisted. Once you become blacklisted, it is challenging to rebound and grow your reputation back to a suitable level for many ESP’s. If you are following email best practices, collecting individuals that have expressed interest with your company or product, and not overwhelming their inboxes, chances are that you will see success from your email marketing program.
Growing your email list should be a goal of every marketing program. And with that growth should come the responsibility of knowing and tracking where these individuals came from. Many companies grow their email list through email sign up forms on their website, collection of emails at events, or during the purchasing process. Along with knowing first source, it is important to also know which avenues have expressed consent and which have implied consent. While currently this is only needed for emailing in Canada and the EU, the likelihood that this will become standard is high and something to prepare for.
The Difference Between Expressed Consent (Hard Opt-In) and Implied Consent (Soft Opt-In)
Expressed consent is signing up for a program knowing what you are getting. You are actively checking a non-prechecked box or agreeing to language such as “Yes, send me deals and promotions!”. The consumer knows what they are getting and have chosen to “opt-in”. it is still best practice after the initial sign up to send a welcome email acknowledging that they have entered the list and to set clear expectations for how you plan to communicate with them. This type of consent is known as expressed consent. They have decided to join your email program and are expecting to hear from you.
Implied consent is a bit different but still allowed under CAN-SPAM and is a general practice for many companies. Implied consent often occurs during a purchase. Under CAN-SPAM law, you are allowed to interact with any individual that has made a purchase from you. You can send them post purchase survey’s, offers on the “next best product” for them, etc. However, they may have not actually “opt-ed in” directly for marketing emails. The best example of this is during the check out process. During this process, there is often a box to check (or un-check if pre-populated) asking you to opt-in for marketing emails. If the box is not checked, it Is not that you are opt-ing out, but you are not technically opt-ing in either. You do not want to classify these people as unsubscribed, as they have never indicated that to be true, but you do not want to classify them as Email Permission = Yes, as that is also not technically true. Have I confused you yet? Hang in there! Ok back to it… These customers are described as “soft opt-ins” and should remain in the status of “Unknown” until clearly identified one way or the other. If they return and next time do in fact check the box, their status should be updated to “Yes”. On the other hand, if they end up unsubscribing, their status should be updated to “No”. This is the grey area of email marketing but is legal currently under CAN-SPAM laws. How you decide to treat these people as a business is your decision, but you are allowed to contact them. Typically, sending them email about their recent product is OK and often does not result in a high complaint rate. However, you may think twice before placing them into general marketing emails without first asking them to strictly opt-in to receiving them.
Being Ignorant Will Not Hold Up In Court
Sound like something a police officer would say? Well it could also be something you hear when failing to understand and comply to current or upcoming regulations. While tracking first customer source or implied/express consent is not a current law here in the US, that is not to say that it isn’t coming. Being prepared and aware of the changes happening in other countries will better prepare you for what could happen here. Starting to track source and engagement is a great place to start and will allow you to be ready if we see more strict laws headed our way. These laws should not scare you away or deter you from including email in your marketing strategy, they are simply in place to make the experience better for the consumer, which as being a consumer yourself, I am sure you would agree is a step in the right direction!