Messages that have NO commercial content at all are considered transactional messages and don’t have to comply with CAN-SPAM. Order confirmations, promotional messages and newsletters (informational) are examples of transactional communication.
Where marketers may get into hot water is when they use the transactional message to cross-sell or upsell their commercial products in the same message.
Let’s take a look….
The Primary Purpose Rule
“No CAN-SPAM – great!” I hear you say, but what about messages that have BOTH transactional and commercial content included in the same message? I know we all need to get more bang for our email marketing bucks.
When you use transactional messaging to promote your commercial products under CAN-SPAM the Primary Purpose rule comes into effect. This is where the gray area of transactional messaging kicks in, and it can easily be misunderstood.
If the recipient determines that the “primary purpose” of the message they received to be commercial in nature then the message MUST be CAN-SPAM compliant, no exceptions. That means: No matter how certain the marketer is that the message’s primary purpose is transactional…it is the recipient’s perception that matters.
There are a few other interpretations under CAN-SPAM on the Primary Purpose rule, but in my opinion it’s better to comply than not.
So, what factors would drive a recipient to think that a message is “commercial” in nature?
- Leading with the offer BEFORE the transactional information
- Placement of commercial images within the body of the message
- Too much “offer real estate” in the message, dominating the theme
So as you can see – transactional messages are not quite as straightforward as you would think.
Best Practices in Transactional Email
- During your onboarding or preference center user experience, ask your client if they would like to receive cross-promotional messaging within their transactional messages.
- If they say No, honor their preferences
- Request your client to add your From address to their safe senders list or address book to ensure deliverability continuity
- Place any offer “below the fold” of the email
- Keep the offers real estate within the message to a third of the message itself
- Use your soft sell techniques as part of your strategy
- Ensure that all transactional messaging that contain offers are CAN-SPAM compliant
- Manage your deliverability; transactional messages generally are better performers for engagement because of the intent of the message and the expectation that it’s going to arrive.
Hopefully these last few weeks have provided some insight on the types of messaging and some of the challenges and rewards associated with each one.
I am confident that when you adopt the best practices and implement them into your marketing strategies you will see the benefits and results that will affect, deliverability, reputation management, engagement and ultimately ROI.
One last note: We cannot offer any legal advice on any related email matter. If you have questions that may affect your obligations under CAN-SPAM, check with your legal teams or resources.
Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts.