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Email marketing: Focus on CASL transactional messaging

Kevin Senne
Senior Director of Global Deliverability

Recently, we talked about some important points you should know about when the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL for short) takes effect on July 1, 2014. Today, I am going to go into more detail about one of the potentially most confusing aspects of the act, transactional messaging. In my last article, I discussed putting an unsubscribe link in transactional messages. This rightly generated a lot of discussion and questions, so let’s drill down into some specifics.

Explicit vs. implicit permission

First, let’s review the specifics around permission as they apply to CASL. There are two types of permission under the law, explicit permission and implicit permission.

  • Explicit permission is given when someone specifically enters their email address in a form that clearly states it is for an email sign-up, they click a link in a confirmed opt-in message, or they check a box that states they want to receive messaging. Explicit permission is good until it is revoked by the recipient with an unsubscribe.
  • Implicit permission can be a little bit more confusing, and it relates to our transaction topic today. Implicit permission means that you have an existing business relationship, and can therefore reach out and communicate with that customer.

The difference in implicit and explicit permission is that implicit permission has a limited life. You are allowed to communicate with those people for 24 months before you must either prove another purchase to continue the business relationship, or have the recipient grant explicit permission.

In my last post, I suggested that putting an unsubscribe link in transactional messages was necessary. That’s not the letter of the law, but a little more detail is necessary to explain that recommendation. Transactional messaging is one of the most misunderstood areas in email marketing. Here’s a helpful definition of a transactional message.

What is a transactional message?

A transaction message is one that if your customer does not receive it, there is a high likelihood that they will call or contact you to find out that information. It should be customer generated, even if it isn’t real-time. I subscribe to a magazine with yearly auto-bill. I expect a notification shortly before my credit card is charged. If the user doesn’t expect it, it probably isn’t transactional.

So what about transactional messaging and CASL?

You are allowed to send transactional messages without any kind of opt-in under CASL. The caveat is this means only transactional messaging in the truest sense. You are not allowed ANY promotional content in these messages, or they must be qualified as promotional. You want to send an order confirmation to someone who has opted-out or promotional content? That’s fine, but the confirmation email can only include details about the specific transaction.

This is so different from today’s marketing mentality that I find it’s potentially dangerous to talk about not including an unsubscribe in a “transactional” message. If the “extra” content has a purpose of garnering more commerce/profit, the message is now considered commercial and essentially must be sent as a promotional campaign.

A friendly reminder: We’re only a few days away from CASL implementation. If you haven’t yet worked out any potential impact, time is running short. Have those review meetings. You don’t want to be in violation of CASL. The tide of permission marketing is evolving. Permission is importantand gaining momentum every month. Clarity in communication, respect of privacy, and relevance are key in future marketing campaigns.

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