How CAN SPAM Matters For Transactional Messages

Shar VanBoskirk

Marketers must follow the FTC’s CAN-SPAM guidelines as they apply to transactional messages; however, transactional emails are frequently embedded with promotional content. We’ve found that retailers can, on average, generate an additional $2.9 million annually by including promotions in their transactional communications. When content gets mixed in together, we often hear clients asking: where is the line drawn between promotional and transactional messages?

While there is no silver bullet for determining the difference between each message type, there are some guidelines that can help you determine whether or not the message will be subject to the CAN-SPAM Act. The FTC places a great deal of weight on the subject line of a message, so if the subject line would lead the recipient to think it’s a transactional message, it’s a transactional message for CAN-SPAM purposes.  Additionally, the content of the message matters.  If the majority of the message is commercial, or the bulk of the transactional part of the message doesn’t appear at the beginning of the message, CAN-SPAM considers the message a commercial one.

Regardless of message type, there are a few best practices to keep in mind to comply with CAN-SPAM (and maintain a good sender reputation).

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