Today Leah Hamilton from Terms Feed gives us the low-down on how to avoid spamming customers during the holiday season.
At holiday time, when you’re sending out mailers, special deals, and seasonal sales, the name of the game is to market your product, and market hard. The winter holidays are the biggest spending season of the year, and it’s highly likely that email marketing will be one of your primary methods of reaching your customers. Given the crucial importance of marketing at this time, it’s important to remember to comply with anti-spam legislation when you carry out your marketing plan.
First we’ll take a look at why Christmas and holiday-season marketing is so important for your business, then look at how to make sure you get it right, legally.
Marketing in the Holiday Season
The winter holiday season is definitely the most lucrative of the year; and it’s not just Christmas, either: more than 90 percent of Americans celebrated Christmas, Kwanza or Hanukah in 2014, and spent an average of $730 on gifts, food, and decorations. Check out the graph from the National Retail Federation that shows just how far ahead the winter holidays are:
Image: NRF Consumer Holiday Spending USA (https://nrf.com/news/the-long-and-short-of-americas-consumer-holidays)
It’s easy to see why merchants ramp up their marketing efforts this time of year: everyone is on the lookout for gifts for friends and family, special deals and themed products. Marketers need to capitalize on this opportunity by sending out their latest specials, catalogues and holiday-themed emails. Given the importance of the holiday season to many people, getting it right means an opportunity to build customer loyalty and a chance to capitalize on goodwill.
However, it’s important to make sure that holiday marketing is done right. Here’s where CAN-SPAM and other pieces of anti-spam law come in. First let’s take a look at the anti-spam legislation in the US, as well as the UK and Europe, and then we’ll look at some holiday examples of how to comply.
What Are the Key Pieces of Anti-Spam Legislation?
Anti-Spam in Europe and the UK
In Europe, anti-spam rules are covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communication Directive, issued in 2002. EU Member States are expected to implement this Directive in their own local laws. The UK has done this by way of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, which sets out a number of rules that must be followed when sending out marketing emails.
First, to email or market to someone who isn’t already a customer, you must offer them a chance to opt in explicitly. Here’s an example of what an explicit opt-in looks like:
Image: Kate Spade Mailing List
UK anti-spam law also allows something called a soft opt-in. This soft opt-in allows you to treat a customer as if they have consented to receiving emails from you, even though they actually haven’t. To comply with the soft opt-in allowance you need to:
- Have obtained the customer’s email address “in the course of the sale of negotiations for the sale of a product or service.” This means that the person has to be already a customer, and you can’t just email random people.
- Only email those people in relation to “similar products and services.” So if your customers signed up to receive jewellery newsletters from you, you can’t send them advertisements for gardening supplies.
- Give the person a method of refusing the use of his or her contact details at the time they initially provide them.
Like US law (which we’ll discuss below) UK law also requires that you give your customers an opportunity to opt-out of emails that you send them. The option to unsubscribe must be easily visible, and displayed on every email.
CAN-SPAM and the US
In the US, the primary governing law is CAN-SPAM. CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003, and it is a piece of legislation that sets the rules for commercial emails, such as holiday advertisements.
The main requirements of CAN-SPAM are:
- Don’t use misleading header information in your emails. For instance, don’t change your “From” text to say that your name is “National Hospital” when it (clearly) isn’t. Your email address and domain name should be accurate.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. Don’t use “Fwd:” or “Re:” in your email header just to make it look more like your recipient has already contacted you. Or alternatively, if your email is a marketing email about your product, don’t make your subject line “URGENT: Mom ill!” Your subject line should accurately reflect the contact of your email.
- If you are sending marketing messages, you must identify your message as an advertisement in some way.
- You must notify your recipients of where you are located. In particular, you must provide a valid physical postal address (e.g. street address, PO box, private mailbox).
- Include opt-out information for your recipients.
- Honor any opt-out requests. You must do this within 10 business days, and there must not be a fee for your recipient to opt out.
- If someone else is sending marketing emails on your behalf, you must monitor what they are doing and ensure that they comply with the law.
This law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and if a person or organisation does not comply, they may be subject to penalties of up to ,000 for each email in violation. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message, and the company who sent the message may be legally responsible.
How to comply
Let’s take a look at some examples of Christmas mailers that comply with the laws above.
Here’s an example from Pumpkin Patch kidswear that shows the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email:
You can see that Pumpkin Patch has a link to what is essentially a preferences page, where the email recipient can change their account preferences and unsubscribe from email advertisements. It’s ok to either provide a direct unsubscribe link, or send your customers to their preferences page to do so, as Pumpkin Patch has done.
Next let’s take a look at an example from BH Cosmetics. In the example below you can see that BH Cosmetics has included their physical address to notify recipients of their location.
Finally, the last example from the Portable North Pole shows appropriate headers and subject lines, as well as clearly indicating that the email is an advertisement.
You can see that the subject line, the email “from” field, and email address are all correct and honest about who the email is coming from (Portable North Pole). In the message itself, the wording “fan offer” and “get your unlimited pass and enjoy Premium video messages” clearly indicate that this is an advertisement for customers to purchase a Premium video package as opposed to the free video messages that Portable North Pole offers.
Advertising in the holiday season is a great way to reach your customers and get them hooked on holiday deals, but make sure to comply with anti-spam laws in your country when you email them! By including an unsubscribe link in your emails, and staying honest and truthful in all communications, you’ll be well on your way to meeting the anti-spam requirements you’ll be subject to.