Sending Legally Mandated Emails: How to Put Your Best Foot Forward
Are you struggling with how to send mass emails to your customer base without damaging your brand's sending reputation? With the introduction of transparency regulations, it can be challenging to navigate the world of email marketing while staying compliant with the various digital messaging laws throughout the world. Over the last few years, there's been a growing demand to send large-scale, legally required communications; at the same time, we've seen increased privacy enforcement and a stronger focus on compliance. To accommodate these changes, many brands have taken steps to be more transparent about their Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policies, and other important documents.
Sending these legally mandated communications by email to a large audience where data quality is unknown can pose risks to a sender’s reputation. These sorts of mass mailing have sometimes led primary mailboxes to block the brands that send them; that’s because these campaigns have the potential to hit a large number of spam traps, raising flags for inbox providers. In the past, Braze has helped to resolve several Spamhaus listings related to this activity, allowing customers to successfully minimize the impact of possible ongoing blocks.
As a general rule, brands should think carefully before sending these notices via email, including considering other channels that might be a better fit, depending on the circumstances. If you do decide to send a mandated communication by email instead of using a safer channel, do so cautiously. To help out, Braze has created a guide to help you put your best foot forward and avoid some of the deliverability pitfalls that can arise when sending these emails.
A legal disclaimer before we begin—I am not a lawyer, and none of this is legal advice. Please consult your legal team for their guidance in legal matters, but note that deliverability requirements, including our AUP, go beyond the law and aim to ensure that our customers understand industry standards and best practices.
Check with your legal team to identify the types of recipients recommended to be contacted. Targeting certain recipient types—such as email addresses that have unsubscribed, hard bounced, complained, or are otherwise suppressed—could wreak havoc on your sending reputation. Sending messages to these recipients also violates the Braze Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).
Consider all communication channels your brand uses to ensure messages reach your intended recipients. Do all of these recipients need to be contacted via email? Are other channels—such as push notifications, on-site notices, or in-app messaging—acceptable methods for your legal team? A common misconception is that recipients are required to receive the legal messaging via email when, in fact, other channels may meet the need without risking email deliverability consequences.
Consider the frequency with which customers engage with your messaging. Understanding your recipients and which audiences engage frequently or infrequently should be a factor when determining your sending list. It is doubtful a recipient who hasn’t engaged with your brand (by opening an email, purchasing a product, viewing your website, etc.) in over 18 months will need to be included or would want to receive a communication—or if they do receive it, will be willing to open it.
Consider whether this communication is a marketing or transactional communication. The standard fallback is to state that you are sending these messages as transactional emails that do not require opt-in or consent, but spam blocklist companies do not distinguish between transactional and marketing communications and will treat them the same. Accordingly, you should evaluate the deliverability risks, volume implications, and the impact on your ongoing transactional emails if there is an issue. If you want to be legally compliant and believe you are sending transactional messages, be sure that the content is genuinely service-related without a hint of marketing content. Including marketing content in the email could confuse subscribers about the message’s intent and could compromise legal requirements. A good way to achieve this is to use a distinct template that is visually different to your regular marketing communications; however, this template should still contain your branding so recipients can be sure it has come from you and won’t consider it fraudulent. Also, consider the content: A short, to-the-point message which outlines the updates is better than a long, wordy email full of legalese, particularly for recipients who use mobile devices.
Plan the timing for your campaign. Timing is critical; therefore, it’s essential to identify when the campaign needs to go out. Consider how it fits in with the rest of your mailing schedule to avoid affecting other key sends in the pipeline.
Split the campaign over as many days as possible. This allows for proper measurement of impact and quick reactions if anything unexpected occurs with email performance or sending reputation. Depending on the size of your list, a best practice is to split it over a minimum of three days; in ideal circumstances, this would be split over a week or so with no more than a 10% increase in your current daily volumes. There are, of course, caveats to this, including your list’s data cleanliness, the age of the data, and how your legal team sets the time scales for the sending. Braze has Deliverability Experts who can help you build a custom plan for this.
- Avoid opening engagement filters to questionable data that can negatively impact deliverability. Questionable data can include recipients who last opened an email over a year ago, previously suppressed data and older addresses that are likely to hard bounce. If opening engagement filters are required, there are two trains of thought on the best way to send it:
Front-load your send based on engagement to increase the likelihood of engaged subscribers receiving and seeing the message. The potential downside of this approach is that it risks several days of sending to purely unengaged recipients who may not see the message or that the mail may get blocked.
Ensure each send has a mixture of engaged and unengaged recipients, for example, in a 60/40 ratio. Doing this can dilute the unengaged audience with cohorts of more-active addresses, but there will probably be a point at which the unengaged outweigh the engaged. Ideally, if the unengaged audience is larger than the engaged, an alternate channel could be used for recipients outside a certain engagement window (for example, 12+ months).
While the first send goes out, monitor your metrics closely—particularly open rates, soft and hard bounces, unsubscribes, and complaints. These are the critical signs of an issue with the send. Keep in mind that open rates are likely to be a bit lower than what you usually see, due to the nature of the campaign.
Low open rates indicate low engagement and likely signal that emails are being filtered to the spam folder instead of the inbox. Monitor your open rates at the mailbox level to check the impact and ensure you aren’t being filtered at just one mailbox.
A high percentage of hard bounces shows poor data quality. The leading indicators are typo email addresses or deactivated accounts due to lack of use. If high hard bounces are observed, you will want to investigate your point of collection and data hygiene practices to better identify the root cause(s).
A high percentage of soft bounces can signal a full mailbox that could be abandoned or blocked at a mailbox provider. It can also indicate a sending reputation issue whereby the mailbox provider chooses to delay or outright block mail acceptance.
A high number of spam complaints will illustrate whether recipients welcomed the message or clicked the damaging “spam” button.
Following your send, organize a postmortem to understand what worked and what didn’t. Depending on the goal you've set at the onset, you may determine that you successfully reached as many recipients as possible or that the legal obligation wasn’t met due to too many emails being rejected or blocked.
Also, consider your ongoing marketing activity. Are you seeing a hangover effect from this send that’s stopping your regular mailings from being sent? If so, consider contacting your Braze Deliverability Expert for help.
A legally-mandated message that is sent by email can be risky, with long-lasting effects on your email deliverability and ability to send emails to recipients successfully. However, risks can be minimized with forethought, planning, and dedication to email deliverability best practices.
Interested in learning more about how Braze can support stronger deliverability? Check out our look at the Braze Premium Deliverability Services.
Dan Stone is an Email Deliverability Principal based out of the UK. With 15 years of email experience, including ten years as an email marketer, he leverages his blend of marketing and deliverability expertise to help marketers get the best from their email programs.