Mastering International Opt In Requirements for Email

While the act of sending an email is fairly simple, there are some complicated rules that govern email marketing. Depending on where your subscribers are, there are certain rules you have to follow, particularly when it comes to opt in requirements.

Collecting contacts and growing a robust list is one of the biggest goals for any business using email marketing, but how can a business ensure it’s following the opt in rules in each country?

Here’s what you need to know to master international opt in requirements:

Opt in rules for American subscribers
It doesn’t matter where your company is, it matters where your subscriber are. If your subscribers are in the U.S., there’s no legislation that requires you to gain permission before sending an email to a customer. The U.S. does have legislation that governs email marketing; it’s called the CAN-SPAM Act. It spells out specific rules, but none that touch on opt in requirements. While getting permission isn’t spelled out in legislation, it is considered a “best practice” in email marketing.

Opt in rules for international subscribers
In Canada, Europe and Australia, you must get permission to send an email to a customer. And, businesses that use email marketing must keep a record of that permission.

How do you get permission? There are two options: double or single opt in.

Double opt in versus single opt in
International legislation doesn’t specify how businesses should get permission to send emails, only that it’s necessary. It’s up to each business to decide whether or not they want to use a double opt in process, or a single. In the double opt in process the customer provides his or her email address, and is sent a confirmation email to make sure they want to join your list. It’s a two-step process. The customer provides their email address, and must confirm it before receiving any email from your company.

In the single opt in process, as soon a customer provides his or her email address they’re added to your list. That’s it, there’s no confirmation needed.

The opt in process that’s right for you
There’s no question, the single opt in process is the easiest. Let’s say a customer subscribes to your newsletter by filling out a form on your website, like the one below:

Example of Opt in Process Form

In the single opt in process, that’s all there is to it. You can now send newsletters to the customer. However, there are arguments for the double opt in process. By asking a customer to confirm his or her email address, you ensure that you have the right email address and limit fake or misspelled email addresses. In addition, it shows a certain level of commitment from the customer. If they’re willing to provide you with their contact information and confirm it, there’s no question that they’re interested in your product or service.

While opt in rules vary by country, it’s in your best interest to get permission from customers before you send an email. By getting permission first, you know that you’re building a quality list of viable contacts.