The Anti-Spam Legislation introduced by the CRTC just over a year ago. Its mandate: to whip electronic communications – specifically email marketing — into shape and greatly reduce the mammoth amount of SPAM and un-wanted emails.
The threat of non-compliance for a business was an administrative penalty up to $10-million. It all seemed very ominous and sent some worried businesses into a tail-spin.
So what’s happened over the past year?
According to the Canada’s Anti-SPAM Legislation website, by January 6, 2015 there were 210,000 complaints. But by June 29th only three companies had been charged under the new CASL regulations.
In March, Compu-Find (operating out of Quebec) was levied a fine of $1.1 million. The Vancouver online dating site, POF (Plenty of Fish), which was valued at $100 million in 2014, paid a fine of $48,000 for violations under CASL regulations. Lastly, and most recently, Porter Airlines agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty.
There were similarities with each company’s CASL violation, including:
- No visible AND functional ‘unsubscribe’ button;
- Ignoring repeated user requests to be unsubscribed; and
- Not having the elements of clear and complete contact information (postal mailing address, web address, email address and phone number.)
It’s a surprise that only three companies were charged. And an even bigger surprise that the violations could be fixed quite easily. These do not seem to be huge logistic minefields that required serious data base revisions.
Did CASL have any positive affect?
“CASL is rooted in the best practice of permission-based marketing,” says Lisa Kember, regional director for Canada East at Constant Contact. “While some modifications may have been necessary initially, it seems one year out, the impact has been much less than previously feared.”
As one of North American’s largest email providers, Constant Contact should know. On the one year anniversary of the CASL implementation, Constant Contact sponsored two surveys deployed by Research Now as part of an ongoing series addressing the impact of CASL on Canadian small and medium size businesses (SMB).
And, there were some interesting results:
- After all the CASL hype, 70% of Canadian SMB continued to use email marketing. In fact, 9% of SMBs surveyed increased their efforts and 6% decided to try email marketing for the first time.
- Did SMBs destroy their e-mail lists in order to conform to the new CASL permission-based marketing standards? Apparently not. 65% of SMBs said their email list size remained the same; 25% decreased in size while 10% of the SMB business surveyed increased their list size.
And what of Canadian consumers?
Constant Contact has those stats as well.
- 68% of Canadian consumers prefer email (as opposed to 12% via phone).
- 70% want email newsletters for discounts and special offers; 38% want to take part in specific promotions; and 36% to stay informed on an ongoing basis.
So if your company dropped email marketing for what many businesses feared would be strict CASL regulations and reprisals, it might be time to jump back in. In a recent speech, Kember maintained that the CRTC was not going after businesses that were looking to comply and that the key issues were the ‘unsubscribe button’ and the expressed consent.
As a reminder, the CASL regulations covered three essential points:
- CASL encouraged SMBs to use a third-party email marketing vendor such as Constant Contact, Elite Mail or MailChimp. Benefits of these systems are so numerous including critical analytics and list management including permission tracking.
- CASL insisted that all emails have a clearly identifiable and working unsubscribe button as well as sender identification that includes a postal mailing address, email & web address & phone number. Third-party email templates, automatically populate that address information and unsubscribe buttons, so they can’t be ignored.
- Obtaining a customer’s expressed consent through an opt-in protocol. New sign-ups of course weren’t problematic. For older email addresses there was a complex set of stages and deadlines to obtain the client’s permission. The overall effect though was that more businesses were reviewing their email lists and weeding out ‘dead’ weight. Effective list management is key to good conversion rates.
Online marketing has become extremely complex. Customers are arriving at purchasing decisions through a variety of methods. While initial contact may be through social media, with a sign-up on the website, the actual conversion might not take place until the newsletter email arrives in the in-box.
As consumer patterns change so does analytical data. According to the online blog, Marketing Profs, email is the number one way millennials want to keep in touch with companies. And taking that even one step further, LiveIntent, an online marketing company, stated that millennials have a 48.5% higher propensity to convert on mobile.
Kember maintains that the value of email marketing remains stronger than ever — and for your business she may have a point. A multi-channel marketing plan of print; radio; email marketing; social media will ensure that you are meeting your customers’ needs.
Shape the message to the medium to create conversions – and measure, measure, measure. Tracking each of your marketing efforts will helping you to decide where to invest your marketing dollars.