Transactional Email FAQ

How do I know if what I’m sending is a transactional or relationship message?

The primary purpose of a transactional message is to convey information regarding the action that triggered it. Transactional or relationship messages must meet one or more of these criteria.
  • Assist or complete a transaction that the contact has already agreed to such as purchasing a product online.
  • Provide warranty, recall, safety or security information about a product or service.
  • Let a contact know about a change in terms, features, or an account balance. This can be connected to a membership, subscription, account, loan, or other commercial transaction.
  • Give a contact information about their employment relationship or employment benefits.
  • Send or facilitate sending goods or services that a contact has already purchased.

What if the message combines commercial content and transactional or relationship content?

If you are sending a message that includes commercial, transactional, and/or relationship content, whether your message counts as transactional depends on

  • The subject line: The subject line should relate to transactional and/or relationship content within the message.
    • Acceptable subject lines: Order confirmation, Thank you for your purchase, Order update
    • Unacceptable subject lines: Order more for free, Save $10 on next order
  • Content location: Transactional content should appear in the first part of the message and also be the primary purpose of the message. Transactional content must also appear as text in the message and not as an image.

If your message contains commercial, transactional, and/or relationship content and if the subject line would lead the recipient to think it’s a commercial message, it’s a commercial message for CAN-SPAM purposes. Similarly, if the primary purpose of the message is not focused on relationship and/or transactional content, it’s a commercial message under the CAN-SPAM Act.

What if the message combines elements of both a commercial message and a message with content defined as "other"?

If you are sending a message that includes some commercial content and some content without a clear category, whether your message counts as commercial and the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act apply depends on

  • The subject line: If a contact reading the message thinks that the message will advertise or promote a commercial product, then the message may be commercial.
  • Content: If a contact reading the message thinks that the primary purpose of the message is to advertise or promote a product or service, then the message may be commercial. When determining if the content in a message is commercial, the location of the commercial content, the space devoted to commercial content and how color, graphics, type, etc. are used can all be considered.