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We had a user opt-out of our marketing emails 2 weeks ago. At that time, they were a lead and had not ever purchased a service from us before.

One week ago, they signed up and paid for our service that they will use in the summer.

Is it OK (from either an ethical and law perspective) to re-opt in someone to non-transactional emails automatically after they make an initial purchase?

It seems pretty clear that the answer would be no, if we were to send out the same kinds of marketing emails before AND after a user purchases our product.

However, there is a difference between the kinds of non-transactional emails we send to a lead, versus someone who has purchased our service. Lead marketing emails are all about educating them about our product and trying us out, while marketing emails post-purchase are about being a part of our community, educating them about how to best use our product, and, after they use the service, giving them notice about deadline for getting a discount on our product.

Our plan is to send them an email asking if they want to continue to be opted out, and list the things that they will miss out on. We have done this before, and it works. I am just curious what standard practice might be out there.

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    is there a reason they can't be part of the community inside the thing they just bought? email isn't a very good way to communicate with people - stats vary by industry but all of them -- even non-profits with the highest click through rates -- are less than 5%. – DaveAlger Feb 11 '15 at 1:31
  • We do have a community website. But we still get very good conversion when we run an email campaign for something specific with a deadline (e.g., sign up by May 15 for discount). We also have a type of service that is very seasonal (just 2 months out of the year), so there isn't much interaction with our service for the other 10 months. We are trying very hard though to make our website very engaging (photos, etc), so they will get in the habit of visiting our website all the time. Agree that would be the very best thing. – Mike Feb 11 '15 at 18:22
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You could claim that educational e-mails are not marketing, however the customer might not see it the same way.

If they have explicitly opted-out I would avoid sending them non-transactional e-mails, as you would be on questionable ground. Unless your terms at purchase cover you, called a "soft opt-in" by the UK ICO.

You can of course ask them to opt back in, to educational tips and tricks to help them make the most of their purchase. This could be in the form of a prompt within the service. Or via a call to action on your transactional e-mails.

Ultimately if someone asks not to be sent e-mails you should honour it.

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The short answer to this question is No.

Would you let one user stop a different user from receiving email? Of course not because they don't have the authority to opt out (or in) for someone else. If a person opts out of receiving email then nobody else has the authority to opt them back in.

Legally anyone is free to send non-threatening emails to any address they want but there are more effective ways to communicate with customers. Even when people opt in to receive emails from you most of them will never be read.


I think there is another question being asked here so I wanted to address that as well.

How do we engage our customers and keep them coming back during the off season?

1. Relationships are a two way street

No matter how much you want to have a relationship with someone it won't succeed unless the other person also wants to have a relationship with you. If someone opts out of receiving emails from you then sending them one for any reason will do more harm than good.

I actually opted in to receive an email once a month from my Nest thermostat because this let me see how much energy I was saving compared to other people in my area. This was an email I would read because it had information specific to me. It added personal value. At one point my Nest device wasn't able to connect to the internet anymore and went offline. I knew of the situation but didn't get around to fixing it for 3 months. Nest didn't send me any email during this time. They must have concluded that sending an email without any information wouldn't be interesting to me. They concluded right and my personal opinion of Nest was greatly improved. I was glad to get the technical issue fixed on my side and start back up that relationship!

2. If a community adds value then it will get used

Without knowing the personal nature of your business I can say that adding personal value to an individual is really the only way to get them to seek you out. Why do so many people return to this forum almost daily? Why do we help others and answer their questions? Because we learn things ourselves and become better over time.

3. Social Media - A fun contest can build up a community

Even if you have something that provides value you need a way to get the word out. Do a silly contest like Tweet a picture of your best dance move to us for a chance to win an iPad Air Reply to these tweets with personal messages of encouragement. Just know that once the contest is over the people won't stick around unless the community really does add personal value to them.

4. Gamification - Reputation is the new currency

One final tip would be to reward users that participate in the community. Stack Exchange does this well.

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