Why You Should Care About Email Consent in Email Marketing

Aparna Seshadri
ByAparna Seshadri

6 mins read

Imagine that a customer opens his inbox and is overwhelmed with emails from brands he has never heard of, and you're a part of them. You'll never be able to stand out in this crowd because you won't know any more about these recipients than they would know about you.

This is where email consent comes in. It is a way to set yourself apart from other email senders and helps you establish a long-lasting relationship with them.

In this guide, we delve into the importance of email consent, unravel the risks associated with neglecting it, and provide invaluable insights into the best practices for constructing a permission-based email list.

Email consent refers to the permission given by individuals to receive emails from brands for marketing purposes. This practice is crucial for establishing trust, complying with legal requirements, and enhancing the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns.

When obtaining consent for email marketing, there are two main types of consent: implicit and explicit. Let’s take a look at what they mean.

  1. Implicit consent: When an individual shares their contact details, such as an email address or phone number, without explicitly expressing a desire to receive marketing communications from your brand, it is called implicit consent.

For example, if a customer has engaged in a business transaction with your company, there may be an implicit understanding that they are open to receiving related marketing communications.

  1. Explicit consent: When someone explicitly states their desire to receive marketing messages from your brand, it is called explicit consent.

This form of consent involves individuals actively confirming their desire to be included in a mailing list or to receive promotional content. Common methods of obtaining explicit consent include checkboxes on sign-up forms, confirmation emails, and double opt-in processes.

Some businesses may engage in practices that are ethically and legally questionable, potentially leading to complications. Unacceptable forms of email consent include contacts obtained through deceptive practices. These deceptive practices include:

  1. Pre-checked boxes: These automatically opt individuals into receiving emails without their explicit consent by having pre-selected checkboxes on sign up forms that sign them up for promotional emails.

  2. Bought email lists: Bought email lists are highly unethical. You don't get a list of people who are genuinely interested in your products or services. It also raises a question if these people know that their data is being distributed in the market.

  3. Hidden consent within terms and conditions: Burying email consent within lengthy terms and conditions where individuals are unlikely to notice or understand that they agree to receive marketing emails.

  4. Assuming silence as consent: Assuming consent based on a lack of objection or response to a communication regarding email subscriptions.

  5. Misleading language: Using unclear or deceptive language that can mislead individuals about the purpose or frequency of email communications.

  6. Incentive-based consent: Offering incentives or rewards for email consent may coerce individuals into agreeing without genuine interest.

It's essential to prioritize transparent and ethical practices when collecting consent to ensure compliance with privacy regulations and respect for individuals' preferences.

Ignoring email consent and sending unsolicited emails carries several major risks:

  1. Violation of laws: Laws like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR require companies to obtain affirmative consent before sending commercial emails. Violating these laws can result in hefty fines and penalties.

  2. Lower email engagement: Recipients who didn't opt in for your emails are much less likely to open and engage with them. This leads to poor open rates, click-through rates, and conversions for your email campaigns.

  3. Actions by ESPs: ESPs have strict anti-spam policies, and over time, your emails can start landing in the spam folder of your recipients and can even lead to your account being suspended or terminated, in addition to the risk of having your IPs blacklisted.

  4. Tarnished brand reputation: Being flagged as a spammer severely damages your reputation and credibility. Recipients perceive unsolicited emails as unethical, making them less inclined to do business with you.

Additionally, if you regularly send out email marketing campaigns in bulk, you should also know about the new email sender guidelines rolled out by Google and Yahoo, asserting the importance of protecting email users' inboxes from malicious emails. They insisted on you as a sender doing 4 things:

  1. Ensure email authentication through DKIM, SPF, and DMARC protocols

  2. Minimize spam occurrences, maintaining a spam complaint rate below 0.3%.

  3. Enable one-click unsubscribe options for recipients.

  4. Adhere to RFC 5322 standards, PTR records, and rDNS.

You can read more about this in the guide below.

Obtaining email consent and maintaining it is crucial for successful email marketing. Here are some strategies to help you obtain consent.

  1. Opt-In forms: Include clear and prominent opt-in forms on your website, allowing users to subscribe to newsletters or updates.

  2. Checkbox consent: During the sign-up or checkout process, include a checkbox that customers can actively select to indicate their consent to receive emails.

  3. Social media opt-Ins: Leverage social media platforms to promote your email subscriptions and encourage users to sign up for newsletters or updates.

  4. Transactional emails: Leverage transactional emails, order summaries, and thank you emails, and include a checkbox or opt-in form for customers to opt in for promotional emails.

  5. Sales and events: Create teasers for upcoming sales and events and ask for emails so customers can be reminded of these events on time. Also, include an option to opt in for other promotional emails.

To effectively manage and maintain consent, consider the following best practices:

  1. Keep your subscriptions transparent: Keep the subscription transparent by clearly defining what kind of emails the subscribers would receive, how often they would receive them, how they can be stopped, etc.

  2. Enable double-opt-in for added security: To prevent accidental newsletter subscriptions, consider activating a double-opt-in feature for new subscribers on your website. This involves emailing users after sign-up, prompting them to confirm their subscription.

  3. Provide complete information: Offer clear and concise information to users about data handling practices, helping them make informed decisions regarding their consent.

  4. Clean your list regularly: Remove inactive subscribers periodically to improve engagement rates and deliverability, as an engaged list is more valuable than a bloated one.

  5. Grant access to an email preferences center: A dedicated interface allows subscribers to control their email experience. It provides customization options for content type, frequency, and topics of interest. This tool empowers users to manage their consent explicitly, aligning with data protection regulations.


Obtaining explicit consent from subscribers is no longer just a legal obligation. It’s a fundamental requirement for building trust, fostering long-lasting relationships, and ensuring the success of campaigns. Prioritizing consent to comply with regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR and respecting your audience's preferences is important.

Implementing best practices like setting clear expectations, delivering relevant content, and regularly cleaning your list can help prevent subscriber fatigue and maintain high engagement rates. An engaged and loyal subscriber base is far more important than a bloated list of disinterested recipients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Implied consent may be assumed based on a pre-existing relationship, while explicit consent is obtained through clear and direct actions by individuals, such as opting in through a form or confirming their subscription. Explicit consent is generally considered more robust and compliant.

To comply with regulations, ensure that your consent practices are transparent, include clear opt-in mechanisms, and provide recipients with the option to unsubscribe easily. Familiarize yourself with specific requirements outlined in regulations like GDPR and CAN-SPAM to ensure full compliance.

A comprehensive email consent policy should outline how consent is obtained, the purposes for which the information will be used, and the methods for recipients to update or withdraw their consent. It should also address data security and provide contact information for inquiries.

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