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If a company that offers a product where the user logs in, such as a SAAS product, and they send emails with certain intentions, where is the line drawn between a transactional and a marketing email?

Some seem pretty obvious, such as

  • Buy my product - Marketing
  • Here is a coupon to buy stuff - Marketing
  • Password Reset Email - Transactional
  • Policy or Terms have been updated - Transactional
  • You have been given administrative rights - Transactional
  • Your coworker has invited you to this platform - Transactional

But there are other reasons for sending an email that are not as clear, such as:

  1. You have not logged in for a few days, come back
  2. Check out this new feature (encouraging people to use the platform)
  3. Welcome to the system, here is how to get started
  4. Here is a report of your activity on our platform for the last month
  5. You are halfway through your goal, keep going!

Where would these other kinds of emails fall under, transactional or marketing?

  • Even "here's a coupon to buy stuff" can be transactional, e.g. when that coupon is a reward for 12 months membership or a similar contractual obligation on your side. That's GDPR ground B, "necessary for the performance of a contract". – MSalters Feb 6 at 23:55
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  • You have not logged in for a few days, come back
    • Marketing in the way it is formulated. Transactional only if it is mandatory for the contract, such as a reminder that the service is due to end.
  • Check out this new feature (encouraging people to use the platform)
    • Marketing.
  • Welcome to the system, here is how to get started
    • Transactional, it is like giving the Handbook to a device.
  • Here is a report of your activity on our platform for the last month
    • Transactional, possibly mandatory for some services anyway (banking)
  • You are halfway through your goal, keep going!
    • Marketing in most cases (if goal is set by the company), but can be transactional if it is a service for tracking your own progress.

The Rule of thumb is: Whenever you want the user to do something, it's most likely marketing. Whenever you inform them of something that has happened or will soon, it's most likely transactional.

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    "You're halfway to your goal" could be transactional, if the service is some kind of tracking service. E.g. if you're got a sports watch and you set yourself a goal to run 100 km that month, the email that you ran 50 km is likely transactional. The relevant part is your goal, not that of the company. – MSalters Feb 6 at 23:49
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where is the line drawn between a transactional and a marketing email? Where would these other kinds of emails fall under, transactional or marketing?

Only item 2 is palpably about marketing. All other items require more context, since one or more of them might be necessary for the performance of a contract between the user and the company, and consequently be of transactional nature. See GDPR, Article 6.1(b).

For instance, items 1 or 5 might require user action without which the purpose of the contract would be stalled or frustrated.

Item 3 could be transactional if it is essential for customer's usage of a product he has requested or even paid.

Likewise, item 4 might be necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the controller is subect. See GDPR Article 6.1(c). As an example, legislation regarding financial services might require the company to issue activity reports periodically.

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