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What are a double and single opt in?

Irene Rufferty
28 April, 2021

As we already know, SMS advertising content may only be sent based on the recipient’s prior permission. Otherwise, tangible penalties may be applied to the sender. The first thing needed before you send bulk SMS online is collecting a compliant opt-in list. However, sanctions can be imposed even when we have the subscriber’s consent, e. g., in case of its incorrect registration.

The first challenge is the subscriber’s phone verification. Notionally, we can request a potential subscriber’s ID card and their contract with a telecom operator; but obviously the number of those who will do this will be utterly small. Sure, we can take the subscriber’s word, assuming they actually entered a) a phone number, b) a correct phone number, and c) namely their phone number. This method is called Single Opt-In. Contacts convert into subscribers once they submit a number ― no confirmation needed.

Double Opt-In method includes an additional step: a company asks a consumer to text “YES” or another specific keyword to a short code in order to confirm their wish to participate in a recurring messaging program.  SMS authorization may also be completed by sending a one-time password to the phone, and the subscriber has to tell it to the operator. At those points the person turns to a subscriber and receives the confirmation text with welcome and thanks. Until this moment, their opt-in status in the contact database remains “unconfirmed”. Thus, the key difference between the two processes is confirmation.

SMS opt-in process ― single vs. double

The single opt-in method is fast and simple. There is a range of ways to add a person to the text list. First ― a contact may fill out a web-signup form. Here, it’s essential to check mobile number portability status (MNP), along with conventional field validation. The numbers entered may be not phone numbers at all, non-existent numbers, they may belong to other people (erroneous or deliberate incorrect input). While MNP information helps to maintain a clean database, route messages and determine their final price properly.

Primary sign up consent may also come via an SMS message with keyword, checkbox or even via a printed form, for example, personally at a trade exhibition or at a cash desk. Those are all easy ways to quickly grow audience and sales. But the risk of getting a penalty if the phone number doesn’t belong to a subscriber who completed a sign-up form looms large. The great advantage of the SMS marketing double opt in is peace in mind: you are confident that a recipient’s phone is valid and actively used and that they look forward to hearing from you. Below are things to include into an opt-in form:

  • an overview of what you’ll send and how often; for instance, promotional announcements, or targeted appeal, or expansion of the topic desired to learn more;
  • links to the terms and conditions and privacy policy;
  • instruction on how to opt out (at least monthly);
  • it’s wise to offer an incentive: a freeby, a discount or a lead magnet.

Double opt-in is not intended for rapid boosting of the contact list size. But it is invaluable for companies who suffer from low open rates or frequent spam reports. Another reason why businesses resort to a double opt-in process is regulations of their market field or country. Some pieces of double opt in law deserve our closer look.

Is SMS double opt in mandatory?

Marketers who fail to use any opt-in can find themselves in big trouble. TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and separate regulation in California, USA, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), Federal Trade Commission’s rules, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe ― all impose steep penalties reaching up to $1,500 per message if a court decides that the company failed to comply, i. e. deliberately bypassed a single opt-in for its potential recipient.

Organizations like FCC and CTIA require “prior express written consent” for sending any recurring commercial texts. This implies the necessity of documented (including digital) evidence proving the recipient’s explicit permission for texting them. Therefore, it is very reasonable to ask them to confirm it twice. Regarding double opt in, GDPR does not state it as an obligatory requirement. Neither does TCPA. However, the point is that the burden of proof that a customer did provide consent lies heavy upon the brand. Hence, the company has to prove that by ticking a checkbox, filling a form, or texting to a short code, the person was aware that they were engaged into a messaging program. This is a digital trail ensuring that the subscriber opted-in knowingly.

Verifying the subscriber’s phone number and their consent to opt-in is simple and convenient with BSG bulk SMS provider, who takes due account of the countries’ national legislative aspects and makes every effort to ensure the customer’s legal safety. The bottom line:  although there is no strict legislation binding marketers to use double opt-in mechanism, in actual practice it is really needed to keep a high quality subscriber list, get an immediate chance of consumer interaction, and prevent legal complications.

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