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SMS Marketing Compliance: A Guide for the US Market

Navigating the Complexities of SMS Marketing Compliance in the USA

SMS marketing is a direct and effective way to reach consumers. However, the convenience and effectiveness of SMS marketing comes with a set of legal requirements to ensure consumer protection. Whether you're just starting out or looking to refine your existing strategy, understanding SMS marketing compliance in the USA is crucial.

This blog aims to cover the compliance landscape, focusing on opt-in requirements and specific legalities, like those surrounding abandoned cart messages. It is important to not that SMS legalities change, and this blog does not provide legal advice. Please make sure to do your own research and confirm you are being compliant with your SMS marketing. 

Understanding Opt-In Requirements

At the heart of SMS marketing compliance is the concept of consent. Before you can send a marketing message to a subscriber, you must have their explicit permission. This permission, or opt-in, can be obtained in various ways. 

How to Secure an Opt-In:

  • Written Consent: This can be achieved digitally through forms on your website, during checkout processes, or even in-store with a paper/digital form if you have a retail location. The key here is that the customer explicitly agrees to receive marketing messages from you.
  • Double Opt-In: While not mandatory, a double opt-in process adds an extra layer of confirmation, where after the initial opt-in, the subscriber receives a text asking them to confirm their subscription. This practice not only ensures compliance but also builds a list of engaged subscribers.
  • Clear Disclosure: At the point of opt-in, you must clearly disclose what the subscriber is signing up for. This includes the nature of the messages (promotional, transactional, etc.) and the frequency.

Legal Framework:

The legal framework guiding these practices is primarily the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act. These laws are designed to protect consumers from unsolicited messages and ensure they have the ability to opt-out at any time easily.

Special Considerations for Abandoned Cart Messages

Abandoned cart messages, where a potential customer leaves items in their online shopping cart without completing the purchase, represent a unique challenge in SMS marketing. The legal stance on these messages is nuanced since they can be considered both transactional (related to a potential purchase) and promotional.

Platforms like Attentive navigate this by ensuring clear opt-in mechanisms are in place specifically for these types of messages. For instance, a consumer might opt-in to receive cart reminders at the time of providing their phone number or email. This opt-in process must clearly state that they will receive messages related to their abandoned cart, adhering to the principles of transparency and consent.

Practical Tips for Compliance

  • Maintain Detailed Records: Keep records of opt-ins, including time stamps and the method of consent. This documentation can be invaluable if your compliance is ever questioned. This information should be collected within your SMS marketing platform/provider. 
  • Implement Easy Opt-Out Options: Make it straightforward for subscribers to opt-out of receiving messages. A simple "Reply STOP to unsubscribe" message can suffice.
  • Regularly Review Your Practices: Compliance standards can evolve, so it's crucial to stay informed and adjust your practices accordingly.
  • Use Reliable Platforms: Partner with platforms that understand the importance of compliance, such as Attentive. These platforms are designed to help you navigate the complexities of SMS marketing legally and effectively.


SMS marketing offers a powerful channel to reach and engage your audience, but it comes with a responsibility to follow compliance. By understanding and adhering to opt-in requirements and the legalities surrounding specific message types, like abandoned cart reminders, you can build a compliant and effective SMS marketing strategy.  For a comprehensive overview, we suggest continuing your reading with Twilio's guide to US SMS compliance which offers deep insight and practical advice on navigating SMS marketing laws. Remember, compliance is not just about avoiding legal pitfalls; it's about building trust with your customers as well. 

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