Getting Customers to Opt Out of Opting Out
While a recent study by the Direct Marketing Association’s Email Experience Council found online retailers do a great job of honoring unsubscribe requests quickly, it also found they could improve their opt-out processes, such as by providing subscribers with alternatives to opting out or at least lowering the barriers to doing so.
The study — EEC’s first Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study — examines the opt-out practices of 94 of the largest online retailers tracked via RetailEmail.Blogspot, EEC’s blog that tracks the e-mail marketing campaigns of e-tailers.
Chad White, the author of the study and EEC’s director of retail insights, and editor-at-large and founder of RetailEmail.Blogspot, offers the following tips on how e-marketers of any kind can improve their opt-out processes.
1. Give subscribers an alternative to opting out. According to the study, “only 66 percent of retailers use their opt-out processes to engage subscribers in order to try to address the issue causing them to want to opt out — and few do more than a superficial job of it,” White says.
“According to JupiterResearch, the two main reasons that people unsubscribe is that the content is no longer relevant, and they receive e-mails too frequently,” he explains. “A number of retailers tried to address these motivations and retain these subscribers by allowing subscribers to change their newsletter topic preferences and allowing them to elect to receive e-mails less frequently — with 27 percent offering the former and 16 percent the latter during their opt-out processes.”
2. Don’t make it difficult for subscribers to opt out. White encourages making it easy to find opt-out instructions by using larger fonts, standout colors and bold type; prefilling any fields on your opt-out form; and limiting the opt-out process to two clicks maximum — preferably one click if you’re not giving subscribers an alternative to opting out.
3. Honor opt-outs as quickly as possible. “Delays in honoring opt-out requests increasingly look like failures to consumers, causing them to hit the ‘report spam’ button in frustration,” White says. “Thankfully, more than 86 percent of retailers honored opt-outs within three days. However, at the other end of the spectrum, 4 percent were in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 by either failing to honor opt-outs or taking longer than 10 business days to do so.”
White added that unsubscribe practices should be tested monthly and after any major template changes to ensure compliance and to avoid spam complaints that hurt your deliverability.
4. Give departing subscribers a chance to interact with you via other traditional and digital channels. “Just because someone is opting out of your e-mail program doesn’t mean that they no longer wish to communicate with you or shop your brand,” White says. “They may be perfectly happy communicating via another channel like direct mail, RSS feeds, forums and social networks. However, only two retailers in our study — Dell and TigerDirect — made any mention of their other channels. That’s a missed opportunity to engage customers.”