Downsubscribe: Why Breaking Up Can Make the Relationship With Your Customers Even Stronger

See that link at the bottom of the email? The one with the unreadably small typeface and a font colour that blends almost perfectly with the background colour? The one that provocatively dares you to “click here to unsubscribe”?

It’s not just a legal obligation, the unsubscribe or update member preference link is a ubiquitous feature found in all marketing EDM’s. Digital marketers genuinely want to empower users so that they can make informed channel preference selections.

Some customers are interested in just engaging with your brand through social media, others love to receive your email every day.  SMS marketing has been shown to be a powerful sales driver sending hoards of customers towards a bricks and mortal retailer when the right promotion hits the mobile.  But other than your most vocal of social advocates, not everyone will want to receive communications across your entire channel spectrum.

The most visible touch point of your CRM system for your customers will be the member preference center. Chances are that your preference centre is asking some fantastic and super pertinent demographic questions AND of course you are giving them a choice, by channel of either opting in or opting out. But what if you gave your customers a third option, one that wasn’t an ultimatum?

Enter: The Downsubscribe

The downsubscribe at its simplest is a mechanism found within your member preference centre that enables your customers to take a break from receiving communications for a period of time.  Your preference centre still provides all the compliance checks and measures to ensure that your customer can exercise the option to unsubscribe from your communications, but you present an alternate compelling option that is useful and extremely effective under the right circumstances.

Picture it. You’ve gone on holidays for two weeks. You come back to your desk, fire up your email client and see 14 emails from the same retailer. You quickly move through them, like a stalking ex-girlfriend each email seems more desperate that the last. You click on the unsubscribe link but instead of seeing just Opt In and Opt Out you see an option to “Take a break for two weeks”.

This member preference option can be best be seen in the member preference centre from which gives their customers the option to not receive emails for two weeks.


DealsDirect Unsubscribe Preference Center

The Secret Sauce

Adding a downsubscribe option to your preference centre can be extremely straight forward.. The easiest way to implement this in your existing member preference system or email deployment platform is to add a date field to your member list entitled “Take A Break”.

Each time someone clicks on the option to take a break , update the “Take a break” field with the current date plus two weeks.

Once this has been setup, create an exclusion list entitled “Take A Break Holiday Takers”. Automate and populate this list on a nightly basis with any customer whose Take a break is a date greater than todays date.

And there you go, one quickly implemented Downsubscribe facility.

Next Steps

The customer has now taken a break from receiving your EDM’s and will not hear from you for two weeks. When the two weeks are up you they will be back on your campaign list, however, should you start communicating in the same way and at the same rate you used to?

Think of this as a second chance a way for you to understand why they took a break in the first place? Was it that communications were too frequent, irrelevance, boredom or general email overload?

At this point in the customer lifecycle it’s important to value the other channels you have at your fingertips to market through. Your website, SMS, social media, mobile apps, affiliates or partners are all valid avenues to reach your customers.


Deals Direct email example

DealsDirect chose to develop an email to reinforce their brand position and the value they offer their customers. They understand shopping habits can change, so they developed a USP (unique selling proposition) email. The point of this email is to emphasise and remind customers of the variety of ways they can interact with DealsDirect. It provides an opportunity to reinforce the channel options available to the customer. Another option could be to incentivise them back onto your campaign list and send them through a quick survey to take out the guess work on how you should communicate with them.


The downsubscribe facility is an extremely powerful mechanic that has yielded for DealsDirect a 3% decrease in total lifetime unsubscribes.

More importantly 63% of customers who took a break for two weeks were still opted in to receive email campaigns four months later. That is, they chose to come back after taking a break.

What was that old quote about letting someone go if you love them?

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