Undercover Unsubscribing

That’s it – I’m unsubscribing from all the marketing emails I receive.

I’m going undercover for three months, removing all my marketing email subscriptions and tracking various data points in the opt-out experience to unearth the sometimes hazy business of the unsubscribe process for an upcoming Return Path email study.

I’m investigating how effective brands are in their response to me opting-out of receiving their emails. I’ll also look into whether or not brands are providing their subscribers with a clear unsubscribe option. Failure to do so may result in subscribers preferring to complain to their ISP, if that’s the easier option. This could lead to all of the brand’s marketing messages getting diverted to the junk/spam folder or being blocked all together.

When it comes to the unsubscribe experience, I imagine many marketers will assume because I’ve unsubscribed from an email I’m not interested in their brand anymore. In fact, this ‘rejection’ could be for many reasons, and is actually a hugely cost-effective marketing opportunity.

For example, an opt-out is a chance for marketers to find out why unsubscribing customers are not interested in their emails by including a quick three-question survey on the opt-out landing page. Marketers can also encourage users to stay current with their brand in other ways by using the opt-out landing page to promote their social media pages or blogs, enabling users to discover what else the brand has to offer through alternate channels.

Users may only want specific information such as special offers or new products, or may want to follow the brand on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter instead of email. Of course, if a high frequency is the reason the subscriber is choosing to opt-out, marketers can also use the opt-out process to encourage subscribers to decrease their frequency or visit the preference centre to change their settings, rather than opt-out altogether.

With three months of unsubscribing ahead it looks like I’m going to have to start paying full price for meals at Pizza Express again. However, as an advocate of email as an effective direct marketing channel, I’ll of course start re-subscribing to the brands I want to hear from once my sleuthing (and the Return Path unsubscribe study) is done. I suppose I can think of it as a summer cleaning for my overflowing inbox.

I’ll be looking out for all of these best practices and more in my research. Return Path’s unsubscribe study will be released by the end of this year. I’ll make a point to be very careful about the brands I choose to re-subscribe to in the hopes that I can manage the deluge of email sure to come my way during the Christmas season. In that sense, the more the merrier just doesn’t apply.

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