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Email unsubscriptions - how to turn a negative into a positive

Email unsubscriptions - how to turn a negative into a positive

By Charles Head, account director, Epsilon

It’s too easy to see a customer’s desire to unsubscribe from your company’s email list as a sign of failure. However, consider the broader context: what’s the point of continuing a business relationship if neither party will ultimately benefit?

There are many reasons why your product or service may no longer be relevant to a customer, but as a professional organisation it’s important to understand why and offer customers an easy opt-out mechanic – yielding a mutually beneficial outcome. This process can be easily managed through the unsubscribe feature.

A recent research project by the Email Institute highlights some key findings and offers some poignant best practice tips:

  • Make it clear and easy for people to unsubscribe. If the unsubscribe process is easy, it allows customers to opt-out hassle free, reducing frustration all round. The research shows that 56% of companies surveyed offer customers a two click process to unsubscribe from email campaigns.
  • Show the subscriber what email address will be unsubscribed. Customer circumstances may have changed, so setting out all details in no uncertain terms is more than just a matter of courtesy. It’s an opportunity for customers to reconsider, and can be the difference between losing a subscriber and retaining them.
  • Find the best unsubscribe ‘location’ for your brand. 99% of retailers put the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the page, but it’s important to experiment and test different locations to find what works best for your brand.
  • Act on the unsubscribe request quickly and let consumers know how long it will take to honour the request. 83% of retailers surveyed failed to offer a timeframe indicating when consumers could expect to be removed from mailing lists.
  • Offer a link to the privacy policy in the email. By offering this option customers will feel reassured that their information will not be shared. This alone could also be enough to stop a customer from unsubscribing.
  • Ask consumers why they are opting out. Offer a short ‘reasons why’ survey. The research shows that only 15% of companies surveyed asked their customers why they had decided to opt out of emails. The other 85% missed a huge opportunity to find out key information about the consumer, or learn how they could improve their email campaigns.
  • Offer consumers choices and a chance to change their preferences. 22% of companies surveyed gave subscribers the chance to change the frequency of their emails. By allowing consumers to reduce to the number of emails, it’s possible to retain the relationship and possibly strengthen it by keeping email contact to a minimum.
  • Show other ways consumers can keep in touch - via RSS feeds or social media links. If a customer wishes to unsubscribe from your company’s emails you must honour this. However, it’s important to ensure they know where to get more information from in future.
  • Confirm the unsubscription. 98% of retailers surveyed sent unsubscribers to a confirmation page, letting them know the process was complete. Those that didn’t left their customers feeling confused as to whether they had in fact unsubscribed.
  • Offer an alternative. Sometimes customers do not actually want to stop emails completely, it could just be that their needs have changed. Offering unsubscribers the option to change the email format (as well as their email address and mail frequency) can often be enough to keep a customer engaged, but happy.

In an age where consumers demand personalisation and choice, relevance is extremely important. There are many ways to track the overall success of an email campaign, but failure means consistently delivering information to an uninterested audience. That’s precisely why the unsubscription process is important – it aids engagement. Executed correctly, businesses have the opportunity to gain insight into consumer behaviour and retain a favourable image in the customer’s mind – and potentially encourage repeat custom at a later date

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