Embrace your Email Unsubscribes: 6 Recommendations to Optimize Your Unsubscribe Process for the Holiday Season

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For 2022, Webbula is launching a series of blog posts about email deliverability topics. We have a variety of esteemed authors from the email industry lined up to participate. 

Previous Articles in the Deliverability Series
  • Subscriber Management: How to Start, Maintain, and Break Up by Elizabeth Jacobi. Read it.
  • Email Opt-Ins: It's All About Consent In the End by Matthew Vernhout. Read it here.
  • Email Authentication 101: What It Is And Why It Is Important For Brand Reputation by Yanna-Torry Aspraki. Read it here.
  • Why Blocklists Make Us Better Email Marketers by Andrew Kordek. Read it
  • IP Warming - Do It Right or Do It Twice by Amanda Jackson. Read it
    Email Deliverability and Subject Lines by Dela Quist. Read it
  • Email List Cleaning: 6 Tips For Mastering a Clean, Active Email List to Achieve High Deliverability by Jack Wrigley. Read it

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While it seems still far away, the holiday season will be upon us sooner than later. Preparations are already running on every side of the ecosystem. Marketing plans are created and Email Service Providers (ESP) as well as Mailbox Providers (MBP) are getting ready for the amount of mail. 

During this time recipients are receiving a lot of emails as businesses are trying to reach large revenue goals. One of the common challenges during the holiday period is list churn. A few reasons for list churn are:

Recipients change their email addresses, 

    • People unsubscribe for various reasonsInterests change over time and something you subscribed to five years ago is something you are no longer interested in. 
    • Some people just signed up to get a welcome reward, others might have found a better offerSome might not have received what they were expecting
    • They feel as if they're  too many emails. 
    • Someone reported messages as spam
      Ultimately, there are a lot of reasons why recipients unsubscribe. With the sheer amount of marketing emails in people’s inboxes, respecting unsubscribes is more important than ever.

Embrace your Unsubscribers

Yes, you read that right. Embrace Unsubscribes.

As I said before, you won’t be able to keep everyone on your marketing list engaged, especially during the holiday season. 

If someone wants to leave they usually have two ways to go: 

  • Hit the unsubscribe button 
  • Click the “this is junk” button.

    If a recipient marks your campaign as junk this has several bad effects: 
  • There might not be a back channel letting you know,  resulting in continuing to send unwanted email. While there are so called “Feedback Loops” (FBL) for some mailbox providers, not everyone is sending these and of those which are sent, not every single “click” is being reported. Also while mail still lands in the recipient's junk mailbox and will not be seen, it will continue to drag down your KPIs.
  • This is considered a bad engagement, which will have a negative impact on your sending reputation, which might hinder your success reaching the Inbox; mail in the junk folder doesn’t drive revenue.


Trust

Over the years, there has been a common mindset among recipients to “not click on the unsubscribe link because it tells the spammer that the address is active”. While this is true for real spam, the challenge lies in overcoming this mindset. Following best practices helps building trust with the recipient. If a recipient decides to unsubscribe instead of clicking the “this is spam” button this also means that the recipient trusts your brand to handle their wish to be removed. 

What can we do to get the unsubscribe 

Besides the general trust in your brand, it’s important to have an easy opt out process. You might lose that trust instantly if the process is trying to keep them on your list instead of honoring their wishes. More often than not, a recipient wants to unsubscribe but may stop midway as it gets complicated. Given the amount of mail a recipient will get throughout the holidays, they don’t want to spend a lot of time jumping through hoops to get removed. Keep in mind that you are not just losing a newsletter recipient but also a customer. Not making the unsubscribe process easy for the recipient may result in them not wanting to engage with your brand in any capacity. 

Evaluate and design the process as if it was your personal mailbox being affected.

Here are 6 recommendations to optimize your unsubscribe process: 

  1. Make it easy to find: you don’t want a recipient to struggle to find the unsubscribe button. Don’t bury it in your footer, instead, have it stand out and be easily reachable.  
  2. Make the messaging as clear as possible: For example, “please contact our support”, “send an email to dpo@example.com” or send us a letter will get you the “junk treatment”. Using an unsubscribe link with a landing page is the easiest and quickest option. 
  3. No need for verification: Don’t make recipients sign into an account or have them enter their email address. Also, don’t send a double opt-out mail or add unnecessary hurdles. Try the “one click unsubscribes” practice. We find that it is the best approach.
  4. Think mobile-first: With many of us checking our email on smartphones, always ensure your unsubscribe process is mobile friendly. The greatest landing page won’t do you any good when it’s not usable with a mobile device.
  5.  Act immediately: The holidays are a busy time for email marketers, and we have a lot of great offers scheduled, but best practice should be to remove a person from your list immediately upon request. You lose the trust of  the recipient if you continue sending for another 2 weeks. This can ultimately damage your reputation and while this is allowed in some legislations you won’t gain any benefit from sending additional mail to someone who have expressed their wish to get no more mails
  6. Keep it simple: If you are using a preference-center style landing page, make sure the “unsubscribe from all” is present and easily reachable. It is great to offer recipients the ability to pause their subscription or have a lower frequency.

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But what if the recipient doesn’t trust me? 

We do hope that they have full trust but in case they don’t, they could trust their mailbox provider more. This is where the so-called “list-unsubscribe header” comes into play. 

This is an email header which like others are part of every email and are not visible in the content. Some mailbox providers like Gmail or Outlook as well as mail clients like Apple’s mail app use this header to create an additional unsubscribe link within their user interface. Gmail even offers this when you hit the “report spam” button. It plays an important role and Gmail only displays that link if they trust the brand enough to handle the request. 

Most ESPs have the list-unsubscribe header already implemented but it might be worth checking with your partner.

Final Thoughts 

During the holiday season we will see an influx of emails into all of our inboxes. As a result, there will be an elevated unsubscribe rate. It’s important to make sure the unsubscribe process is as easy as possible for the recipients to prevent negative engagement, which is ultimately a risk to the success of your email marketing. 

Make unsubscribing quick and painless for recipients, easily reachable and straightforward. Don’t let them jump through hoops and honor the request immediately. If a recipient is happy with the process, you might see them back on your list when the overall volume has decreased and, despite the unsubscribe, they’re more likely to still engage with your brand and become a happy customer.

 

Previous Articles in the Deliverability Series
  • Subscriber Management: How to Start, Maintain, and Break Up by Elizabeth Jacobi. Read it.
  • Email Opt-Ins: It's All About Consent In the End by Matthew Vernhout. Read it here.
  • Email Authentication 101: What It Is And Why It Is Important For Brand Reputation by Yanna-Torry Aspraki. Read it here.
  • Why Blocklists Make Us Better Email Marketers by Andrew Kordek. Read it
  • IP Warming - Do It Right or Do It Twice by Amanda Jackson. Read it
    Email Deliverability and Subject Lines by Dela Quist. Read it
  • Email List Cleaning: 6 Tips For Mastering a Clean, Active Email List to Achieve High Deliverability by Jack Wrigley. Read it

 

About the Author

Mathias

Mathias Ullrich is a guest writer for Webbula's Deliverability series. 

Mathias works for dotdigital EMEA Ltd. as Principal Deliverability Consultant and is a certified data protection specialist. Mathias has been part of the email space for the last 15 years and has been working in deliverability for over ten.

Mathias is an active member of groups like M³AAWG, eco Competence Group E-Mail and German Association of Data Protection and Data Privacy (GDD).

 

 

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