Making email unsubscribers change their minds

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According to the Sign-Up.To 2014 UK Email Marketing Benchmark Report, 14.25 per cent of marketing emails result in click-through. There’s no doubt that e-newsletters can be an effective way to increase traffic to your site and improve sales figures.

Retain a large mailing list of satisfied subscribers, and you’ll foster loyal customers who spend more with your business. The easiest way to achieve this is by delivering quality, exclusive content to inboxes at an appropriate rate.

ExactTarget’s The Social Break-Up study showed that 54 per cent of users unsubscribe from permission emails if they receive them too often, while 49 per cent will opt out because of stale and repetitive content.

Working on your unsubscribe strategy is similarly important if you want to prevent the size of your distribution list from shrinking.

That’s because the ExactTarget statistics also revealed that 47 per cent of users opt out of marketing emails simply to free up some space in their inbox, and it’s likely that others do so accidentally or impulsively. These customers can be encouraged to remain on board with a few clever tactics.

Make it easy to unsubscribe

Return Path’s Email Intelligence Report Q3 2012 shows that an incredible 70 per cent of spam reports are false: swathes of people use junk filters as a method for avoiding unwanted marketing emails—you need to deter this activity.

If users report your emails as spam, it can harm your sender reputation, increasing the chance that ISPs (internet service providers) will redirect your messages to spam folders. You therefore need to go against your instincts and make it easy to unsubscribe.

That means incorporating a prominent ‘Unsubscribe’ link, and being extremely clear that an opt-out request has been accepted. Take the opportunity to send a ‘You have been unsubscribed’ email, incorporating a ‘Resubscribe’ link so that users can easily go back on their decision.

Capitalise on regret aversion

Regret isn’t a nice feeling, and the desire to avert it can motivate many of our actions. Suggesting that someone might rue the day they clicked ‘Unsubscribe’ could therefore be an effective technique for keeping them on your list of recipients.

On the unsubscribe page, offer teasers of upcoming newsletters. Letting users know that they might miss out on an early-bird sale or fail to keep up with the latest fashion trends if they go ahead could sway their decision.

Domino’s Pizza has got this down to a T. Users about to opt out are greeted with: “Are you sure you want to leave us? …we’d hate to see you miss out on your regular updates including all the latest taste sensations and outstanding online deals from Domino’s.”

The use of a direct question addressed straight to ‘you’ makes the reader stop and think about their decision, with the ‘are you sure’ phrase instilling some doubt. ‘We’d hate to see you’ gives the impression that the brand cares, and the sentence finishes with a few examples of desirable things you could forgo by opting out.

The concept of regret aversion ties in closely with herding: no one wants to be the person who missed out. If you have an impressive number of social media followers or email subscribers, shout about it! Humans love to conform, and hate to feel like they’re out of the loop.

Rachel, we’re sorry you didn’t enjoy our newsletter

Much in the same way you can’t decline your boring-yet-enthusiastic friend’s coffee invite, it’s difficult to say goodbye to a brand that seems to value your participation. Showing individuals you care that they are unsubscribing and being painfully friendly could encourage them to think twice.

ZoomInfo makes its unsubscribers feel guilty by aligning the experience with that of a difficult break-up: “You’re leaving me? No matter how many times this happens it never gets easier. I thought we were in it for the long haul. I guess everything comes to an end someday, I just never thought it would be so soon.”

You can also make customers feel attached to your brand—and thus less willing to part ways—by addressing them personally. Psychological studies show that using someone’s name can help you influence and develop a relationship with them, and the Experian 2013 Email Market Study revealed that personalised emails generate six-times higher translation rates.

Being humble and apologetic can also invoke guilt—or pity. Groupon’s old unsubscribe page was famously repentant for disappointing you with the email service. Upon clicking through, you were offered the chance to punish Derrick, “the guy that thought you’d enjoy receiving the Daily Groupon email”. Clicking ‘Punish Derrick’ would play a video showing him be admonished by his boss.

Even if it didn’t cause the viewer to resubscribe, it almost certainly left them with a positive image of the brand. However, I do suspect that the tactic backfired: since the video went viral, I imagine many people opted out of Groupon communications in order to watch it.

Provide unsubscribers with options

You don’t want to frustrate your user, but you shouldn’t go so far as to make the unsubscribe link fully automatic. Make sure that you get confirmation that this was the action they intended, and request—but don’t require—that they leave some feedback on their decision: finding out why people leave allows you to make improvements.

Also, wherever possible, provide options that could solve the user’s issue with your service. Upworthy presents the following to unsubscribers: “I’ll stick around, but I want to change the frequency to…Weekly only!” This helps remedy the most common grudge users have: an overabundance of messages.

You should also promote alternative forms of engagement with your brand, as these potential customers may be willing to hear you out through a different platform. TED employs this tactic effectively in its ‘goodbye’ email, taking the last opportunity to squeeze positivity out of an unsubscription. The opt-out confirmation message promotes the brand’s social media channels, makes it clear that your preferences have been saved, and provides a convenient way to resubscribe. It’s also friendly enough to make you feel a pang of guilt, with the ever-so-humble “Thanks for giving it a try!”—it’s surely an effective combination.

Get constant feedback on your e-newsletters

Tactics like those above keep customers on your mailing list for longer, and encourage them to give you another chance.

However, you don’t get nine lives. Customers frustrated or underwhelmed by your emails who persevere because of your effective unsubscribe strategy will eventually opt if you don’t address their issues. Unless your goal is to simply eke out a few more click-throughs, you need to treat your unsubscribe strategy like a safety net and use your second chance to impress.

For the best results, as well as asking unsubscribers to leave comments, request input from everyone who receives your newsletter—without being imposing. Create a webpage or email address that customers can submit their feedback to, or integrate small surveys into the newsletter to gauge opinion.

You should also exploit analytics in order to determine which email strategies are most successful. Use email-exclusive discount codes so you can monitor their uptake, and consult newsletter click-through statistics to see which topics generate most interest. Remember:

  • Make it easy to unsubscribe, but prevent accidental opt-outs by requiring confirmation after click-through
  • Harness regret aversion and guilt in order to persuade customers to stay on board
  • Prove to customers you were worth a second chance by using feedback and analytics to improve your output
  • Produce something positive out of unsubscribe requests by taking the opportunity to promote alternative engagement channels

If you need any more advice on email marketing, our conversion rate optimisation team can help. Contact us today.


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