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Writing about e-commerce, I end up signing up for lots of accounts and newsletters on websites, most of which I'm not necessarily interested in. 

Still, this gives me an opportunity to look at how these companies are formatting emails, how frequently they send them and, crucially, how easy it is to unsubscribe. 

If people want to unsubscribe from emails, it should be made as easy as possible, as the alternative for many recipients is the report spam option, something which can have an adverse effect on sender reputations with ISPs and therefore deliverability

Here's a good example from Fab, and some tips on best practice in this area...

Fab

Fab is a great site, and has lots of great design features, but I would question the frequency of its emails, though it may be fine for someone more engaged with the company than me. 

Take a look at my inbox (I've searched for mails from Fab): 

I've been receiving up to four a day, which may be too much for some. However, Fab does follow best practice for allowing users to unsubscribe.

For example, rather than burying the unsubscribe link in the footer, it has a prominent message at the top of the email. This makes it easier for customer to find and click, and reduces the likelihood that they will use the spam button. 

The unsubscribe landing page is excellent too. Rather than try to cling on to subscribers like a desperate lover, it has a very clear 'unsubscribe from everything' link

This means a quick two click process if people are sure they've had enough. There's no sense it making this any more difficult. 

Fab also recognises that some people may just prefer to receive fewer emails, and so it has provide further options for these subscribers: 

It also provides further preference options so subscribers can opt-out of product categories they are uninterested in. 

The examples here are from the US version of Fab. Funnily enough, the UK site just unsubscribes you straightaway without any fuss. A one click process. 

Which is best? Is it better just to make the unsubscribe process as easy as possible, or should marketers attempt to 'save' a few subscribers by offering the option of setting preferences? Answers below please...

Best practice tips for unsubscribe pages

If they want to leave, let them... 

The Fab example with the 'unsubscribe from everything' link is good practice. People can instantly see how to opt out. Don't make people jump through hoops. 

Give them options 

It may be that recipients are interested in your products and services, but they are receiving too many irrelevant recommendations, or just too many emails. 

Allowing them to change the frequency of emails, or just choose certain product categories will make communications more relevant and may prevent people from unsubscribing altogether. 

Grab some feedback if you can

If you can find out why people have chosen to unsubscribe, this could be valuable for improving future email marketing efforts.

Again, don't make them work too hard. Just a few mulitiple choice answers and a text field should do it. 

In this example, Amazon makes users click on a feedback option before they can unsubscribe from its daily deals emails. Feedback shouldn't be compulsory. 

Don't make people login to unsubscribe

This is asking for trouble. If you make them login, and in some cases, hunt around for passwords, then you are just going to frustrate users. 

For example, if I try to opt out of the 'items from your favourite sellers' emails from eBay, I have to login first. Even when I have logged in, it isn't immediately obvious what I need to do: 

Set expectations

If they are immediately unsubscribed, confirm this. However, if for whatever reason, it will take a few days, make this clear.

Otherwise, people will just become annoyed if they receive extra emails after thinking they have already opted out. 

Make them more human

You never know, a joke or two might just save a few people from unsubscribing. If nothing else, it leaves them with a more positive impression. 

It's an oldie, but Groupon's 'punish Derrick' page is a great example of this

Graham Charlton

Published 25 October, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Simon West

Simon West, Chairman at Nett Sales LLP

I know they are technically compliant, but all those "reply to this email with unsubscribe in the subject line" unsubscribes drives me nuts!

For one thing, I have five different email addresses I may have used to subscribe...

over 3 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

It's worth mentioning that companies can reduce the likelihood of unsubscribes by setting the correct level of expectation in the first place. Tell potential subscribers you won't spam them or share their precious details with anyone else on the newsletter subscribe box. Show them a sample newsletter so they can see the typical content they're signing up to. Spell out the benefits of subscribing rather than just asking for their name & address.

over 3 years ago

Ian Tester

Ian Tester, Senior Product Manager at brightsolid online publishing

Another top tip: confirm the unsubscribe by email when you have definitively processed it. But keep it factual (that doesn't mean you can't leave them with a friendly message and a link to sign up again in future).

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Ian wouldn't people be annoyed at another email after they'd asked to unsubscribe?

over 3 years ago

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Vanessa

@Ian/Graham

I believe you should be confirming and processing the opt-outs as you receive them so the unsubscribe process is near flawless.

Also, sending an email to an unsubscribed user asking them to sign up again is definitely a bad practice and probably will increase your spam complaints and cost your delivery (if you send enough of them).

over 3 years ago

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Ron Thomson

What annoys me most is the risk of unsubscribing from something I want to receive. For example I get a email every month from someone I bought from last year, Part of that package was a new additional package every month. However they have taken the opportunity to also send me one of two emails every week about things I do not want to buy.

If I go to unsubscribe I get a message saying I will be unsubscribing from ALL emails including the download notices for the packages I bought. They will not get me buying anything else from them at any time.

The other issue is when I receive a name from someone often only first name I do not immediately recognise (that could just be cos it is late at night). I go the unsubscribe button and see no further clue as to the person is or when/why I first subscribed. I end up unsubscribing from things I may want to recieve. Marketers could stop me unsubscribing if they tld me more on on their unsubscribe page.

Ro

over 3 years ago

Ian Tester

Ian Tester, Senior Product Manager at brightsolid online publishing

@Graham I follow the service message philosophy: keep it hyper-factual (don't try to sell them anything else) and friendly and they are probably going to be happy. Our users skew much older than most sites, so we feel the extra reassurance is worth it - and we've not had any complaints!

As a punter, through years of experiencing non-functional unsubscribe pages, I'd prefer the "promise" delivered by an email. As long as you feel you can live up to the promise of managing that unsubscribe correctly, forever (again, I've experienced a fair few companies that fail to keep that promise and just start mailing again later)!

over 3 years ago

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Ioana Stoian, Marketing Executive at Vesper

Hi! What about adding an Unsubscribe button in the online version of the newsletter? I have trouble finding information about this aspect of the issue. Should we give subscribers the option to opt out from the online version? Is there a chance the email will not be displayed correctly in the email client (not just images missing, but also text gone crazy), so adding the Unsubscribe button in the web version could make sense? I would add it, not sure it's mandatory there, but it would be interesting to hear your opinions too. What would your arguments be?

over 2 years ago

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