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If recipients decide that they want to unsubscribe from your emails, it's best to make it as easy as possible as the alternative is having hit the spam button, which can of course be harmful for your sender reputation.

I've been taking a look at some best and worst practice examples from UK retailers...

M&S

No marks for M&S as far as making the unsubscribe link clear to recipients; the link is buried at the bottom of the email, the text is the smallest of any in the entire email, while the font colour is grey, making it even harder to read. This all gives the impression that M&S is doing its best to hide the link, but making it this hard to find is a mistake. If people want to opt out, let them.

M&S unsubscribe link

It gets better after clicking on the link, and the unsubscribe page itself is a very good example of best practice: 

M&S unsubscribe page

It does allow users to unsubscribe straight away if they want to, which is good, but it also provides a way to get some useful feedback from users, without making them work too hard.

Users can select one of three options to say why they are opting out, such as that fact the emails have been too frequent, not relevant, or that they hadn't even signed up. A space is also provided for users to explain in more detail if they wish. If used properly this information should inform the retailer's future email marketing efforts.

Another option is provided which allows users to still receive emails but to receive them less often. An excellent idea.

Virgin Wines

While the link is relatively easy to find in Virgin Wines' emails, but I'm not impressed with the rest of the process.

Firstly, the wording seems a little vague to me:

"We hope you enjoy learning about our latest promotions and offers. But, if you'd rather not receive non-service related emails from Virgin Wines, simply drop us a line at unsubscribe@virginwines.com"

Why specify 'non-service related emails'? Perhaps I want to unsubscribe from all emails, service related or not. I have been a customer in the past, but that doesn't mean I have to receive emails forever.

Virgin Wines unsubscribe link

Also, clicking on the link brings up a new window for me to send an email to that address asking to unsubscribe. Am I supposed to type something in here to be unsubscribed? If so, what am I supposed to say? I want a clear one or two click process and an immediate confirmation of my removal from the list, not this.

Borders

The link isn't so clear, but it is at least where you would expect to find it and not buried amongst the small print, as is often the case. However, after clicking the link I'm taken to this page which tells me that there has been an authentication error and that I can only unsubscribe by clicking the relevant link from the email.

Borders unsubcribing

I then have to click the link for unsubscribe problems and enter my email address to opt out. This process is asking customers to do too much work to unsubscribe

Borders unsubscribe process

Confused.com

Confused.com has a clearer link to unsubscribe than some of the other emails I've looked at, but makes the mistake of asking users to enter their password when they arrive at the site. 

Confused.com unsubscribe enter password

Customers who no longer wish to receive emails may well have forgotten their passwords, so will be forced to get a password reset email just to unsubscribe. Many will not bother and click on the spam button to block emails instead; it's much easier after all.

It also makes it harder for customers to unsubscribe by making them uncheck boxes for the emails they no longer wish to receive, before clicking the save button.

Some tips on letting customers unsubscribe without hassle:

Make it a one or two step process - In this unsubscribe worst practice example from Real, opting out of emails was torture, but most processes I have looked at from UK retailers aren't too difficult, Ideally, clicking the link to opt out in the email should lead customers to a page where they can confirm this with another click, which if fine.

Jigsaw made it even easier by unsubscribing as soon as I clicked the link in the email, but another confirmation step is fine. Things to avoid are passwords, making customers enter their email address, and making customers uncheck boxes to opt out.

Make the link clear - If customers really want to unsubscribe, there is little point in trying to hide the link by burying it in the small print, so make the link text stand out and put it in a font size that people can read without a magnifying glass.

Consider placing the unsubscribe link in a more prominent position - at the bottom is fine for most emails, but if you find that you have problems with spam complaints, it may be wiser to place it at the top of the page. After all, the report spam button is normally easy to find.

Confirm immediately - Let customers know that their request to unsubscribe has been successful instantly, to avoid leaving any doubt in their minds. I'm still waiting for confirmation from Virgin Wines, a day after sending them an email.

Give customers options to remain on the list - The example above from M&S is a good way to do this. Customers may just want to receive fewer emails, or to unsubscribe from certain categories, so providing this option may stop them opting out altogether. M&S does this well, giving email recipients the option of changing preferences, or simply opting out straight away.

Try and get some feedback - Any information that customers can provide about why they unsubscribed can be very useful to avoid too many repetitions in future, so providing a quick feedback form or a box for customers to leave comments is worthwhile, though this should be optional.

Graham Charlton

Published 19 March, 2009 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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Sean Duffy

If you have ever had the displeasure of appearing on a Proctor & Gamble list, receiving info on everything from Gillette shavers through to Pringles you will know how annoying it is when to opt-out you have to ring a call centre number!

For such a large brand you would think they would not undertake such illegal, immoral activities. I have not seen anything else quite like it and they should be ashamed of this practice.

over 7 years ago

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Nikhil Vijayan

Finally, someone actually addressed this issue..I had a blog entry about this a while ago.

I don't really see the point in hiding the unsubscribe link, or having to go through to another page to fill your password and get an unsubscribe confirmation..I don't think there are any hacker bandits going around unsubscribing people off their newsletter lists!

over 7 years ago

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Tom Beverley

I'm the Customer Director at Confused.com. The points raised here about the Confused.com unsubscribe process are very valid. In fact, we are currently working to remove the password page from the process. Unfortunately it's not as simple as it sounds but should be done in a couple of weeks.

We also looking to redesign our preference page to be much simpler and include an M&S style feedback form. All this should make the process smoother and easier for customers.

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Tom, thanks for responding, good to hear that you're introducing these improvements.

over 7 years ago

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Wendy Morris

A warning, I have just found out that Insurance companies can pick up your details from the website and ring you up and hassle you to buy insurance. the whole rationale for using this kind of website for most people is so you can look for yourself without having to listen to sales spiel. We are registered with the telephone preference service and were sure we had not opted to recieve sales calls from the webiste, otherwise we would not have gone near it! 

If the option is there to unsubscribe , what happens to your personal information?

over 7 years ago

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Hema

I have a question on how far the unsubscribe takes the customer. If they unsubscribe from a monthly newsletter does that mean they no longer want to receive any emails, or can we word it so they only stop receiving our newsletter but we can still send them other types of emails

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hema - I think that most people would mean all emails when they ask to unsubscribe.

You could of course ask when they are unsubscribing if they would still like to get the newsletter, using a similar opt-out form to Marks & Spencer's.

over 7 years ago

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Gaz Ber

Unsubscribing from confused.com is a nightmare.

I don't know the password to unsubscribe. To reset the password you are asked too much information and i always get something wrong. Cant get it reset!

I am stuck!

Why is it so difficult to unsubscribe from simple email system?

This is torture!

over 5 years ago

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