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If people want to unsubscribe from emails, it should be made as easy as possible, as the alternative for many customers is using the report spam option, something which can have an adverse effect on sender reputations with ISPs.
I signed up for emails from some of the top UK retailers, and have been seeing how easy (or otherwise) they are making it for customers to opt out of marketing emails...
Tesco doesn't make it as easy as it could do for customers to unsubscribe from its emails. First of all, the link is right at the bottom of the email in the small print, and it also warns that you may have to wait five working days for this to take effect:
Tesco makes it even harder at this point, requiring users to sign in with their email address and password before they can opt out. Users who can't remember details and don't want to go through the process of resetting logins may decide that the report spam button is an easier way to unsubscribe:
Once this has been done, a further couple of clicks are needed to finally opt-out of emails, at least two or three more steps than is necessary.
Like Tesco, Amazon's unsubscribe link is among the small print, and doesn't exactly stand out:
However, no login is required to unsubscribe once you get to the Amazon website, and only one further step is required to complete the process, making it smoother for users:
Argos doesn't want you to unsubscribe; again the link is in the small print, and it is not even shaded in blue, making it even harder to spot. Once you go to the website, however, only one more click is required to opt out of future emails:
The link isn't too easy to spot on Next's emails, especially as in my case (in Gmail) the message was so long that it was clipped at the point where the small print begins. As with Tesco, Next adds an extra level of difficulty by requiring that you login to opt out of emails:
M&S makes the link hard to find, but its approach from this point onwards is much better. Rather than requiring logins, M&S provides options for shoppers to make emails less frequent, as well as to provide feedback about their decision to opt out.
They can simply unsubscribe straight away if they prefer. By giving users such options, it is likely that some will simply opt to receive fewer mails, while some useful information may be gleaned from the feedback given.
The link is right at the bottom here, but it's easy enough to unsubscribe once you have found it. Just one more click is required to confirm the opt out:
Like M&S, HMV provides the option for customers to either opt-out altogether or else to edit their preferences:
In contrast to the retailers I have mentioned so far, Topshop actually provides an unsubscribe link that catches the eye. It is in the admin area of the email, but has not been buried in the small print, and the blue link colour makes it stand out:
Also, just one further click is required to complete the process of unsubscribing, and immediate confirmation is provided.
Recommendations on the unsubscribe process...
Make the unsubscribe link easy to find
Most people will expect to see the unsubscribe link in the admin area at the foot of emails, but attempting to bury it in the small print is not a good idea.If users want to unsubscribe, then they are not going to change their minds just because they cannot find the link, they may well just report it as spam and unsubscribe in this way.
Place the link in a more prominent position
There is even an argument for placing it at the top of the page. After all, the report spam button is normally easy enough to find, and a clearly placed unsubscribe link will reduce the risk of spam reports.
There aren't too many examples of this, though Laura Ashley is one, placing a link to change subscription preferences right at the top of its emails:
Provide options on email content and frequency
I like the M&S approach here, as this gives retailers a chance to save unsubscribes, and the opportunity to tailor future emails more effectively by learning about desired frequencies and other preferences.
Don't insist that users sign in to opt out
If users have become uninterested in emails, they may well have also forgotten login details, and I can't see many taking the effort to retrieve these. Letting them opt out easily will avoid the need for spam reports.
Reduce the number of steps required to opt out
Make users work too hard to unsubscribe and they may well become frustrated and instead choose the spam option. It should be possible to opt out in two clicks from the email.
Confirm unsubscription immediately
Let customers know that their request to unsubscribe has been successful to avoid leaving any doubt in their minds. Making them wait for several days is not good enough.
Test your procedure
Make sure the process works by clicking the links or sending test emails, so customers don't encounter any problems or frustrations when they want to opt out.