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Signing up to receive a retailer’s email newsletters always seems like a good idea at the time, but it’s almost inevitable that at some point the relationship will sour and you’ll be forced to search for the unsubscribe button.

And although marketers would obviously rather do everything in their power to prevent people from opting out of their email list, it’s in their best interest to make it a simple process otherwise it can harm the brand’s image and make it appear spammy.

To find out whether this is true in reality, I tried to opt-out of email newsletters from several fashion retailers.

This post follows on from posts examining the initial sign up process and how retailers handle welcome emails...

Mr Porter

Mr Porter had one of the better sign up processes that I looked at and designed an excellent welcome email, however its unsubscribe process isn’t particularly easy.

The unsubscribe option is presented as a tiny hyperlink at the very bottom of the email, and the page it links you to uses slightly skewed logic.

You’re presented with two pre-selected tick boxes and a ‘Submit’ CTA. Now having chosen to unsubscribe I assumed that clicking submit would mean I was opting out of these emails, however the user is actually required to untick the boxes in order to unsubscribe.

Mr Porter also attempts to subtly dissuade users from opting-out by reiterating the benefits of receiving its various newsletter.

In truth it’s still a relatively simple procedure, but it doesn’t seem to be the most logical opt-out process.

H&M

H&M hides its unsubscribe button at the very bottom of the email, however once you’ve selected it you need only click one more button to “Confirm unsubscription.”

Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss’s opt-out CTA is particularly difficult to spot as it’s written in a barely readable font and hidden among other information.

However once you’ve clicked on the link you are immediately unsubscribed, without the need to carry out any other steps.

Topshop

Topshop also tucks the unsubscribe link away at the bottom of the email, but it’s actually quite easy to spot compared to other retailers.

However it doesn’t immediately opt you out of receiving emails, instead Topshop requires the user to confirm which updates they wish to receive.

There are six different tick boxes to choose from, and as with Mr Porter they come prepopulated so it’s up to the user to take further action in order to unsubscribe.

The option to unsubscribe from all of its marketing messages is a tiny tick box underneath all the other email options, so the process clearly wasn’t designed with the user in mind.

River Island

River Island is another retailer that tries to persuade you to stay and requires the user to deselect tick boxes in order to unsubscribe.

But on the plus side, it is at least upfront about its process. The opt-out page reiterates the fact that the newsletter means you are “the first to see our latest arrivals and must-have looks,” but River Island then accepts that if it hasn’t “convinced you to stay” then you just need to untick the relevant boxes to unsubscribe.

It’s basically a more honest way of achieving the same goal as Topshop and Mr Porter.

New Look

New Look has the standard discreet link at the bottom of the page, but the opt-out page is actually very user-friendly.

The user has the choice between two CTAs, “Yes, I’m sure” and “I’ve changed my mind,” which keeps it nice and simple.

Office

Office has a very friendly opt-out page that tries to persuade you to stay but still makes it very easy to unsubscribe.

The copy reminds you that the newsletter is the quickest way to get the latest trends and news from the company, plus it dangles the carrot of potential treats in the future.

But if you’re still not interested then even though the company will be “sad to see you go,” there’s a big, pink CTA that allows you to easily unsubscribe.

Reiss

The CTA in Reiss’ email is to ‘Manage your email preferences or unsubscribe”, and after clicking it you’re greeted with an unnecessarily complicated message. 

The subsequent page is equally poor, although it does at least make it easy to unsubscribe.

House of Fraser

House of Fraser doesn’t try to convince you to stay, but does take the opportunity to ask why you want to opt-out of its email marketing.

There is then a single CTA, so unsubscribing is nice and simple...

Selfridges

Selfridges does a good job of hiding its unsubscribe link at the bottom of the page, but then one click and you’re immediately unsubscribed.

Threadless

After clicking on Threadless’ unsubscribe CTA you’re greeted with a rather unattractive opt-out page that doesn’t fit at all with its brand image.

It’s still easy enough to opt-out of the marketing messages, but it feels rather impersonal and it makes no effort to say thanks or goodbye.

In conclusion...

None of these retailers appear to be deliberately obstructive or try to prevent people from unsubscribing, but they do use varying tactics to try and persuade users that opting-out is a bad idea.

All of them bury the unsubscribe CTA at the bottom of the email, but that is so common now that most consumers probably know where to look for it.

In my opinion the worst way to handle the opt-out process is to allow people to unsubscribe just by clicking the CTA at the bottom of an email once.

It’s possible that people simply want to alter the type or frequency of emails they receive or that they can be persuaded to stay.

There’s no harm in asking people to confirm that they definitely want to subscribe or reminding them why they decided to sign up in the first place with a brief recap of the benefits.

Therefore I think New Look and Office manage to strike the best balance between creating a decent user-experience while also grabbing one last chance to dissuade people from unsubscribing.

Topshop and Mr Porter use the same tactic but don’t take the same care over the UX, as they put the onus on the user to untick boxes in order to finally unsubscribe.

It's also worth noting that only House of Fraser takes the time to find out why people are unsubscribing, though this is a little defeatist as it seems to accept that it has no chance of persuading users to change their mind.

Finally, it’s also important to make sure the opt-out process remains consistent with the company’s overall branding, otherwise it looks quite sloppy and impersonal.

Office, New Look and House of Fraser are probably the best examples of how to ensure the unsubscribe process is consistent with the brand image, while Reiss has made zero attempt to make the opt-out process match its branding.

David Moth

Published 7 August, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Morgan

Its important to provide content to the mailing list that makes them want to open the newsletters. If they are looking to unsubscribed than its probably already a spammy feel and companies should make it easy for them to unsubscribe.

about 3 years ago

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Mark Irving

Good article David. My biggest bug bear with the way companies deal with unsubscribers is when they say "Thank you for unsubscribing" if they finally make the decision to do so. I understand they're trying to be polite but there's better wording than that.

Also, it's good to offer people the option of following through social networks if they're feeling overloaded with email but may still be interested in what you're offering.

about 3 years ago

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Julius Minor

Email marketing in "retail" is a little bit different that affiliate marketing... What I send to my list is tips, strategies and valuable information to keep them on my list. In retail, it seems like every email is intended for me to buy something like "30% off" or "new in stock"... Some of those tactics are pretty good but unsubscribers comes with the territory.. Great Post..

about 3 years ago

Ivan Burmistrov

Ivan Burmistrov, Usability Expert at interUX Usability Engineering Studio OÜ

Disagree. The BEST way to handle the opt-out process is to allow people to unsubscribe just by clicking the CTA at the bottom of an email once -- because 99.9% of subscribers who click "Unsubscribe" want just to unsubscribe. I collect screenshots of unsubscribes too and the best in my collection is a page from ContactPortal with exactly one phrase:

"You will no longer receive any emails from us"

A company acting this way is respectworthy in customers' eyes. Those who impede unsubscribe process in every possible way, only increase customer's motivation to unsubscribe... ;θ)

about 3 years ago

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Michael Francis

Several ESPs now give the option of taking an email 'holiday' which allows users to unsubscribe for a set period of time. This could be relevant to users who are not currently looking for a particular product but will be again in the future.

Another reason users unsubscribe may be because of the high frequency of emails fashion retailers distribute and those listed above may benefit from offering users a reduced frequency option at the unsubscribe phase.

about 3 years ago

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