The start of the New Year always sees a raft of unsubscribes terrorize email marketers around the globe, as users attempt to clear the slate for the year ahead.

But what kinds of emails avoid the annual cull? 

Email app ‘’ recently published a revealing list of popular unsubscribes from 2013. Let’s see which emails are worth having and who’s just spamming...

Before we get started, a bit of background. If you’re anything like me, then your inbox is a swollen mass of festering marketing emails from voucher sites, social apps and blog logins that you’ve long since forgotten ever using. 

Over the past year I managed to rack up over 20,000 of these messages, most of which I’ll never look at, and it seems I’m not alone.

If you want the super-quick solution, just add a filter search for the word ‘Unsubscribe’ to your email and hit the ‘bypass inbox’ setting, or if you’re a Gmail user, add these to a new tab and voila – mush-free inbox (Incidentally, Gmail tabs have actually made me pay more attention to promotional emails in the recent past, contrary to popular opinion). 

With that said, there are more elegant and controllable solutions available, and I’ve found to be one of the more useful ones.

Simply log in, and mass unsubscribe or hit ‘add to roll-up’. Emails you tag this way then arrive in a daily digest email, rather than all separately. 

So which emails are being ditched en masse? Here’s the top ten: 

Most Unsubscribed:

  1. 1800 Flowers: 52.50% unsubscribe rate.
  2. Ticketweb: 47.50%.
  3. Pro Flowers: 45.10%.
  4. Expedia: 45.00%.
  5. 44.70%.
  6. Eventful: 44.20%.
  7. Oriental Trading: 43.60%.
  8. 42.10%.
  9. 1800 Contacts: 42.00%.
  10. Party City: 41.60%.

Looking at this list, it’s easy to see a pattern emerging.

A lot of these are services that are used for specific, sporadic occasions. On occasion my own romantic urges get the best of me and a bunch of roses is strategically deployed, but it’s highly unlikely that I’ll use this service on a regular basis, so while I might well be shunted into action by a mother’s day email, it’s still a tough sell.

This is also the case for sites like Expedia; for most users, flights and breaks aren’t a regular purchase, and while it’s always nice to take advantage of a sale, it’s tough to make this kind of messaging truly relevant and timely. 

However much we might like a transatlantic Christmas market trip, budget and planning are going to play a big part in the decision process, and once a user does purchase, it’s unlikely they’ll want to use the service again for quite a while, rendering a lot of emails useless. 

Finally towards the bottom of the list we see the ‘randoms’. Sites that you may have been attracted to via a glossy banner ad, signed up for, and then decided “nope, not for me”. 

Ultimately if you do receive a high volume of unsubscribes, there will be a point where you have to consider whether or not you're really doing email marketing right, but there are also a number of external factors to consider here. 

Most 'Rolled Up':

These are emails that users don’t want to ditch, but don’t want to read that often.

This is particularly interesting as the email marketers among us do tend to obsess (quite rightly) over their open rates, but occasionally a low open rate doesn’t equate to low engagement with a product or service.

  1. Hulu: 61.60% Rollup rate
  2. AmazonLocal Deals: 46.00%.
  3. GoDaddy: 44.40%.
  4. Codecademy: 40.50%. 
  5. Google Offers: 39.00%.
  6. Evernote: 36.40%.
  7. Microsoft: 34.90%. 
  8. 34.40%.
  9. Groupon: 32.80%.
  10. LivingSocial Deals: 32.40%.

While some of those Hulu emails may well be asking lapsed subscribers to get back on board, it’s more likely that these are regular service updates.

In these cases, users want to be in contact with the brand, they just want to do it in a tidier way, where they have more control over how and when they engage.  

Personally I subscribe to a lot of voucher/offer emails like Groupon (I’m thrifty/a skinflint), but I rarely open them all. I still like to get them though, and if the headline is right then I’ll open them up and grab a deal or two. I just won’t do it every day. 

One interesting inclusion here is Code Academy, which may indicate users who have lapsed on their new year’s resolutions but still have the vague urge to get to grips with code at some point.

Most Popular:

Finally, which emails are we keeping? 

In this list, social rules the roost.

I keep these emails partly because it’s my jobto do so, but it seems that whether we’re paid to or not we can’t live without updates from our favourite social platforms.

Whether this illustrates a a deep need to be loved or a deep paranoia that one of these emails will tell you that your shoe size has been sold to advertisers is another matter, but it’s interesting to see that, while social sites often send out more marketing emails than other sectors, we can’t bear the thought of missing them (who knows, some of us may even find them genuinely useful).

This has a lot to do with relevance, and with many workplaces still limiting social media use, email is a useful way for people to stay in the loop. 

Lower down, services like Netflix and Groupon also appear, underlining the urge to stay up to date with services we use regularly, although we may not always engage directly with marketing materials. 

  1. Facebook: 70% of users are subscribed.
  2. Google+: 66.9%.
  3. Twitter: 64.4%.
  4. LinkedIn: 62.1%.
  5. YouTube: 48.4%.
  6. Amazon: 43.1%.
  7. Pinterest: 39%.
  8. Apple: 35.9%.
  9. Groupon: 30.8%.
  10. Netflix: 29.6%.

Overall this offers an interesting peek into consumer psychology. If your emails aren’t getting opened or you have a high number of unsubscribes, it doesn’t necessarily equate to negative sentiment, but there is a possibility that the service may not be consistently relevant, or if it is then users are happy to get on with using it and tend to ignore the marketing messages. 

Matt Owen

Published 8 January, 2014 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen is a marketing consultant based in London. He was previously Head of Social at Econsultancy and currently runs Atomise Marketing. Opinions expressed are author's own.

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Comments (6)

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Wonderful insights.

I'm interested in seeing the correlation of frequency of emails sent and unsubscribes.

I for one dislike seeing the same company email me every day.

It comes off as aggressive, and desperate.

Does anyone else share this opinion?

over 4 years ago


Linda Darby

If you research your market and send relevant emails with an appropriate subject line, spaced out to one per month you should avoid being dumped.

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Marketing Consultant at Atomise Marketing

Thanks @Don - Perry Malm wrote an interesting article on repeating the same message recently, and it seems that it actually has a positive effect on opening/response rates:

To be honest I'm in agreement with you, but It could be that some people receive so much mail that their email inbox (if unsorted) would almost need to be approached like a Twitter stream, with resends working as previous emails had been bumped to the bottom of the pile.

over 4 years ago

Darren Hepburn

Darren Hepburn, Sales Director at NewZapp Email Marketing

Great Article Matt

For me, how relevant and interesting the content is are deciding factors before frequency when it comes to unsubscribing.

Your subject line will see me unsubscribing well before frequency does.

I receive daily emails from groupon and nearly daily emails from sports direct. Do I need them? currently no, do I read them, sometimes if the subject line is strong enough. Do I delete them? yes, every-time. Do I unsubscribe? no.

They are harmless emails, not currently relevant (until the wife's birthday) but still interesting. Easy to keep or delete so I can get on with my day.

My advice outside of retail when it comes to frequency has changed over the years, I used to stick to the tried and tested once a month. Now I say break up the 1 long monthly email into shorter punchier fortnightly or weekly emails (if you've lots to say).

Your open, click and unsubscribe rates will tell you very quickly if you have the balance right or wrong.

over 4 years ago



I was just wondering if you know how the roll up will affect email open rates?

If people are opening and reading the roll-up does that mean they've read the email too or whether they'd have to open the full email for that to be registered?

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Marketing Consultant at Atomise Marketing

Hi Hannah, I'm afraid I don't know for certain, but I'd assume the email would not register as opened until the user clicked through the link within the roll-up, so certainly something to consider. My guess is that it would register as a source in analytics, similar to services like Pocket and Buffer.

over 4 years ago

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