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Email marketers and brands must be well aware of the existence of 'report spam' buttons on email clients, and the potential risks to sender reputation if recipients press them.
Then there's the new Gmail unsubscribe feature. Though this is likely to be less harmful than the spam button, could help Google distinguish between 'good and 'bad' senders.
Despite these features, and customers' frustration with what they consider to be spam, some unsubscribe processes are just too painful.
I've been clearing out my over-cluttered inbox, and unsubscribing from a few unwanted emails.
While the majority had a one or two click process, others seem to make it as hard as possible...
What should the unsubscribe process look like?
Christopher Ratcliff covers unsubscribe best practice in more detail but here's a quick example, from Pizza Express.
This isn't necessarily perfect, but it does the job without annoying the customer.
Here's the unsubscribe link. Note it's at the top of the email. It doesn't totally leap out, but it's there and not buried in the small print at the bottom.
It leads to this page, with just one further click to unsubscribe. The comments box allows Pizza Express to gain some valuable feedback too (if people can be bothered that is).
Basically, it's a two click process, with no extra data entry or annoying steps to go through.
Design Junction's unsubscribe process is even easier, just one click:
If you want people to unsubscribe through you rather than through Gmail or reporting your emails as spam, this kind of simplicity is key.
It's a lesson that the companies shown in the following examples would do well to learn.
There seems to be a school of thought that making it more difficult to opt-out is a good thing, and will help to retain subscribers. This is a mistake, as frustrating users will just force them to unsubscribe in other ways.
Confirming email address
This is irritating, especially on a mobile. I've clicked though from the email address in question. Why should I have to confirm it?
Worse still, if you have a couple of email addresses and are not sure which one you subscribed with, you'll hit this annoying error message:
Unnecessary extra steps
In this example, from Chiquitos, it initially seems to be a two click process a la Pizza Express:
However, Chiquitos adds a totally unnecessary extra step, giving me an option to update details, which I didn't ask for or need.
No need for this. Do they think that, by making me press radio buttons to opt out I'll decide to change my mind?
To make matters worse, we have this crappy pop up message which I'm forced to interact with:
Cath Kidston merely takes my unsubscribe request into account. Maybe it'll remove me from the list, maybe not.
It's easy enough to make it clear that customers have been removed, so why be vague about it?
Lots of small white text on a black background makes this Blinkbox unsubscribe form hard to read.
Having to send an email
It's like the dark ages. Pizza Hut makes you send an email, while mentioning that it might take two weeks for your opt-out to go through.
Worse still, there's no acknowledgement, and the send to address looks very spammy, which may give people cause for concern.
Too much work to do
Bookatable does provide an option to unsubscribe from all of its emails, but this is perhaps the least visible element on the page, and one which will be below the fold for many people.
So this means you have to opt out of four different types of emails.
If a recipient has sought out and chosen to click the unsubscribe button in the email, it's a pretty clear indication that they want to opt out.
While I think providing customers with the option of leaving feedback is a great idea, this shouldn't be compulsory, nor should it make the process more time consuming.
In the examples here, the companies in question are placing too many barriers in front of users, perhaps in the hope that making it harder will encourage more to remain on the list.
In my opinion, the harder you make the process, the more likely it is that customers will report your emails as spam.