Retailers in the US and UK are getting better at email marketing, though there is still room for improvement, according to a new survey.

Silverpop’s 2007 Retail Email Marketing Study (PDF) looks at opt-in practices, email content and the unsubscribe procedures of 150 major retailers in the UK and North America.

The research also studied:

Opt-in practices

  • 80% of retailers now offer email sign-ups on their homepages, up from 75% two years ago, though 35% of UK retailers hide registration information within the website, meaning they miss out on some registrations.  
  • Companies are giving subscribers more choice than they did two years ago. Twenty seven percent offered multiple subscription choices, compared to 22% in 2005.
  • Retailers are also making things easier by requiring less personal info to sign up for emails. Sixty one percent requested just an email address, compared with 37% in the last study two years ago.

Content and creative

  • Email styles are more varied than in 2005 – 30% used a letter/newsletter format, 26% used the postcard style, while 19% featured a single pane of text and art at the top with rows or columns beneath.
  • Only 45% of UK firms are including browser links in promotional emails.

Unsubscribing

  • 73% of companies send customers who want to opt out to an online form, though more (59%) are now making it easier with pre-populated forms.
  • One third of unsubscribe links led to options for customers to change their email preferences, compared with 12% in 2005. 

However, unsubscribes are now taking longer, as only seven out of ten companies provided instant unsubscribe options. Allowing customers to unsubscribe easily is important, and should ideally be a one or two click process.

Making customers work too hard to opt out will have many reporting your emails as spam, which can have a negative effect with ISPs.

Related stories:

How often should you email your customers?

Related research:

Email Marketing – Roundtable Briefing, May 2007