Making the most of your unsubscribes

Having unsubscribe rates go up is not the end of the email world. It’s just an opportunity to act

By Marta Sloma, Senior Planner at Zeta Global,

May 16, 2017

Email marketers watch unsubscribe rates as closely as open or click through rates, breathing a sigh of relief when the number of opt outs holds steady or goes down, panicking when the numbers stack up. While lowering your unsubscribe rates is a reason to pat yourself on the back, having it go up is not the end of the email world. It’s just an opportunity to act.

Analyse the past, action the present, affect the future

There is a reason for every unsubscribe. And while you can’t go back to your historical records and ask people why they opted-out, you can still learn from them:
  • Take a look at who unsubscribed – are there commonalities you can find that would speak to ‘unsubscriber profile’?
  • Investigate when they unsubscribed – can you pinpoint a timeframe between signing up and unsubscribing?
  • Examine previous engagement – were they opening / clicking through or were they never really engaged with the email programme?
  • Consider purchase behaviour – were they buyers who disengaged, were they never buying, or perhaps they continue buying after unsubscribing?

Collect all the information you can glean from the past unsubscribes, and let it help you with current ones. Based on the information you collect, you can make some assumptions as for the reasons to unsubscribe. To further investigate and confirm your guesses, action the present:
  • Put together a short unsubscribe survey, that will ask some basic questions and provide you with customers’ reasons to unsubscribe;
  • With statistically significant number of answers, analyse the stated reasons and consider changes that will make an impact (whether it’s something simple like reducing number of mailings when you find out majority of customers state they receive too many emails, or a more involved approach requiring you to revisit segmentation and targeting, as well as messaging when customers tell you the comms they receive are irrelevant);

All the analysis of past unsubscribes and fact-finding actions you take in the present should lead to a better understanding of your customers, and that in turn should lead to an improved email programme moving forward. Once you have the answers, both data-based and customer-provided, there is only one thing to do – affect the future:
  • Continue to learn from unsubscribes and to optimise the process to help you make changes that will reduce your unsubscribe rates;
  • Consider incorporating opt-down allowing customers to decide how often they receive emails and / or what topics these emails cover;
  • Use what you know about your customers, combining the information provided during sign up with transactional data, browsing patters and interactions with different channels, to be able to talk to the right customers at the right time on the right device and through the right channel, focusing on the right message.

Just remember, no matter if you make one small change or incorporate numerous ideas, while you will reduce the number of unsubscribes, you will not stop them completely. There will always be customers who unsubscribe even from the most personalised, smartly targeted, well segmented email programme. But at the end of the day that is not a bad thing, because unsubscribing today won’t have a negative impact on engagement metrics tomorrow; unsubscribing means not marking as ‘spam’; unsubscribing helps you keep a clean and current database, so every upcoming email gets even better in terms of targeting the right people.



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