Make Your Unsubscribe Process Work For You

When a consumer wants to no longer receive marketing communications from your company, both US anti-spam law (CAN-SPAM) and Canada anti-spam law (CASL) require you to provide a simple, easy-to-use unsubscribe mechanism.  No one these days questions the importance of offering an unsubscribe link to recipients of commercial emails – failing to do so is one of the easier ways to get in trouble for noncompliance.  However, I’ve seen many companies make the process too easy or unclear.  Some use a one-click unsubscribe; others don’t provide a good experience for those seeking to change their marketing preferences.

Here are some simple guidelines on good hygiene for your unsubscribe process:

  • Consider using an unsubscribe/manage preferences page, not a one-click unsubscribe. One-click unsubscribe means that as soon as a consumer clicks unsubscribe, it’s done and that consumer marketing record is off-limits.  As an alternative, consider a landing page through which a consumer can choose from “layers” of unsubscribe options (e.g., unsubscribe from emails about Product X, unsubscribe from emails from Product Division Alpha, unsubscribe from all emails from Company), and/or manage their communication preferences.  A person may initially think they want to unsubscribe, but on arriving at the page may instead realize he/she only wants to change or update their communication preferences to still receive some (but not all) communications.  The complexity of the page should be driven by the available “layered” choices (if simple, use radio buttons; if complex, use separate sections for each choice with sub-options).  You must allow the page visitor to take a final action from that page – you cannot use more than a single page plus the original click for unsubscribe requests.  (You can include a link to a separate “manage preferences” page if preferred.)
  • Design unsubscribe functionality to the principles of Simplicity, Clarity, Choice and Experience. Make it easy (but not too easy) for a consumer to opt out – you cannot make page visitors jump through hoops, and cannot ask them for additional personal information (other than email address) in order to unsubscribe.  Ensure disclosures and the unsubscribe process are clear to the reasonable consumer.  Provide alternatives to opting out (changes to frequency, content, or receipt point).  Provide a good experience and ensure they leave on good terms.
  • Clarify that they’ll still receive transactional emails. Where a page visitor can select to unsubscribe from all marketing emails, if appropriate consider language clarifying that they are unsubscribing from receiving all promotional emails, and that they’ll still receive transactional and relationship emails such as order confirmations and shipping notifications.
  • Humanize the unsubscribe notice. Use the unsubscribe process to remind the page visitor that they are working with a company, not an automated computer system.  Include your company’s branding on the unsubscribe/manage preferences page(s).
  • Ask for feedback after confirming the unsubscribe or change in preferences. Lastly, consider asking for feedback about why they are unsubscribing or changing their preferences, AFTER you have confirmed the unsubscribe or preference change.  This data can provide useful metrics to your organization to help shape your email and omni-channel marketing strategy.

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