12 Ways to Optimize the Unsubscribe Process

Imagine for a moment that you own a brick and mortar store and one of your customers comes up to you and tells you they won’t be coming in to your store any more in the future. What would you do? If the customer never bought anything from you in the past, you might not be too concerned and maybe ask them what the problem is as you walk with them to the front door and watch them leave. But what if it was a good customer? Would you say “Thank You” and watch them leave your store for the competitor down the street? Or would you do what you could to find out why they are leaving and offer to fix the problem and retain their business?

When it comes to the email unsubscribe process, many senders say “Thank You” and watch the subscriber walk out the door. The best senders take the time to encourage the subscriber to stay engaged with their email program and their brand. Not only does optimizing the unsubscribe process help retain subscribers but it can help improve your sending reputation and your inbox placement.

Do this!

  1. Keep it simple: Use one landing page with a similar design as your website with your brand name and logo. Keep the space uncluttered so the subscriber focuses in on the preference center.
  2. Display the subscriber’s email address: Prominently display the subscriber’s email address so the subscriber knows the email account from which they are unsubscribing. Many subscribers have multiple email accounts and may confuse one with the other.
  3. Direct the subscriber to a preference center: Offer the subscriber different relevancy and frequency options to encourage them to opt-down instead of opting-out.
  4. Promote the use of social networks: Encourage your subscriber to engage with you through a social network such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. If they no longer wish to receive emails, perhaps they prefer a social network to get information and offers from you.
  5. Ask a few optional questions about why the subscriber is unsubscribing: Asking for information on why they are unsubscribing can give important feedback to you in order to help improve the subscriber experience.
  6. Immediately suppress the subscriber: Any additional email sent to a subscriber after they unsubscribe is likely to cause a complaint.
  7. Provide a global unsubscribe option: Some senders have multiple email streams with different branding. Allow subscribers the option to unsubscribe from all the email streams so there are no misunderstandings from which email streams they unsubscribed.
  8. Thank them for their business and provide information to re-subscribe at a later time: No matter what you say or do, some people will unsubscribe. Take the time to thank them for their previous business and provide information on how they can receive your offers in the future.

Don’t do this!

  1. Require multiple steps: Asking a subscriber to log-in to their account or to fill out multiple pages of information is not only a bad practice but it is not in compliance with CAN-SPAM. Subscribers are already unsubscribing from your email program and requiring them to invest a lot of time in the process can leave them feeling annoyed.
  2. Ask them to enter their email address: Typing mistakes are very common when a subscriber enters their email address. If the subscriber enters the wrong address and continues to receive email from you, they will either delete your email without reading it or complain.
  3. Send an email confirming that they just unsubscribed: The subscriber knows they just unsubscribed. Any additional email sent to a subscriber after they unsubscribe is likely to cause a complaint.
  4. Send to your unsubscribe suppression list 6 months later: Sending to your suppression list is a good way to generate high complaint rates, high unknown user rates and hit spam traps. Sending to your suppression list can hurt your sending reputation and cause email to your engaged subscribers to go to the spam folder.

Optimizing your unsubscribe process may not be high on your list of priorities but it is a great way to retain subscribers, send them more relevant content and get feedback on how your email program is performing. While these guidelines won’t guarantee that a subscriber never unsubscribes from your email program, it gives you the best chance of keeping them a satisfied customer today and in the future.