Gmail, Yahoo Make Unsubscribing Smarter

Posted by Tom Sather on

Consumers who overindulged in online shopping this year may have some reprieve from the upcoming inbox overload. Both Yahoo and Google recently launched smart unsubscribe processes that make it easier for people to unsubscribe from unwanted emails.

How Gmail Does It

According to AndroidPolice, Google is rolling out a smart unsubscribe feature for Inbox by Gmail users, asking if they want to unsubscribe from promotional emails that they haven’t opened in 30 days or more. Naturally, this will have some impact on marketers’ email lists, but it’s likely the impact will be minimal for now, for the following reasons:

  • The smart unsubscribe feature is currently only available in the Inbox by Gmail Android app or via Inbox by Gmail webmail. The Inbox by Gmail app in iOS will not have the feature until a future (undisclosed) date.
  • Classic Gmail, where the majority of Gmail users check and read email, is not affected. There is no indication of if and when classic Gmail will add this feature.

How Yahoo Does It

Yahoo quietly rolled out a similar feature which works slightly differently. After deleting emails multiple times from a sender, Yahoo will ask the user if they’d like to unsubscribe or filter and archive future emails from that sender.


Yahoo appears to rely on the list-unsubscribe header (RFC 2369) for this process and will honor one-click unsubscribe links, send unsubscribe requests via mailto, or redirect users to the unsubscribe page.

The Impact to Marketers

While these moves by Google and Yahoo are positive for consumers, businesses may wonder if this is a negative development for email marketing. While email marketing programs may see an effect from these changes, it’s likely to be minimal—for now.

As I mentioned above, Google is currently rolling out this feature only to users of Inbox by Gmail, an alternative email client for Gmail. While Google hasn’t disclosed the number of active users, I would assume it’s a fraction of Gmail classic users. In addition, the feature is currently only available for Android app users, as well as webmail. According to our latest research on mobile opens, Android accounts for just 19 percent of mobile opens.So if, for example, 20 percent of mobile Gmail users adopted Inbox by Gmail, only 4 percent would even see this feature.

Marketers may also wonder how this will impact inbox placement rates, and whether they need to adjust their re-engagement strategy. Our thoughts haven’t changed when it comes to re-engagement strategies: every marketer should have one in place. And if you have a process that is currently working for you, it’s unlikely you’ll need to adjust. Marketers are not penalized for unsubscribes, and may actually see inbox placement rates improve as people unsubscribe versus the alternative of marking emails as spam or deleting messages without reading them.

While marketers may see an small increase an unsubscribes, the end result is a cleaner list, happier subscribers, and likely better deliverability. The best strategy is to meet your subscribers’ expectations and to continue sending emails they want and love.

 


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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