Consumers Aren't Dumb

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Return Path recently surveyed more than 2,000 consumers to get information on e-mail habits. One finding was that 37 percent report using the "This is spam" button to unsubscribe from e-mails they previously asked for.

Many marketers wonder why. Are consumers stupid? No. The truth is that consumers don't always trust the unsubscribe link. We asked respondents whether they trusted this link, and if not, why not. Nearly 31 percent don't trust unsubscribe links. This mistrust can wreak havoc on deliverability.

The written responses to this question shed light on what consumers think about e-mail. Many people indicated that they used unsubscribe links conditionally. If they trust the sender, they trust the unsubscribe link. Other respondents explained the use of the "This is spam" button on e-mails they know they asked for: They don't believe the unsubscribe link will work, or that it won't work quickly enough. The spam button is more efficient.

So it's good news that Microsoft soon will include a trusted unsubscribe button for senders who maintain a good reputation. However, plenty of ISPs and receivers won't implement unsubscribe buttons. And it's too early to tell how consumers will react to them. We suggest these best practices to avoid complaints from understandably mistrustful consumers:

• Tricks are for kids: By making your opt in clear and obvious, you increase trust in the unsubscribe link.

• To your brand be true: Ensure that every e-mail is immediately obvious as coming from a trusted, reputable company. Lack of recognition leads to confusion and mistrust.

• No means no: Sending e-mails after your consumers unsubscribe leads them to assume your unsubscribe link doesn't work. The spam button works every time.

• Offer an easy escape route: One-click unsubscribes are best. Don't make subscribers log in or give other information to get off the list.

• Offer multiple escape routes: Let subscribers opt out on your Web site. Many consumers fear clicking on e-mail links because of phishing.

Most marketers are beginning to understand the importance of reputation as it pertains to ISPs and other e-mail receivers. But your reputation with consumers is equally important. Establish trustworthy relationships and your program will reap the benefits.

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