E-mail marketers are not tapping potential in unsubscribes: Lyris

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While most marketers are including unsubscribes in their promotional e-mails, many are not, according to a new study by Lyris Inc.

Lyris conducted a survey in fall 2007 asking more than 400 e-mail professionals about the unsubscribe policies they implemented throughout the year. According to the report, 96% of e-mail marketing professionals include an unsubscribe function in their promotional e-mails, in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act and with e-mail marketing best practices. Many e-mail marketers use tricks to discourage users from unsubscribing such as putting unsubscribe language in tiny font or hiding it altogether. Only 29% of those e-mail marketers interviewed said they don't use such tactics.

“Very clearly marketers are doing the bare minimum,” said Stefan Pollard, director of consulting services for Lyris, Inc. “There is a lot of opportunity to improve the e-mail communications and give the user more control over the experience and not see the unsubscribe as such a bad thing.”

According to the study, more than 80% of e-mail marketers said they make the unsubscribe process easy, with 53% of e-mail marketers letting recipients click a URL for instant removal or 29% of e-mail marketers who let recipients reply directly to the e-mail itself with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. More than 90% allow subscribers to opt out through other channels, like call centers, postal mail and e-mail.

While CAN-SPAM only requires the unsubscribe function in commercial messages, best practices recommendations go beyond that to say it should be included in all e-mail communications. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they include an unsubscribe option in welcome e-mails, 45% include it in customer service messages and 31% include it in transactional e-mails.

When asked what appears on their unsubscribe confirmation landing pages, 18% said they include a good-bye message with 6% provide a customer service phone number, 5% ask unsubscribers why they're leaving, 5% provide a simple feedback form and just 4% remind them about other messaging channels.

According to Pollard, there are several potential points of contact throughout the unsubscribe process that give marketers a chance to offer communication alternatives possibly keeping them as customers, or to gather valuable exit feedback. But many are missing those opportunities.

“Marketers are not reminding customers that there are other ways to interact with the brand during the unsubscribe process,” Pollard added. “I would suggest letting them know about RSS feeds, catalog sign up, doing an unsubscribe survey or providing feedback loops to get the most out of this communication.”

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