Retailers Can Boost E-Mail Lists, Even During Opt-Out

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Online retailers that let e-mail subscribers change their preferences when they opt out of e-mails can keep some of those customers on their lists, according to a new study provided exclusively to DM News.

Permission e-mail marketing firm Silverpop, Atlanta, reviewed 175 major retailers including J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and Crate & Barrel. It found that only 12 percent gave customers the chance to change their preferences in addition to simply opting out.

Providing a "preference center," which offers other e-mail lists and asks for customer feedback, gives consumers a chance to rethink opting out, explain to marketers why they opted out or subscribe to one of the retailer's other lists.

"Maybe they don't want to get the 'Juniors Clothing' e-mail anymore, but they want the 'Women's and Children' e-mail," said Elaine O'Gorman, vice president of strategy at Silverpop. "They might be leaving your e-mail program for whatever reason, but they're your customer through multiple channels. Making it a positive experience for them could encourage them to increase their activity."

For example, L.L. Bean's opt-out program lets consumers change the frequency of e-mails they receive from the retailer.

"Providing customers control over content and frequency can address the concerns that brought recipients to the opt-out page in the first place," according to Silverpop's "Retail Phase III" study.

E-mail marketers also can survey customers about why they are opting out so they can improve campaigns in the future, Silverpop suggested. Only 3 percent of retailers asked customers why they were unsubscribing.

In positive news, Silverpop found that the majority of retailers are handling opt outs according to CAN-SPAM rules. Ninety-two percent removed e-mail addresses within the 10 business day time limit. Eleven percent offered e-mail recipients two ways to unsubscribe, while 2 percent offered three methods.

In other findings, only 20 percent of retailers offer one-click unsubscribes. Most companies -- 83 percent -- use Web-based opt outs while 17 percent use an e-mail reply opt-out program. Web-based programs are better, O'Gorman said, because marketers have more opportunity to communicate with customers and keep them on their e-mail lists.


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