Reducing Damage From The iOS 10 List-Unsubscribe

By now, you’re undoubtedly seeing the effects of Apple’s list-unsubscribe feature in the iOS10 release in September. With the major release, Apple prominently positioned an unsubscribe mechanism at the top of emails sent from bulk senders with a message that reads “This message is from a mailing list.”  

This is a continuation of a trend we’ve been seeing with mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft aiming for a user-focused inbox that keeps consumers loyal to their respective services.   

What is the impact?

Research that was shared by MediaPost earlier this month claimed that unsubscribes were up 75% among Apple users. Additionally, according to the report, “retail-specific email marketing campaigns have seen their unsubscribe rates double since September while the financial services and entertainment industries have seen their unsubscribe rates triple since the release of iOS 10.”



In a nutshell, things aren’t looking so good for brands and their unsubscribe rates.

What can you do to minimize subscriber losses?

1. It’s time to invest in data and put that data to work. I’ve stressed this point repeatedly, even as recently as a month ago. There is simply no way around it.  Without a significant investment in data to understand your customers, it is impossible to send relevant and personalized communications.  

My inbox is still very full of basic, batch-and-blast campaigns that lack any reference to my prior behaviors and interests. It’s clear that the industry is lagging behind consumer expectations, and data is the single biggest crystal ball into understanding what consumers want from you in their inbox.

2. Profiling is a powerful ally against unsubscribes.Profiling is a very powerful tool in understanding what your customers want to prevent unsubscribes, so use it. Collect explicit data through surveys and profile/preference centers. You can also “listen” to your customers by looking at the types of links they click, and using that information to populate profiles as well.

For example, if a customer repeatedly clicks on links for “Women’s Tops,” you can add women’s tops to that customer’s profile for targeting and segmentation later. By using a combination of explicit and implicit profiling, you’re giving customers the opportunity to provide data on their interests, but also ensuring non-responders to explicit methods have complete profiles as well. This also keeps your data always fresh.  

3. Look at operating systems and not just domains in reports. It’s not useful to know just a breakdown of your list by domain. You also need a deep knowledge of the environments where your customers are engaging with your emails -- like their operating system and mail client. Does half of your list use iOS10? That can be powerful evidence to get more budget to do more with data and personalization in 2017.

4. Subject lines, preheaders, and headlines are a sinker or a life raft. To take a recent quote from Loren McDonald: “What’s up with email subject lines coming from big brands lately? Way too many look like lazy marketing or borderline spam.”

If ever there was a time for you to step up your game when it comes to the impression you create in each email, it’s now. If a spammy looking subject line, gimmicky pre-header and unengaging header are positioned near the new iOS10 unsubscribe, what do you think your customers are going to do?

If you get it right, your customers will skim right over that unsubscribe glaring them in the face and engage with your email.

While the effects of the latest Apple release are disheartening, it’s not all dire. By employing some of the recommendations above, you can reduce unsubscribes. The worst thing that happens is you still lose customers along the way. Isn’t that better than spam complaints that could impact your deliverability and keep your emails from customers who do want them?

What are you seeing as a result of the iOS10 unsubscribe?  What are you doing about it?  Let me know in the comments.

1 comment about "Reducing Damage From The iOS 10 List-Unsubscribe".
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  1. Robert Harnischmacher from Publicare Marketing Communications Inc., December 1, 2016 at 4:25 p.m.

    Hi April,
    Ever since I read Yesmail’s report on this alleged drastic increase in unsubscribes after the iOS10 release I have been scratching my head since I can see absolutely no such effect to the campaigns we manage for our clients. I have documented the discrepancy between the Yesmail numbers and what is actually happening here:

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