DMA Shows Brands Fail To Learn The Lessons Of A Broken Heart

There is a gem of a statistic that leaped out at me with the release of the Marketer Email Tracker 2018 by the DMA and Dotmailer today. In fact, it's one of those reports you know is going to be jam-packed with statistics and views, but one in particular on unsubscribes jumped out at me.

One in six people who unsubscribe from an email list fully expect to be taken to a preference centre where they may choose to cut off one particular newsletter, or type of promotional message, but then may elect to remain subscribed to another. However, less than one in ten companies actually offer this. Effectively, twice as many people are expecting to offered a choice in email preferences as there are companies offering one.

It's the same for surveys. Although only 7% of people expect to be asked why they are changing their minds about being in contact with a company, only 2% offer a tick-box option so people can say why they want to to cut off marketing messages from a brand. Again, that's three times as many people expecting to be asked as there are companies who bother to pose the question.

One of the reasons this issue may have stood out in my mind was seeing an excellent Ted video that covered what to do when your heart has been broken. A professor of psychology suggested the one thing people rarely do is have a debrief with an ex-partner to find out what went wrong. Instead, they leave it to their imagination, which means the conversation still keeps going on and on inside their head. That can be unhealthy and lengthen the time it takes to get over being hurt. 

It seems that brands are kind of doing the same thing here, doesn't it?

Interestingly, the report starts off with GDPR, but the main finding is email marketers are largely evenly split between thinking the impact will be negative or positive. However, from experience beyond this report, the one thing GDPR is encouraging some companies to do is to use preference centres to manage permissions. With consent under GDPR being so granular, it stands to reason that brands can take the opportunity to record each yes or no decision and then allow it to be later amended in a preference centre.

That is why it's surprising to see so few businesses -- just 9% -- offering a permission centre approach to handling unsubscribers. For all the brand knows, it may be a particular type of communication that is prompting people to leave. One part of its communications could be prompting people to quit the brand entirely because they have no way of refining their permissions. 

For just 2% of companies to then ask people why they are leaving again seems strange. 

Surely, a preference centre and a quick questionnaire at the end of the process are simple enough to set up, particularly the latter. However, the insight could be invaluable. It could pinpoint that frequency was too high or people prefer content-led newsletters to offers, or vice versa.

For the sake of such a simple job, it has to be worth asking. It leaves brands constantly facing mini heartbreaks and wondering where it was they went wrong with no way of finding out. Even worse, it is leading to multiple daily breakups when maybe all the other side wanted to do was cool things off for a while but had no way of signalling that their intent was, and so had to call the whole thing off.

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