Retail Flight: Why And When People Unsubscribe From Emails

You might think that people unsubscribe because they just don’t want your content.

That’s probably true in most cases. The vast majority of retail unsubscribes are non-buyers, according to The Cost Of An Unsubscribe, a new study by Bluecore.

But consumers are cagey: Some opt out because they have received your welcome discount and have no further need of you. 

Whatever the reason, unsubscribes can cost you money in sales, and this loss increases when the person is a buyer.

So who opts out, and when? 

The study shows that 77% of those who opt out are non-buyers. Only 13% are one-time buyers, and 10% are multi-time buyers.

Non-buyers "only make up 55% of email recipients for most retailers," the study states. In contrast, 26% of email volume goes to one-time buyers, and 19% to multi-buyers.

We don’t understand the word “only.” That 55% sounds like a pretty hefty percentage to us.

It takes non-buyers 47 days on average to opt out after getting the initial email. That increases to 70 days for one-time and multi-buyers. These customers tend to unsubscribe 49 days after their last purchase. 



The average number of purchases made prior to unsubscribing is 0.25.Take non-buyers out of the sample and this goes up to 1.71. 

All this leads to revenue losses. The average hit is $17.92 for retailers with an average value of over of $50. And that rises to $36 for those with a $100 average order.

The cost adds up — retailers who get 10,000 people in a six-month period will lost 3,584 sales, totaling $179,200 at $50 per average order. Firms with an average order value of $100 will lose $358,400.”

There are also soft costs. Unsubscribes limit channels for engagement, the chance to raise brand awareness, customer nurture capabilities and data capture on customer behavior.

Unsubscribes spike during the holiday season. November sees a 51.8% increase above average, while December sees 51.2% and January sees a whopping 57%.

“These spikes can likely be attributed to shoppers who subscribe during the holiday season to find the best deals and then unsubscribe shortly thereafter,” states Jared Blank, SVP of marketing and insights for Bluecore.

We’re sure that’s true. But we wonder if at a least a few unsubscribes are from people trying to free their inboxes the holiday email barrage. 

Unsubscribe rates vary by the nature of the email. Here are the percentages:  

Post-purchase — 0.40% 

Search abandonment — 0.21%

Product abandonment — 0.17

New arrivals — 0.17 

Back in stock — 0.16% 

Cart abandonment — 0.12%

Bluecore posits that post-purchase emails lead here because people subscribe for a welcome discount, then unsubscribe the minute they get it.

Not all vertical sectors show the same results. B2B retailers get 53.6% of their unsubscribes from non-buyers, and 44.3% from multi-time purchasers. Jewelry non-buyers are most likely to opt out, and multi-buyers the least likely. And 31.8% of toy and gift multi-buyers unsubscribe — the high for all sectors. 

What can marketers do? Here are Bluecore’s tips for reducing unsubscribes:

- Evaluate your email capture strategy. 

- Rethink how you nurture non-buyers.

- Use an unsubscribe filter.

- Identify and revamp your emails with the highest unsubscribe rates.  

- Consider your timing. 

Bluecore examined data from over 400 retailers. 

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