Except for some backsliding, most retailers are better than they were at handling email unsubscribes and complying with national laws.
A full 74% now qualify as “Best in Class” -- attaining scores of 80% or more, according to the 2018 Email Marketing & Unsubscribe Audit from the Online Trust Alliance (OTA).
That’s up from 67% last year, but down slightly from 75% in 2015.
OTA, an Internet Society initiative, studied the top 200 North American e-commerce sites based on revenue as of the end of 2017, as reported by Internet Retailer Magazine.
Ten online retailers attained perfect scores: DicksSportingGoods.com, HomeDepot.com, LandsEnd.com, MusiciansFriend.com, OfficeDepot.com, OpticsPlanet.com, SierraTradingPost.com, Staples.com, StitchFix.com, Talbots.com and Walgreens.com.
Five of those — LandsEnd.com, MusiciansFriend.com, SierraTradingPost.com, Talbots.com and Walgreens.com — repeated their 100% 2017 scores.
What’s more, 100% of those studied support the SPF and DKIM security standards, and 71% had DMARC records. In addition, 89.2% removed unsubscribes without delay, up from 88.1% last year and 83.1% in 2015.
Only 1.6% failed to honor unsubscribes, down from 4.1% in 2017. And while 3.2% violated CAN-SPAM or CASL, the Canadian privacy regime, that is down from 5.7% in the prior year.
However, there is one “increasing concern.” Only 14% required geographic information, down from 17% last year.
This apparently can prevent them from identifying EU residents and citizens, leading to potential non-compliance with GDPR.
There has been no repeat of the “list or subscription bombing attacks,” the barraging of consumers with hundreds of unsolicited emails seen in 2016. But only 4% used CAPTCHA, a process that can help verify that the subscriber is a real person and not a bot.
More surprisingly, only 7% used Confirmed Opt-In (or double opt-in), in which the consumer must click on a link to verify the subscription. This is considered the industry best practices.
Unsubscribes were treated in a variety of ways.
“As in previous years the unsubscribe experience ranged from abrupt, non-branded one-click interaction to elegant, branded experiences that presented various choices and solicitation of feedback.”
Of all those studied, 100% let subscribers opt out from all email. And 100% supplied a confirmation web page. But 34.6% provided an opt-down option.
In addition, 92.2% served a branded page, and 89.7% served a pre-populated unsubscribe address. Also, 68.6% used an encrypted unsubscribe page.
How did they sign up subscribers to begin with?
OTA found that 31% employed a pop-up screen to solicit subscriptions and 25% make a promotional offer for signups, both down slightly from 2017.
Only 12% required re-entry of the email address. Yet 15% required account creation, depending on their business model. Both of these practices are up from 2017 but down from 2016.
At the same time, 40% requested additional information, and 29% required it.
All the sites offered signup on their home page, but only 6% did so at the top of the page, down from 8% last year. And 94% made it easy to find, up from 84%.
Of those studied, 98% displayed a signup confirmation onscreen. In addition, 74.5% sent both a confirmation and a newsletter or promotional message. Still, 4% made no response at all.
The best text size for unsubscribe links? OTA found that 29% utilized 10px (the minimum to receive credit in the study). “For reference,12-point type in print equates to 16px text on a website, and most experts recommend type sizes in the 12px-16px range for ideal readability of body text,” it writes.
In general, OTA recommends these best practices, and we quote: