Unsub Rates on the Rise

Dear Email Diva,

I'm compiling an overview of the common email metrics, specifically the performance over the last year, trends, etc. I was trying to find statistics to support the statement from this post by Lynn Terry that "unsubscribe rates are at an all-time high in the online business & marketing niches. In fact, April through June of 2008 saw some of the highest unsubscribe rates." I was wondering if you could send any links that you think might help substantiate the claim or that you think are generally helpful.

Loyalty Agency Guy

Dear Loyalty Agency Guy,

I'm sorry to report the Email Diva is having as hard a time finding hard research on unsubscribe rates trends as you are. As I wrote in my first-ever article for MediaPost, "The New Unsubscribe Rate," part of the problem is that the industry looks at unsubs as a percentage of delivered emails, which makes the number too small to be intuitively meaningful. My suggestion that you look at it as a percentage of responders never caught on, but I stand by it!

While my experience is not the same as Lynn Terry's, her findings make sense. We used to believe that consumers had been scared by "the media" to avoid clicking on the unsub link, lest they identify themselves to spammers. Between CAN-SPAM and consumers' increased sophistication, this has become less of a concern.

The rise of smart phones makes email more portable and harder to read, which made the Email Diva, for one, reduce the amount of mail coming in. New jobs or ISP switches can also lead to general housekeeping. As the industry becomes more sophisticated and competitive, consumers benefit from better email practices. Why wade through Company A's high pressure sales pitches when you can get great deals and useful information from Company B?

Many have written about reducing unsubscribes, which I will summarize. To reduce unsubscribes:

1. Provide value in the first place. So easy to say, so difficult to achieve, given the time and budget constraints faced by most email departments.

2. Give opt-ins an option to "opt down" or receive less frequent email.

3. Ask why the recipient is opt-ing out and do something about frequent complaints.

4. View your opt-out trends by campaign. At the end of the year, look at those campaigns with the highest opt-out rates and see which messages inspired the most drop-outs.

5. View your opt-out rates in relation to frequency. Did more frequent mailings have subscribers bailing out?

6. View your opt-outs by source. Did that co-reg campaign, sweepstakes or fill-in-blank generate a lot of disinterested subscribers?

The Email Diva has always thought that developing a loyalty program to keep email subscribers reading, buying and not opting out is an excellent idea. Try it out, Loyalty Agency Guy, and

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

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