• Last updated: Apr 17, 2015
  • admin

Great customer service is about giving people what they want, when they want it, in the most efficient and helpful way possible. That logic should even extend to your unsubscribe process.

As well as being a legal requirement, making it easy for people to unsubscribe gives them a positive experience of your brand and is sound marketing sense.

After all, there's little point keeping on sending email to people on your list who obviously have no interest in receiving them. And making it hard or impossible for people to unsubscribe is bad for response rates and deliverability, as subscribers are likely to complain.

Why make it easy to unsubscribe?

You might think that displaying an unsubscribe link prominently on your email will encourage people to unsubscribe, but the opposite is generally true. People are reassured to see that it's easy to leave the list if they want to, which paradoxically tends to mean they don't feel they have to.

On Email Worx, for instance, the unsubscribe function is very visible as a big tab in the top right of the email. Yet very few people have actually unsubscribed - in fact, more people click on the link than go on to unsubscribe because they just like to know they can.

How can unsubscribing keep the relationship going?

The unsubscribe process might sound like the final stage in the subscription process, but it doesn't actually have to mean that your relationship with that subscriber is over. Using the most appropriate method, and giving the subscribers the options they are looking for along the way, can often reduce the level of unsubscribes and maintain an active database.

People who want to unsubscribe have either lost interest in the company, or their expectations of the subscription haven't been met. Ensuring that you give potential subscribers all the information they need to assess your newsletter during the subscription process will assist in reducing the number of unsubscribes in the second group.

Remember that while unsubscribers may be opting out of your newsletter, this does not mean they could not still be a client. Providing people with a pleasant unsubscription experience can work in your favour over time. Giving alternative options to an unsubscription (such as content or frequency) can be a way to maintain your database size.

Q: How easy should you make it to unsubscribe?


In research we carried out in this area, we identified 5 common methods to facilitate unsubscription, all starting with a link in the newsletter which leads to one of these options:

  1. a page confirming you have been unsubscribed
  2. a page with a confirmation message requiring one or two clicks to validate
  3. a page requiring a password and a click
  4. a log-in page to access your preferences
  5. a new email message

We found that these different methods vary most in the amount of effort required to unsubscribe. Some companies appear to be focusing on keeping their database as large as possible by making it difficult for subscribers to unsubscribe, whilst others make it too easy, which could lose you perfectly happy subscribers who just clicked on the link by mistake.

A: Not too easy...

Because some subscribers click on unsubscribe to make them feel in control and aware that they can easily unsubscribe at any time, there's a danger that the instant unsubscription, where you click on the newsletter link and go straight to a page confirming that you have been unsubscribed, is perhaps a little too efficient. This method also eliminates your opportunity to find out why the subscribers want to unsubscribe and remind them why they signed up, which would give you a last chance to convince them to stay.

...but not too hard either

On the other end of the scale, some processes are very complicated and require would-be unsubscribers to log in or enter a password. But people about to opt off an email newsletter are unlikely to remember their login details, and making disengaged subscribers struggle to leave could alienate them even further and create angry critics of your brand. Logging in can work for offering other subscriber options, like changing newsletter frequency or setting preferences. But here it runs the risk of damaging the ESP's reputation: if the unsubscribe process is too complicated, people may decide instead to click on the 'this is spam' button to unsubscribe, so creating future deliverability problems. The unsubscribe link should be capable of logging in the subscriber automatically; indeed, in the US this is now legally required by CAN-SPAM.