How to Decrease Email Unsubscribes and Spam Complaints

November 7, 2016

litmusfluent-top-reasons-consumers-unsubscribe-from-promo-emails-nov2016List churn is a critical concern for email marketers, particularly given that list growth is one of their biggest challenges. New survey data from a couple of studies indicates that consumers can be persuaded to not unsubscribe, with options for messaging frequency and increased relevance and personalization key elements.

Results from a Mapp survey [download page] of 1,765 consumers demonstrate that almost 2 in 3 (65%) respondents can be dissuaded from unsubscribing from a company’s marketing and advertising emails. Interestingly, older respondents (55-64) are more than twice as likely as younger ones (18-24) to say that there’s nothing a company can do to change their mind once they’ve made the decision to unsubscribe (55% and 23%, respectively).

The most persuasive option that brands can offer to keep subscribers on their list? Giving them the option to receive emails less frequently, cited by 4 in 10 respondents. Of lesser importance, but also noted by roughly 1 in 5 respondents, are brands sending more personalized/relevant content and sending personalized emails based on listed preferences and interests.

These aren’t necessarily surprising results given research into the reasons why consumers unsubscribe in the first place. In a separate survey of 1,361 US adults from Fluent and Litmus [download page], a leading two-thirds of respondents reported having unsubscribed from a brand’s promotional emails due to receiving too many or irrelevant emails. In fact, this was an even more common reason for subscribing than losing interest in the brand (reported by 65%).

What’s interesting to see is that these same frustrations will lead many consumers to report promotional emails as spam. Indeed, 57% reported having done so due to a brand sending either irrelevant or too-frequent emails. That was again a bigger reason for marking emails as spam than the recipient not knowingly or willingly having subscribed to receive the emails (51%).


Also of note: half of the survey respondents had marked a brand’s emails as spam because they couldn’t easily figure out how to unsubscribe. New research from the Online Trust Alliance indicates that 19% of the top 200 retailers don’t show clear and conspicuous unsubscribe links in their emails, and that preference centers and opt-down choices are also on the decline.

In the Fluent and Litmus survey, whereas 29% of respondents found it difficult to sign up to receive promotional emails from a brand, a larger 39% had difficulty unsubscribing from promotional emails.

[lab_subscriber_download_form download_id=2]

    Meanwhile, in a nod to mobile optimization, half (51%) of respondents noted that they had unsubscribed from a brand due to its emails or website not displaying or working well on their smartphone, and 43% had marked a brand’s email as spam for this reason. Bad customer service experiences with the brand likewise led 41% to unsubscribe and 45% to mark emails as spam.

    Overall, almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers surveyed said they mark promotional emails as spam at least sometimes. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll never see those brands again, though: 2 in 3 check their spam folder at least sometimes, and 6 in 10 move promotional emails from brands out of their spam folder or mark emails in the folder as “not spam” at least sometimes.

    The report’s analysts note that “consumers are further blurring the line between unsubscribes and complaints.” In order to lessen these behaviors, the report’s authors recommend:

    • – Improving permissioning to ensure that email consents are strong;
    • – Sending relevant emails at a good cadence;
    • – Creating mobile-friendly emails and landing page experiences;
    • – Making opting out easy;
    • – Reacting to bad customer service experiences; and
    • – Maintaining subscribers’ interest.

    One to add might be offering preference centers and opt-down options…

    About the Data: The Mapp survey was fielded by Flagship Research to a national panel
    of 1,765 consumers in August, 2016. The survey panel was representative of the U.S. population between the ages of 18 and 64. 70% had a household income over $35,000 and participants were evenly distributed by gender and geographic region (East, Midwest, South, and Western regions of the United States).

    The Litmus-Fluent was survey conducted online within the United States by Fluent, LLC on July 5, 2016 among 1,361 adult US residents (aged 18 and up). Respondents were randomly selected, and the findings are at a 95% confidence level with a margin of error of +/- 2.7%.

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