Retailers Making It Tougher to Opt Out

Discussion
Apr 02, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It’s getting harder to say goodbye to some retailers. A review
of the 100 top online retailers find that a growing number are making it tougher
for customers to unsubscribe from email lists and are less gracious when someone
opts to not receive emails.

According to the Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study by Responsys,
39 percent of retailers studied required three or more clicks for consumers
to opt-out of mailings, up from seven percent in 2008. Retailers were also
sending more emails after a shopper opted-out with 30 percent sending one or
more emails following an unsubscribe request versus 26 percent in 2008. Only
16 percent send a “Goodbye” or “Thank you” message for those opting-out.

“When you’re competing against the ruthless efficiency and trustworthiness
of the ‘report spam’ button, your email opt-out process needs to
be friction-free and provide options ISPs can’t give their users,” said
Chad White, research director at Responsys and author of the study, in a press
release.

“Savvy marketers respect their email subscribers and provide relevant
content to drive engagement — and they also let subscribers go when they’re
not engaged,” said Ed Henrich, vice president of professional services
at Responsys. “Marketers need to make it easy to unsubscribe and to re-subscribe
when the time is right.”

Discussion Questions: Are the findings of the Responsys
research worrying to you? What are your best practices for retailers handling
email communications with shoppers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "Retailers Making It Tougher to Opt Out"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I do find the research troubling because anyone who bothers to try and opt out of mailings in the first place obviously has a lot of energy around accomplishing the mission. To make it convoluted or to disregard requests is a one way ticket to customer alienation and even hostility. Retailers should make it super easy to opt out and offer a one-question, multiple choice survey that would allow them to learn the “why” behind the decision. That’s a win-win.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

It used to be that retailers asked for your phone number (area code – 555-1212 works), but now they want your email. Frankly, I may be viewed as a curmudgeon by the clerk, but I don’t give it out. Like many of us in business, I have several email addresses and if I give one out to a retailer, it is always a personal one. But frankly, I resist doing so. If online, I have found that making one up also works anything@anything.com.

Should I opt out and still get emails, two things happen. First, I block the senders email address and, second, I look for another source for those items.

I firmly agree with Mr. Henrich’s comments – retailers need to respect their customers’ desires when it comes to communicating with them. Those that don’t run the risk of losing them.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

It’s hard to argue with the idea that it is bad to anger your customer in order to hold onto their email address when they don’t want your emails anyway. A frictionless unsubscribe is basic logic.

The trickier piece is to understand how to make your emails relevant. There are emails from retailers that I am excited to get, because I know they may have an offer or content I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. For example, WineAccess sends me hidden gems at moderate prices. For retailers, it may be more deal oriented. If you are BevMo, and you want to tell me your 5 cent sale starts tomorrow, by all means go ahead. (I swear, I do buy more than wine!) If I’ve eaten in your restaurant and you want to send me a free appetizer coupon, I’m going to look forward to reading your email. If you’re going to send me generic material about how great your store is, you’d might as well stop now.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

The findings, if they are accurate, are worrisome. It should be simple for consumers to opt out of email from any e-commerce site. As the article points out, unsubscribing should be a one click process; two clicks at the most. And retailers should honor a customer’s request as fast as their databases can be updated.

I recently tried to unsubscribe from emails from a research company that RetailWire has quoted in Discussions. It took 4 tries and notes to the webmaster and customer service before their daily emails stopped coming. Based on this experience, I would be hesitant to use this company’s services for business.

No company wants their emails to be marked as spam. Good customer service and practical sense dictate that consumers must be able to opt out as easily as they can opt in to email subscriptions.

Rick Moss
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

For sure, opting out should be clean and simple, but retailers need to think the process through thoroughly. A one-click method, for example, can lead to unintentional unsubs. After the first click, the customer should be taken to a page displaying their subscription preferences so they can confirm what exactly they’re unsubscribing from. People get lots of newsletters — sometimes multiple from the same retailer — and don’t always remember what they’ve signed up for. And, seeing other choices, they may decide to switch from one newsletter option to another.

Also, some IT managers write rules that prevent someone from re-subscribing once they’ve opted-out (as an anti-spam measure). This is something that needs to be worked out intelligently as well. You don’t want to blacklist people who want back in.

Doug Fleener
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I think this is a huge mistake. It’s one thing to prefer not to receive a retailer’s newsletter, but to make it difficult to opt out will result in turning customers off. With so many options available to a consumer, it doesn’t take much to turn them away. Make it easy to opt out and then give the customer a great experience when they visit the store. That will lead to them opting back in.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Well done, Rick, for playing Devil’s Advocate but I don’t buy it. Accidentally unsubscribing feels unlikely to me. After all, the customer has made the first move to say they want to unsubscribe. The most the retailer should do is ask if they’re sure, not give them lots of other choices. As for the poor program writer, this is their job, after all, and I assume they get paid for it.

My first reaction to this piece was that it was a late April Fool’s joke. If it isn’t, then I think retailers making it difficult for customers to unsubscribe are definitely playing the fool.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
11 years 1 month ago

Years ago, a friend of mine moved from the East Coast to the West Coast. When her supermarket detected the address change, they sent her a thank you card telling her they had become aware of her move and would put her frequent shopper card in suspension. If she were to return to the area, she could reactivate it but in the meantime she would stop receiving emails and fliers. She told everyone back East how much she was going to miss shopping there and how nice they were.

No need to say anything more.

As far as emails in particular, it would be great if everyone asking for an email address would also allow users to enter a “keyword.” This keyword would be included in the subject field of all mass mailings. The recipient could then use the keyword in their email filter to direct all correspondence not related directly to them to a special folder.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 1 month ago

I can’t think of anything much worse than force-feeding a marketing email on a customer that would prefer not to receive it. Not only do you likely lose the customer, if you hadn’t already, but you create an experience worthy of telling their friends about – a highly negative experience.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Retailer should never allow people to op out. Once you have them on your list, keep sending them stuff who cares how they feel and what they think. They gave you their email address or you found it somewhere so keep sending. One of these days they may buy something.

I don’t think anyone is going to agree with anything I wrote, so why make the process difficult? If someone wants out, let them out but make sure to invite them back again. They may miss you and what you have to offer.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Sorry, Mel, I have agreed with most everything said on this so far, however your worst fears have been realized. I cannot believe I’m alone in thinking it’s a bad move to not allow customers to unsubscribe. Ugh. We gotta keep retailing painless. We have to.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

This is no big deal. There are many ways to deal with retailer spam. Block addresses, use a different temporary email for dealing with retailers, and get a good spam guard.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 1 month ago

Unfortunately, enough retailers are at the point where their promised informative and special sale emails have become downright pesty. In some cases, it’s starting to feel reminiscent of the dinner time sales callers all over again. We all know where that led. The “do not call” list is one of the few things government has “fixed” which has drawn nearly 100 percent voter approval across the political spectrum! Retailers better get a handle on over-mailings and unsubscribe issues, or the government will be back to do it for them.

Jane Ayres
Guest
Jane Ayres
11 years 1 month ago
I work in marketing and I am also a consumer. On both levels, I am getting really put off by predatory, aggressive online marketing practices. Our company has very transparent marketing practices and we respect anyone choosing to opt out of email newsletters. As a consumer, I have become very careful about what I do opt-in to receive, and I have stopped buying anything online because I have recently been burned by misleading practices. In one instance, I bought vitamins online and specifically opted out of receiving any emails, sales offers etc. Several months later, my husband asked me why I was receiving a monthly billing charge of nearly $30 for a health service. I had never signed up for it, never received any notice that I was receiving the service, and never received one thing from this so call service. It was a blatant ripoff. Trying to get out of it was also a terrible customer service example of how it is almost impossible to cancel something you never even ordered to begin with.… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

To such retailers I say “Thank You.” I’ll be opting out no matter how many key strokes it takes. My fingers need the exercise. (And if I wear my keyboard out in the process, then you won’t be getting my business anyway !)

Rick Moss
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

To clarify my earlier point about allowing people to re-subscribe, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that the email addresses of those who opt-out go into a “Suppression List” which is compared against the mailing list and insures suppressed addresses are never mailed to again. Legitimate email services comply with this rule, so to allow someone to re-subscribe usually requires a work-around. (I won’t say more because I’m not certain how the authorities view removing someone from a Suppression List, even if the customer has expressly given permission for the retailer to do so.)

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Please, email me every day. Send me dubious promotions. Act like you know me. I’ll patronize your business…not.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What is most worrisome about how some retailers are handling unsubscribe requests?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...