December 16th, 2013 | 4 MIN READ

13 Ways to Improve Email Unsubscribe

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

No email marketer wants subscribers to jump ship, but the reality is, it happens.

Whether it's an attempt to clear the inbox of clutter, a change in delivery preference from email to social updates, a change of lifestyle or purchase intent, or simply losing interest, making the unsubscribe process painless can benefit your business.

A user-friendly process that supports opt-out is simply good customer service, resulting in positive experience with your brand, and helps you practice good list hygiene -- which will reduce spam reports, improve deliverability and even your conversion metrics (why dilute your KPIs with folks who don't want to open your messages?)

How can you make the process user-friendly, whilst making the best effort to keep customers connected? Read on.

1. Don't shroud the unsubscribe link

It's tempting to make unsubscribe the most difficult link to find, and it's common to find the link buried at the bottom of each email. While this is somewhat conventional -- folks that really want to unsubscribe will likely check the bottom first and scan for the "trigger link" -- some marketers to the extra mile in hiding it. The example below serves all links in blue/underlined style, except for the unsubscribe link, which is not in a color at all.

This design helps no one. If you don't make it easy to find the unsubscribe link, the next step for the user is to mark your future messages as spam.

2. Maintain "scent"

There's no reason to require a log-in to manage email preferences. You have their email address, you know who they are, they clicked a link from their own inbox. Take them to either an unsubscribe confirmation form or a preference center.

3. Pre-fill the email address

Go a step further and pre-fill their email address. This is especially helpful for mobile touch users, and subscribers who aggregate messages into one inbox that may not remember which specific address they used to join your list.

4. Adjust the frequency

No harm in asking if the customer would simply like to reduce the number of messages they receive from you.

However, frequency is not the only reason folks unsubscribe, content plays a big part too. Frequency alone is a bit vague - what if the customer would like to know about only major sales events, or only promotions from certain product categories? Consider offering subscriptions to types of emails.

5. Explain frequency

Does less email mean once per week, once per month, or everything? Sephora spells it out, and includes a hook - do you just want the best offer of the week, month?

6. Explain processing time

If you require a day or a few for processing, make sure the customer understands this. The expectation is immediate removal, and receiving an email after unsubscription can erode trust if it's not understood.

7. Don't overcomplicate things

Lots of stuff goin' on in this example. The instructions tell the subscriber to click "Submit," but no button is labeled as such. The user must enter her email address (see tip 3), and opt out of both the retailer's messages and third party partners and advertisers (many are likely unaware they opted-in to third party messaging in the first place).

Notice the "Continue Shopping" button? Completely out of context. The email subscriber was not shopping at all. Placing it on the right of the Unsubscribe button also is hazardous, we tend to click on the right side button for the primary action by convention. This may lead to unwitting unsubscribe failure.

8. Offer social alternatives

Gilt recognizes that times have changed, and social channels serve as an email substitute. Remind the customer of the other ways to stay in the loop, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and keep them engaged.

9. Watch where you place your CTA

Yoox' CTA is placed on the opposite side of the page as the input field. Very easy to overlook.

Using the Nieman Marcus example again, be careful not to place calls to action in solid bars. The eye tends to look for CTAs in white space, and bounce over solid bar design elements.

Again, what you put on the right is what many will mindlessly click. Very easy to cancel by accident, here.

10. Label your CTAs appropriately

Avoid "Submit" (too generic) and "Cancel" (better to only use positive action buttons, one who wishes to cancel can simply close the dialog box). Descriptive labels like "Unsubscribe" or "Switch to Weekly" ensure the user is clear about the action he or she is taking.

11. Ask why

Wouldn't you like to know what percentage of unsubscribes were due to content vs. frequency vs. some other reason? Ask!

12. Present a confirmation

Like a thank you page, confirming the request was processed is a good idea.

Though you may not be thanking the customer for bailing -- avoid passive aggressive, sarcastic tone in your copy (as in the above example). Shoeline's "we hate to see you go" is a more positive sentiment.

13. QA

A final note - please test your links to ensure they indeed work. Several in my test group led to error or 404 pages, including some very well known sites!

Share on


Thanks for signing up!

You'll receive a welcome email shortly.

By submitting this you agree with our privacy policy.