Jackson Fish Market
Posted on September 12, 2012 by hillel on Making Things Special

Unsung User Experience Heroes — One-Click Unsubscribe

And now for a brief discussion on sending e-mail to your customers. The same e-mail can be both valuable and yucky spam. To the customer that cares about your product or service, a well-written, beautifully designed e-mail, can be informative and welcome. To everyone else it’s junk. And in a world where products that need to make money are continually competing for user’s attention, e-mailing potential customers (and existing ones) is a reality. But that doesn’t mean we have to be jerks.

The problem is that in marketing we often collect countless e-mail addresses of people that may have been interested in whatever we offered, but ultimately didn’t want to buy our offer. We know this is the case for at least the near term. You’ve got to cast a wide net. There’s (currently) no reliable way to know which 1% of the 100% is the one that’s interested in what you’re making. But at the very least, we can make it easy for the 99% that’s not interested to exit gracefully.

What’s funny to us is why companies make it hard for customers to unsubscribe. if the customer has made a decision that they don’t want any more mail from you, there’s no point in making things hard for them, it’s only going to frustrate them further. But making it easy to stop the mails is an opportunity to possibly even do a little repairing with them. It’s kind of like saying “Hey, sorry I bothered you. Let me get out of your way quickly, and leave you with a positive impression of me. Thanks.”

The first issue is how companies bury the unsubscribe link in tiny gray type at the bottom of their e-mails. I’m not suggesting that you make it the most attractive button on the page, but there’s no reason to obfuscate it. If someone wants it, let them find it easily. We’ve put ours right at the top of our mail. Our unsubscribe rate is not particularly large, and we know that anyone bugged by our mails can easily remove themselves. When people can’t find your unsubscribe link, they’ll just mark you as spam in their email software. And that gets reported to various providers who may mark you as a spammer. And that’s not good for business.

The second issue is what happens when the user clicks “unsubscribe”. I’ve seen companies do the craziest things creating hoops for users to jump through to get off the mailing list. Honestly it just feels spiteful to the customer. Do these companies really think that if they succeed in retaining the person on their mailing list by confusing them that the customer will be inclined to buy anything from them?

Here are the golden rules of unsubscribe:

  • Don’t hide the unsubscribe link in your mails. Make it easy to find.
  • Include an apology for bugging the user if you’re so inclined. If the customer is reading that text you already have bugged them. You might as well apologize.
  • When the user clicks, take them to a webpage letting them know that you have already unsubscribed them. Don’t require even a single additional click. If you do, you’re just being a jerk to them.
  • Do NOT require a password or other login to complete the process. They’ve already logged into their e-mail.
  • On that page, after you’ve unsubscribed them you can offer all sorts of other options including resubscribe, surveys, and other goodies. That’s fine. But you only get to do that after you’ve respected their wishes.
  • Do not take some number of hours or days to “process” the unsubscription. Are your electrons slow?
  • And we can’t believe we even have to say this… Please don’t ignore their unsubscription. We’ve tried to unsubscribe from certain mailing lists where the company just ignored our request and kept sending mail. That’s a sure way for us to hate you.

We can hear the whining from marketers already… What if the user clicks accidentally? What if the user forwarded the mail to a friend and they unsubscribe the original user? What if, what if???

We don’t believe these issues are statistically relevant. If a user loves being on your mailing list and is accidentally unsubscribed, they’ll find a way to get back on. And in the meantime, the people that left were left with a positive impression. And who knows, someday, when they’re ready for you, they may come back. And that’s a good thing.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Reply


    September 28, 2012 at 9:11 am

    If only this message were heeded! I hate the multi-step “unsubscribe” process. Sometimes I don’t even really get an option to unsubscribe.

  • Reply

    Vincent Grouls

    January 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    If marketers are worried about people unsubscribing their friend accidentally, they could include an undo option, so if people notice their error they could immediately revert their inadvertent action.

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