Learning from Loss: Using Unsubscribe Data

Generally speaking, subscribers are leaving a mailing list for the same reasons that they might opt-out of other marketing channels – the content isn’t relevant, they only signed up for one specific item, or they’re simply swamped with too many messages. All of these answers are top reasons when looking at unsubscribe survey data, and will likely stay that way. It’s still very helpful to have an unsubscribe survey set up, so more specific answers can be found. Subscriber loss is an inevitability of an email campaign, and isn’t a totally negative sign since it indicates that messages are ending up in the inbox. The important thing is that a campaign is learning and evolving from this data.

unsubscribe form

Although marketers are now including an opt-out link in most ‘regular’ communications, many still are not placing these same links in autoresponders or triggers. This is a mistake, since not allowing subscribers the chance to opt-out at any point can make a campaign more vulnerable to spam complaints. At the very least, subscribers should have the ability to change the frequency of mailings when opting-in. More and more subscribers are open to opting down, in lieu of opting out completely, and marketers should take advantage of this information from the start.

In addition to the most popular reasons, like too frequent mailings, or not relevant enough content, marketers should also turn their heads toward design, branding, and quality issues for subscriber loss. Particularly for sites and services marketing towards a savvy, tech oriented subscriber base, the email content needs to be perfect to show authority and build trust with a picky audience. Bad or boring content, even just one time, could turn away otherwise good subscribers; another reason to have an unsubscribe survey. Other issues could be grammatical errors and typos, ugly and unappealing design, or a lack of branding letting the subscriber know why they are receiving a message.

Once the most common reasons for losing subscribers has been established, it’s important to look for spikes or trends in unsubscribes. Viewing statistics per message can be key, because it may clue a marketer in on a reason for subscriber loss like a non-relevant message or one with content issues. In addition to tracking pure unsubscribe ratio, it’s also important to understand purchase-to-unsubscribe ratio. How many subscribers were completely turned off by a message, compared to how many reached a purchase point? Tracking this information is made much easier by using an ESP with goal or conversion tracking.

Finally, data has shown that few marketers bother to say “Goodbye” or “Thank you” to subscribers leaving. Take advantage of this fact and show some appreciation! At the least it gives another opportunity to allow a subscriber to follow along on another channel, like Facebook, Twitter, or an RSS feed. Beware that customers leave these channels for mostly the same reasons they leave email!

Written by
Marcin Chruszcz
Account Manager at ExpertSender
Email and marketing geek. Specializes in email deliverability, strategy and design. Basketball and MTB riding enthusiast.
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