Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Return Path : Top UK brands don't offer social media alternative on email unsubscribe


Overcomplicated unsubscribe processes drive consumers to complain about brands

UK brands are not offering customers the chance to communicate with their company through social media when they unsubscribe from email marketing.

A new study found only one out of 47 brands that enable customers to opt-out of emails offer alternative communication channels, such as social media, RSS, traditional post or SMS, as part of their unsubscribe process.

The research carried out by Return Path, the world’s leading email certification and reputation management company, examined the unsubscribe practices of major UK brands across a range of sectors – including retailers, travel companies and social networks. The study tracked the steps an email subscriber has to go through to stop receiving emails from a brand and assessed how well companies responded to their request.

The study found none of the surveyed brands offered unsubscribing customers the option of receiving company information through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. The one company that did offer alternative communication channels only enabled customers access to RSS feeds and widgets linking to Google and Yahoo!.

Margaret Farmakis, Senior Director of Professional Services at Return Path, said: “Email marketers shouldn’t view unsubscribing customers as being uninterested in their brand; rather they should see it as a new opportunity to communicate with them in a different way. There’s still the potential of brands retaining consumers by offering alternative communication channels upon a customer’s unsubscribe request.

“Marketers can encourage users to stay current with their brand by using the opt-out process to promote their social media pages, enabling users to discover what else the brand has to offer through alternate channels. Some subscribers may prefer the experience of interacting with a brand via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Regardless, it’s important that marketers have an integrated, cross-channel strategy and promote it at every key touch point in the customer/subscriber lifecycle.”

Poor unsubscribe processes drive complaints
The study also found many brands’ unsubscribe process invited email recipients to complain about the brand rather than opt-out of receiving emails. Nearly a quarter of brands (23 per cent) forced subscribers to follow a multi-step unsubscribe process, while nearly a fifth (17 per cent) required consumers to log into their account to opt-out of emails.

Farmakis, who carried out the study, said: “The more complicated the unsubscribe process, the more likely consumers will just hit ‘spam’. Marketers must ensure they have a clear, simple unsubscribe process. While it may seem a minor detail and low priority in the overall customer relationship, a bad experience can have a negative impact on customer relations and can influence whether or not the subscriber chooses to interact with the brand via other channels. Failing to get the unsubscribe process right also means people are more likely to consign emails to spam filters and complain about the brand, which could lead to all of the brand’s email communications being blocked at ISP level.”

Brands don’t deliver on unsubscribe best practice

More than one third of the brands surveyed (36 per cent) failed to deploy a single unsubscribe best practice tactic in their email marketing campaigns. For example, none of the brands enabled consumers to pause their email subscription, as opposed to bringing it to an end. Just one in six brands (17 per cent) gave subscribers the option of changing the frequency of the emails they received or gathering feedback on peoples’ reasons for unsubscribing. Only five of the brands utilised three or more best practice tactics, with just one brand incorporating four.

The study also found that one in eight companies (13 per cent) sent an email to confirm to a consumer they had opted-out of an email program – even though the customer had just requested not to hear from the brand again via email.

Farmakis said: “It may be consumers only want specific information on certain products, or may even just want to go on a break from emails while they are away on holiday. But the majority of UK marketers are not enabling consumers to adjust the frequency of emails they receive, aren’t asking for feedback from consumers on their reasons for unsubscribing, aren’t allowing subscribers to adjust their email preferences or change their email address on their unsubscribe landing pages, and aren’t offering alternative communication channels.

“Incorporating these best practices improves customer retention and provides brands with insight into why people have chosen to end their email subscription. This helps to improve future marketing tactics and customer relationships across all channels.”

To download the full study visit: http://www.returnpath.net/landing/ukunsubscribestudy
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