4 Reasons Your Email Unsubscribe Numbers Are on the Rise

April 7th, 2016

Are you taking a ‘megaphone’ approach to your email marketing campaigns in an effort to reach as many people as possible? The key to keeping your customers engaged comes down to sending targeted messages at precisely the right time

It’s the winter and a weeklong cold spell has you shivering. Snow and ice are everywhere. As an icy wind freezes your face while you stand outside waiting for a bus to arrive, you feel your mobile phone vibrate in your pocket. You peel off one of your gloves to check your messages only to find you’ve received an email about ice cream, frosty milkshakes, and frozen desserts.

You wouldn’t think a company would send such an ill-timed and poorly targeted marketing message, but it happens more often than not, and it typically prompts the recipient to hit the “unsubscribe” link in fine print at the bottom of that email.

Irrelevant messaging is a significant driver of unsubscribe rates, and importantly, it’s an annoyance to your customers. According to IBM Silverpop’s annual global report on email marketing dubbed, “2015 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study”, Canadian brands posted markedly lower email opening rates compared to companies in the U.S., U.K., the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Mideast, and Africa. It could be because of many reasons including consumers are quick to delete emails that don’t resonate with them immediately.

In addition to the content of marketing communications, the format of marketing emails may also be a factor. A study by Litmus found nearly half of emails are now opened on either a smartphone or tablet. That’s a dramatic increase from 2011 when only 8% of emails were opened on a mobile device. In light of this finding, marketers would be wise to adopt a mobile-friendly approach to the content and design of their emails, and they should reduce the number of calls-to-action to one or two per email.

When Email Open Rates Slide and Unsubscribes Spike

Though your email open rates data shouldn’t be used as a sole indicator of a marketing campaign’s success or failure, it is a useful metric to measure. Your email subscribers are valuable. Reducing email list churn is dependent upon understanding why existing and prospective customers unsubscribe from your communications.

After spending the effort (and money) to get your customers to opt-in or subscribe to your marketing emails and to keep them engaged, it is disheartening and frustrating to see unsubscribe levels increase. Outside of irrelevant messaging, there are four primary reasons why people are unsubscribing from your email lists:

  • You’re emailing them too often. When was the last time you heard someone complain they don’t receive enough email? Determining what the right frequency is to send your subscribers an email is multifaceted, but it comes down to the size of your list, the quality of your email content, and the unknowable: how receptive your subscribers truly are to reading your emails.
  • Your emails aren’t smartphone-friendly. Email remains the most effective and affordable digital marketing tool at your disposal to reach your customers, but are you crafting and designing your marketing emails for mobile device readers? With an estimated 68% of all emails in 2015 opened on a mobile device (tablets comprise about 16% of that total) versus on a desktop, it’s wise to assume your emails will be read on a smartphone.
  • All you do is try to sell to them. Are you hitting people over the head with an unending stream of “buy this!” type of content? It’s good to make your customers aware of current and upcoming promotions, but if all you’re doing with your email marketing content is pushing your recipients to purchase something, they’ll start to tune you out.
  • Your content is repetitive and uninteresting. If your email content triggers déjà vu in your audience, or it’s merely uninspiring drivel that serves no real purpose, all you’re succeeding at is inviting people to hit the unsubscribe button.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him (or her) and sells itself.”

Zeroing in on Targeted Messaging

Not all of your marketing communications will be relevant to all of your customers, so choose smartly, and don’t lose sight of your marketing campaign objectives. Keep these key points in mind before you hit the “send” button:

  • Define your target audience. Knowing who to market to and why will dictate the success of your email campaigns. You need to understand who has a need for your product or service, who is most likely to purchase it, and what’s most appealing about it to them.
  • Be specific. Your brand is at the heart of your messaging, so narrow down what it is you’re trying to tell your audience and clearly state it. Are you trying to get them to purchase something new? Are you attempting to provide advice? Or are you wanting to draw attention to something your company has done for the betterment of the local community? Avoid emailing mixed messages; they only lead to confusion (and the virtual trash bin).
  • Tailor your messages per channel. Don’t clone your marketing messages. In other words, whatever messaging you use in an email, shouldn’t be the same messaging you have on your website, use on your social media channels, or have printed on brochures. Particularly now in the age of mobile computing, you need to strategize how best to reach your targeted audiences via varying avenues or mediums and customize your content accordingly.
  • Timing is everything. Use your customer data to determine the best time of day to send your marketing emails. If you do, in all likelihood you’ll see a high number of emails opened, and the links within it clicked. Moreover, you won’t annoy your recipients by sending them an email in the winter about ice cream.
  • Get permission first. The most important point to remember is to make sure you have every recipient’s permission orally or in writing (electronic consent is acceptable) before you send them any marketing-related email. Moreover, take steps to protect your customers’ privacy. You should also make it simple for anyone to unsubscribe from or opt-out of your emails. Nobody likes to be spammed. And lest we forget, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) expressly forbids companies and marketers from engaging in such shady practices. CASL applies to all forms of commercial electronic messaging, not only email.

One last noteworthy point on the subject of CASL: According to the Canadian Marketing Association, July 1, 2016, marks CASL’s two-year anniversary, and it’s the deadline for two-year implied consent agreements to expire. That means you need to ensure you have permission for all of your electronic messages (emails, texts, etc.) from your list of recipients unless you have an existing business relationship with them. It’s also important to be mindful that as of July 1, 2017, Canadian citizens will have the legal right to sue organizations for CASL violations.

Want to learn how to create more sales leads via email marketing? Let’s talk. We can help you create meaningful content for your subscribers, develop a strategy for cultivating an effective email list, and analyze the performance of your campaigns.