The Trap of Email

Today was a digital organizing day, it feels like I just cleaned up my personal email inbox last month, and yet it was full to the brim with items I hadn’t read, yet again. I spent a good two hours taking an honest assessment of all those emails cluttering it up to determine what I really would read, and what was going to just add to my monthly deletion frenzy. It was time to perform a mass email unsubscribe.

I deleted four writing feeds that I know I should read, but I had to be honest with myself that I never do read. The authors are all great, but if I can’t even get to my blog because I’m drowning in email, what’s the point?

Then there were another five digital blogs that I realized I already see in my LinkedIn feed and my Facebook feed (at least when the algorithym is kind) so there was no point having them clutter my inbox. Gone.

Politics. I have strong feelings about politics but I don’t understand why these people feel like I want to hear from them every day. Yes, I get it, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world that I should be angry about, advocating for, and cheering on. But I just can’t keep up. In some of the unsubscribes they even say “We know it’s a lot of email but…” Sorry kids, that argument isn’t going to win me over. I must reduce the email overload.

And the shopping – some I kept, I have to say, but I only bought new cabinet knobs once, do I really need to keep getting emails from the antique hardware store? And sure those bike shorts were cute once, but really – it’s January, I’m not hitting the trails any time soon. I’m sure I can find you later if I need you. And who can really afford Domino? Cripes.

Then there are the insidious emails that seem to have bred from others in your inbox. Offshoots of companies you may have subscribed to in the past but they just seemed to have added you to the next new newsletter they created. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsub-freaking-scribe.

Standardization? What’s that?

As I was going through this exercise, I was amazed at the spectrum of unsubscribe pages on the web. Some automatically confirm that you’ve been unsubscribed, some expect you to confirm your email address before they’ll let you go. Others beg you to stay, to reconsider, to just reduce the overall volume. The political site that expected me to load a whole video begging me not to leave was 2nd worst, but the ultimate was the list that required me to confirm, then they sent me an email asking me to confirm again, and then finally an email saying I was unsubscribed. And the html layout was atrocious to boot. Sent me straight back to the early 90s there.

I don’t do a lot of email marketing personally anymore, but I can certainly offer a few user experience tips after today’s exercise.

  • Make sure your unsubscribe links are rendering correctly.  Send yourself a test email, scroll to the bottom, if your links are showing up as HTML something went wrong.
  • Check the function of your mailing list every year – make it a new years habit.  Several of the mailing services have clearly updated how the unsubscribe page works but the users never caught up (MailChimp and Feedburner of particular note).  Branding was missing, copyright dates were ancient, many had the aforementioned broken HTML.  Testing is good.
  • If you want to try to win me back – don’t guilt me.  Give me a good reason why I should stay or switch my subscription rate.  It’s doubtful I would have stayed today, I was in de-clutter mode, but another day you might talk me into it.
  • Don’t send me a confirmation email for unsubscribing. A note on the screen is fine. I don’t want more email- doh!
  • Reduce the hoops.  Unless your email service requires a lengthy process, keep it short and simple, it will leave me with a favorable opinion of you and I may subscribe again.

I wish I’d grabbed screen shots along the way, but I was down to my last few unsubscribes before I felt this should become a blog post.  If you’re an email marketer and have control over your unsubscribe process, go check it out and see if it’s clean, quick and leaves a user delighted with their (possibly) last interaction with you.

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