How to Reduce Email Unsubscribe Rate (7 Proven Strategies)

Reduce Email Unsubscribe Rate

It takes superhuman effort to build an email list, set up an email workflow, and also manage the responses. After going through this entire quagmire of activities, it would be extremely painful to see some of your contacts slipping through the gaps.

What does it imply?

Your emails are not valuable?

There were gaps in finding the right target audience?

There could be other reasons as well. 

The truth is, the email unsubscribe rate is a necessary evil. It helps clean up your email list, ensuring that your emails are reaching the right audience who might take the desired action.

However, a high email unsubscribe rate can diffuse all your email marketing efforts. Also, a high unsubscribe rate can detrimentally affect your domain reputation which will further impact the deliverability of your future emails. Hence, the need to maintain it at a healthy rate. 

Before we get into the thoughtful ways of curbing email unsubscribe rate, it is necessary to know what it really means. 

What does the email unsubscribe rate mean?

Email unsubscribe rate is the measure of users who have asked to stop sending them any more promotional, instructional, informative, or transactional emails. In email marketing, this explicit request to stop sending emails any further is referred to as unsubscribe. 

Email unsubscribe rate is calculated using the below-mentioned formula:

unsubscribe rate

Source: SendX

As the formula indicates, the email unsubscribe rate for a period is calculated by dividing the number of emails unsubscribes by the total number of messages delivered during the period multiplied by 100 (to arrive at the percentage). 

Email unsubscribe rate is always indicated as a percentage. So if you have sent 100 emails during a period and got 5 unsubscribes during the same period; the unsubscribe rate is 5%. 

  • Emails sent in the month of January = 100
  • Number of unsubscribes in January = 5
  • Email unsubscribe rate = a) / b) * 100 = 5%

What is the average email unsubscribe rate across industries?

Each industry will have its own email unsubscribe rate. There is no single number that represents the unsubscribe rate across all industries. 

From advertising to manufacturing, each diverse industry will have its own different email unsubscribe rate. 

average email unsubscribe rate across industries

Source: Campaign Monitor

Broadly, we can assume that the average unsubscribe rate is 0.1%. However, there are industries that have an unsubscribe rate as high as 0.40% (wellness & fitness). 

Depending on the industry that your business belongs to your email unsubscribe rate will change and accordingly the steps necessary to curb it. The good news is, the strategies to curb it remain broadly similar across all industries. 

Key strategies to curb email unsubscribe rate

There are no tips and hacks that you can try your hand at to curb the email unsubscribe rate. You need well-thought strategies that can be implemented right from the email list building stage to the email marketing automation process. Here are some of them:

1. Use double opt-ins

Double opt-ins require the user to confirm their consent to sign up for your email newsletter. Here is how double opt-in works. When a user signs up for your email, they will receive a follow-up email or a pop-up asking them to confirm their consent via email.

The image below showcases how an email double opt-in will work:

double opt in process

Source: Justuno

Obviously, double opt-in is one more additional step that could slow down your email list-building process. Chances are that you might miss a small proportion of users from getting added to the list as they may not complete the double opt-in. 

However, the upside is that users who give the double opt-in are users who have lesser chances of unsubscribing to your emails. Of course, you must also serve them the right kind of content to keep their interest alive in your emails. 

2. Ask for frequency preference

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to how many times you can email your users. Depending on the industry and desired customer experience, you might have to email customers every day, week, or even in a month. For some industries it could be like sending emails for every transaction — banking and financial services being the case in point.

The basic rule is that, don’t so many emails that you might force users to mark you as spam. Nobody likes an additional email in their already flooded inbox. It is necessary to strike a balance. 

The best way to do that is to ask customers for the specific frequency in which you can send them emails. 

Asking for frequency preferences beforehand helps set expectations as to how often you would be sending emails. This would assure them that you are not sending too many unsolicited emails to choke their inbox. Naturally, their inclination to unsubscribe would be less. 

TED requests users to choose ‘The daily email’ or ‘The Weekly email’ when they subscribe for emails. It puts the control in the user’s hand to choose the right kind of email frequency that best suits their content consumption style.

ted email frequency preference

Source: TED

3. Write the right subject lines

Believe it or not, subject lines, although short, have the power to make your customers open or delete your emails. They make the offer of valuable content, a great discount, or anything that the user would be interested in. 

In fact, 47% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line whereas 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line (Invespcro). Emails with no subject line or generic subject lines might get deleted altogether. 

What makes subject lines so critical? After all, they are few words long — five to six words at the most. You have to convey a long message within the short word limit. Also, to make them interesting, you must pop in emojis and other special characters that will give them a personal appeal. Besides, people love the feeling of being personally approached, so personalizing emails could be the key to consistently achieving high open and click-through rates.

email subject line example


But, how can subject lines stop users from unsubscribing? Basically, the subject lines help in boosting email open rates. If everything else like the email content and timing is done in the right fashion, the email will provide value to the user. As a result, the engagement will improve thus cementing the relationship with the user. This reduces the chances of the user unsubscribing to your emails. 

4. Segment customers based on funnel stage

Getting an irrelevant email can be quite annoying. All of us at some point in time have got emails that we have no clue who sent and for what purpose. The immediate reaction for anyone getting an irrelevant email would be to delete it or mark it as spam. Users who take no action for the first few emails would eventually put in the effort to find the ‘Unsubscribe’ button at the tail end of the email and use it for their own good. 

In fact, at least 31% of users unsubscribe because they were sent irrelevant content.

why subscribers flag emails as spam

Can this situation be averted? Turns out email list segmentation has a solution to this challenge. You can create multiple email segments out of your mailing list. The segments can be based on the funnel stage of the user. Based on their segment you can send them targeted content that will maximize their engagement and also lower the possibility of unsubscription. 

5. Experiment with all content formats

The first-ever email sent was in plain text format. Today, you can send almost every form of content through email. HTML email templates have made it possible to embed your emails with rich format and content including multimedia assets. 

A diverse range of content formats can heighten your email user experience and entertainment quotient. For example, it is easier and more interactive to broadcast an upcoming event with a video than with a text message. Similarly, you can also embed infographics to highlight major feature releases, upcoming milestones, discounts, coupons, and whatnot. GIFs also play a huge role in making emails come to life. Even transactional emails can be made engaging with GIFs and similar interactive content. 

ecommerce transactional email gif example

Source: reallygoodemails

6. Optimize for mobile-friendliness

75% of all Gmail users access their email on mobile devices. You must already be aware that Gmail dominates the market when it comes to email services. In other words, if your email is not optimized for mobile-friendliness, it means a lion’s share of the world’s email users may not be getting your emails. 

Optimizing your email for mobile-friendliness is definitely a time-consuming affair. There are few things you can get started that should make your emails — be it promotional or otherwise mobile-friendly. 

Some of them are:

  • Use a shorter pre-header text of fewer than 60 characters
  • Make the CTA buttons prominent and easily clickable
  • Keep the email body short and concise
  • Use images and elements that load faster 
  • Choose single-column emails for long text 
  • Choose double-column emails for image-heavy emails

An email optimized for mobile-friendliness will display the email in a responsible manner according to the screen dimensions of the user’s device. 

mobile responsive email newsletter example

Source: Email on Acid

7. Ask why they unsubscribe

This might seem like a no-brainer. But, asking your unsubscribing users is the best way to know gaps in your email content strategy. There is plenty of survey software available in the market that you can use to collect feedback via email. They help ask the right questions to users like:

  1. Is it too generic?
  2. Are you sending emails too frequently?
  3. Don’t the customers remember signing up?
  4. Is it too promotional?

Answering these questions will help you know the reasons why your users could be considering unsubscribing in the future. 

This feedback can be collected in two ways. First, along with confirming that users have been unsubscribed, you can also ask the reason for unsubscription. Give a few pointers and a generic “Other” option to let customers write in detail. The feedback should be short while providing carrying essential questions that the user would be interested in responding to.

g2 unsubscribe reasons survey

Source: Sleeknote

Additionally, to avoid existing subscribers from unsubscribing, you can send occasional surveys that ask whether they would like to update their email preferences in any way. This can lead to a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t with your emails. Based on the feedback, you can tweak the existing email workflows and make them attuned to the user’s preferences.

Emails have long since been used for conducting surveys and polls. It is proven that email surveys can improve engagement, give deep insights into user behavior, and also help tweak the business offerings to suit user needs. 

The Sign Off

Email marketing is a rewarding marketing strategy. However, it is not easy to master either. Every brand, whether established or just getting started struggles with controlling its email unsubscribe rate. A high email unsubscribe rate can easily diffuse all the hard work you are putting in. 

While it is good to have a clean email list that does not contain uninterested users, losing too many contacts can put a strain on your list-building efforts. 

There are specific strategies that you can implement to curb your unsubscribes. Make sure you get conscious consent from users with double opt-in. Also, ask customers specifically about the frequency in which they are willing to receive emails. 

Before sending the email, ensure that the subject line is captivating enough to grab the user’s attention. Ideally, it must have an offer that the user will find value in. Next, embed the email body with diverse content formats that the user can interact with. Plain text emails may not be the answer to all your email marketing needs. It is necessary to experiment with diverse content formats to know which one works the best. 

Don’t forget to personalize the email content based on the funnel stage of the user. Bear in mind that your mail will most probably be engaged only if it is mobile-friendly. These 7 strategies should go a long way in keeping your email unsubscribe rate under control.

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