February 7, 2008, 12:00 AM

E-mail opt-outs can still bring value to marketers, new study says

Although major online retailers honor e-mail unsubscribe requests quickly, they should learn from customers while making it easier for them to opt out of e-mail, the Email Experience Council says in a new study.

While major online retailers honor e-mail unsubscribe requests quickly, their opt-out processes need to improve, the Email Experience Council says in its first “Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study.”

More than 86% of retailers honored opt-outs within three days, with most of them effective immediately, the study found. Only 4% violated the Can-Spam Act of 2003 by either failing to honor opt-outs or taking longer than 10 business days to do so. 73% of retailers sent no more e-mails after receiving an opt-out request.

But the study also found that only 66% of retailers use their opt-out processes to ask subscribers why they want to opt out. Only 17% solicited feedback from those who had opted out. 16% of retailers gave those trying to opt out an opportunity to reduce the frequency at which they receive e-mails.

In addition, when looking at opt-out barriers, only 9% of major online retailers offer a one-click unsubscribe process, while another 35% could easily do it, but don’t, according to the study.

“Increasingly, one of the most important benchmarks for your unsubscribe process should be the single click of the ‘report spam’ button,” says Chad White, the council’s director of retail insights and the study’s author. “Unfortunately, some consumers already regularly use it to unsubscribe from e-mail that they no longer want. So if your process becomes confusing or cumbersome, consumers know they have that easy-to-use fallback.”

The study examined the opt-out practices of 94 of the top online retailers traced via RetailEmail.Blogspot. The Email Experience Council is the e-mail marketing arm of the Direct Marketing Association.

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