February 7, 2008, 12:00 AM

While complying with Can-Spam, marketers miss chance to engage customers

96% of e-mail marketing professionals are in compliance with the Can-Spam Act, says a new research report from Lyris Inc. But most marketers also pass up opportunities to fully engage e-mail recipients, it adds.

96% of e-mail marketing professionals include an unsubscribe function in their promotional e-mails and are in compliance with the Can-Spam Act, says a new research report from Lyris Inc.

But the survey finds most marketers also leave customer retention opportunities on the table during the unsubscribe process by not offering recipients alternative forms of communication or gathering valuable exit information.

The survey from Lyris, an e-mail marketing service provider, also finds that more than 80% of e-mail marketers said they make the unsubscribe process easy-recipients either click a URL for instant removal (53%) or reply directly to the e-mail itself with "unsubscribe" in the subject line (29%). More than 90% of the 400 marketers in the survey allow subscribers to opt out through other channels such as call centers and regular mail.

While Can-Spam only requires the unsubscribe function in commercial messages, best practices recommendations go beyond that to say it should be included in all mail communications, Lyris says. Nearly two-thirds of marketers-63%-said they include an unsubscribe option in welcome e-mails, 45% include it in customer service messages and 31% include it in transactional e-mails.

"E-mail is the only marketing channel that gives consumers full control of the relationship," says Lyris director of e-mail marketing best practices Stefan Pollard. "That doesn`t have to be scary-in fact, it`s actually quite savvy. Marketers clearly are complying with the law here. But the fact that so many still discourage unsubscribes shows that they don`t fully understand the opportunity they have to reinforce the value of their brand by creating a transparent e-mail program that inspires trust."

Profile pages, where e-mail subscribers manage their accounts, could be useful channels of communication, says Lyris. But only 25% of survey respondents said their unsubscribe process includes a link to the profile page without requiring a password. Another 17% link to the profile but do require a password-adding a few steps to the unsubscribe process, especially for those who`ve forgotten their passwords.

When asked what appears on their unsubscribe confirmation landing pages, just 18% of marketers said they include a goodbye message, only 6% provide a customer service phone number, 5% ask unsubscribers why they`re leaving, 5% provide a simple feedback form and just 4% remind unsubscribers about other messaging channels.

"An unsubscribe isn`t always about saying goodbye," says Pollard. "Maybe the subscriber`s needs or interests changed, or he wants to update an address, or to hear from you more or less often."

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