Retail Email Subscription Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

The Direct Marketing Association’s Email Experience Council recently signed up for the email newsletters of 118 of the top online retailers tracked via RetailEmail.Blogspot. What we found was that there’s a clear trend toward subscription processes that are quick and easy, and increasingly transparent.

“The old adage ‘you only get one chance to make a good first impression’ transcends to an email marketer’s efforts in creating a good opt-in experience,” says Elie Ashery, president and CEO of email marketing software and services company Gold Lasso, the sponsor of the study. “The opt-in process sets the tone of how a future email relationship between a company and customer will unfold.”

Along with this shift toward greater ease of subscribing, the confirmation page is rising in importance. Rather than making customers complete long subscription forms, many retailers are now allowing people to subscribe with just an email address and then allowing them to express delivery and content preferences on the subscription confirmation page.

Also, addressing privacy concerns is a best practice that’s seeing adoption approach the 50% mark, and providing a sample newsletters is a clear emerging best practice that should help reduce opt-outs, with nearly 12% or major online retailers doing that.

Ashery adds, “Lasting impressions taken from the opt-in process can be directly linked to the ease of subscribing, relevant subscription choices available, the speed that a confirmed opt-in email is delivered, and most importantly, information on what the subscriber should expect from their email relationship such as content, frequency and format.”

On the content front, 28% of retailers offer more than one content selection, with it ranging from two all the way up to the 50 content options offered by Amazon.com. Nearly 6% of retailers offer a local store update.

When it comes to transparency on frequency, however, retailers do a poor job. Not even 7% of retailers give subscribers any kind of idea how many emails to expect. And only one retailer, Coldwater Creek, allows subscribers to opt to receive a monthly only email.

Format-wise, nearly 12% of retailers offer plain-text versions of their newsletters during the sign-up process. Because of the superior responses from HTML emails, retailers may be hesitant to give subscribers this option.

Here are some other findings from the study:

• Only 3% of major online retailers use a double opt-in subscription process.

• Only 92% of retailers have an email sign-up form or link on their homepage.

• More than 43% of retailers allow customers to sign up for email with one click from their homepage.

• The subscriber’s name (31%) and zip code (18%) were the two most often required pieces of information.

Get the Full Report
The full 37-page study presents a range of best practices and emerging best practices for your consideration, as well as a formerly popular practice that appears to be falling out of favor. It also includes numerous examples of creatives to help illustrate each point.

Visit the Whitepaper Room to download the full report, which is free for EEC platinum members, available at a discount to EEC gold and silver members, and available for $179 for non-members. Not a member? Learn more about becoming a member of the Email Experience Council.

—Chad White