Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

While major online retailers do a great job of honoring unsubscribe requests quickly, there’s plenty of room for their opt-out processes to improve—most notably in the areas of providing subscribers with alternatives to opting out and of lowering barriers to opting out. For instance, only 66% of retailers use their opt-out processes to engage subscribers in order to address the issue causing them to want to opt out—and few do more than a superficial job of it. When looking at opt-out barriers, only 9% of major online retailers employ a one-click unsubscribe process, while another 35% easily could, but don’t.

Those are a couple of the key findings of Email Experience Council’s first annual Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study, which looked at the opt-out practices of 94 major online retailers. The study looks at trends in the opt-out process itself, including the alternatives to opting out, opt-out methods and friction in the unsubscribe process; and examines the honoring of opt-out requests, including CAN-SPAM compliance.

“Email is a relationship channel, and opting out of the relationship is just another step in the lifecycle,” says Kara Trivunovic, director of strategic services at Premiere Global Services Inc., the sponsor of this study. “Ignore it at your own peril.”

Increasingly one of the most important benchmarks for your unsubscribe process should be the single click of the “report spam” button. Some consumers already regularly use it to unsubscribe from email that they no longer want. So if your process becomes confusing or cumbersome, consumers know they have an easy-to-use fallback. That makes it more important than ever to have a frictionless opt-out process.

It also makes it more important to honor opt-out requests quickly, as delays increasingly look like failures. Thankfully, more than 86% of retailers honored opt-outs within 3 days, with most of them effective immediately, as evidenced by the number of emails received after opting out. Another 4% honored opt-outs within 7 days, and 3% more within 14 days. One percent took more than the CAN-SPAM-sanctioned 14 days to honor unsubscribes, and another 3% of retailers had their opt-out processes fail.

Other key findings from the study include:

• 73% of retailers sent no more emails after receiving an opt-out request.

• 16% of retailers give those trying to opt-out an opportunity to reduced the frequency at which they receive emails.

• 17% of retailers solicited feedback from those that had opted out

• 4% of retailers were in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 by either failing to honor opt-outs or taking longer than 10 business days to do so.

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And as part of a special promotion, attendees of the eec’s Email Evolution Conference can receive the study for free. Visit for more information and to register.