Ask Laura: What about Transactional Opt-Outs?


Dear Laura,
We are having a bit of an internal struggle on our end as we launch our new quarterly account summaries. What are your views on including an unsubscribe link in these emails?
My personal opinion is that we should. Although the summaries can be classified as “transactional”, they are not tied to a specific recent transaction a customer made and can be viewed as a general reminder to shop again. As I gathered data to present my case, I reviewed several different account summaries and I found it split close to 50/50. Do you have any data or thoughts to support one way or another?
Summary Judgement

Dear Summary,
I believe there are very, very few recurring messages that should not have an unsubscribe link. Even many one-time messages should have an unsub link, particularly in situations where the address is not confirmed. Because even the cleanest, most perfect subscription process will get the wrong address some time, you want that person to be able to make the mail stop.
I was recently in a situation where we cancelled a SaaS contract last December but was still getting “service notifications” that we couldn’t opt out of. The service notifications are reasonable for companies who are still paying said SaaS provider. But we’re not paying them. And we can’t opt-out. And I really wished they’d stop emailing me notices about when they’re going to upgrade our hardware instance… because we have none. I did contact their ESP, who was very helpful in both getting the mail to stop and tracking down the problem.
If you’re looking for ways to discuss this internally there are a couple approaches I might suggest.
One is to talk about why people think these messages are so important that the user should have no choice in receiving them. Make people actually articulate their thought processes behind their belief. The underlying reason is often something like “because it’s a touchpoint and we don’t have to let them opt-out legally, so we can get our brand in front of them without breaking any laws.” That’s not really a good enough idea to force people to receive your message.
From an overall deliverability perspective, allowing users to unsubscribe gives you more insight into and control over your mailing program. If people don’t want to receive mail from you, they have the ability to stop receiving mail from you. They can “opt out” even if you don’t let them.
This-is-spam hits mean all future mail will go to the bulk folder, specific “block this sender” filters. In most cases the user having to block or spam a mail reduces the actual inbox deliveries and depending on how you’re set up, it may reduce inboxing of ALL your mail, not just the quarterly account summaries. Explain this to your colleagues and suggest that an unsubscribe link might actually be a more elegant, and less frustrating, solution.

Confused about delivery in general? Trying to keep up on changing policies and terminology? Need some Email 101 basics? This is the place to ask. We can’t answer specific questions about your server configuration or look at your message structure for the column (please get in touch if you’d like our help with more technical or forensic investigations!), but we’d love to answer your questions about how email works, trends in the industry, or the joys and challenges of cohabiting with felines.
Your pal,

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