User Friendliness of Email Unsubscribe Flows

Email marketing is a strong piece of the backbone of any consumer internet product. Recently, I went through the email unsubscribe flow of a couple of my favorite products: Sosh and Zipcar. While going through the respective flows, I noticed that one was a lot more user-friendly than the other. Let’s take a look.

Here’s Sosh:

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Here’s Zipcar:

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As shown above, the Sosh flow is a simple one step process with a CTA in the email followed up with a confirmation screen on the Sosh site. In contrast, Zipcar requires the user to first login before they are able to unsubscribe.

The Zipcar user experience is clearly less user friendly. But is this so bad? The advantage of the Zipcar approach is that they are creating more work for a user who wishes to unsubscribe and thus decreasing the amount of users who unsubscribe. However, this could be problematic. When a user goes to unsubscribe from a marketing email, they already have a semi-sour taste in their mouths about that product. When you create another (in their view) unnecessary hurdle in order to get them to perform this action, that semi-sour taste might turn into full blown disappointment and anger toward your product. Furthermore, the user can “punish” the company by going to their email client (i.e. Gmail) and marking the marketing email as spam. This may cause future marketing emails (even those sent to users who want to receive such emails) to be more likely to be marked as spam by the email client.

Improvements to the Etrade Unsubscribe Flow

I recently received a marketing email from Etrade and my first instinct was to unsubscribe from their marketing list. As I was going through their unsubscribe flow, I noticed something that simultaneously made me laugh out loud and angered me a bit. Let’s start with the email itself:

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Scrolling down to the bottom of the email, we see the all important and sought after unsubscribe section:

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Interestingly enough, they don’t use the word unsubscribe — perhaps because they know that people are trained to look for this word and perhaps they don’t want me to unsubscribe. 😉 On clicking through, here is the page that made me laugh:

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Here, the unsubscribe flow has selected the option to remain a subscriber by default! Now, this could be a case of the wrong radio button being selected due to a bug, but I’m inclined to believe that this is a product decision in order to reduce unsubscribes. While I understand the need to retain customers, this is a dishonest way to do so. The ideal experience would (1) have a clear “unsubscribe” link in the original email with the word “unsubscribe” and (2) make the default call to action on the landing page remain as unsubscribe while allowing the user an opportunity to opt out.