The Element of Choice: Tips for Permission-Based Email


Email is a valuable marketing tool; just about all ecommerce website owners know this well. This can make many of us eager—way too eager—to build our subscriber lists. In order for your email marketing to be successful, however, you need to make sure that your customers know exactly what they are getting into and really, really want your friendly messages in their inboxes at regular intervals. Here are a few ways of accomplishing this.

  1. Offer a double opt-in procedure. This is a subject of much debate—many ecommerce website owners feel that a lot of customers are lost in that second step simply because they lose patience or fail to follow through, and studies indicate that this is the case up to half the time. However, we think that a double opt-in is almost a good idea. Double opt-in basically means that the subscriber must sign up once, usually at your website, and then open an email and confirm subscription before being added officially to your list. This not only protects the customer; it also protects you from spammers.
  2. Leave opt-in boxes unchecked. We all have been through checkout and almost clicked continue before realizing that all of the email opt-in boxes were checked. Many websites leave them checked by default so people who do not thoroughly read the form get inadvertently signed up. This is an annoying way of building your subscriber list and will only hurt your brand.
  3. Tell subscribers what to expect. Many people will be more likely to subscribe if they know exactly what kind of information your newsletters will include. Tell them, especially if you are giving clear benefits such as special sales and discounts. If you really want to keep customers informed, link to sample email so they can tell exactly what you are offering.
  4. Show your privacy policy. The basic job of your privacy policy is to reassure people that you will not share their information with anyone, so make sure everyone sees it. 
  5. Make it as easy to unsubscribe as to subscribe. In fact, make it easier. There should be a link at the bottom of every email allowing them to unsubscribe quickly and easily. It’s better than getting flagged as spam, after all. If you have multiple brands, allow people to opt in to every single list rather than automatically subscribing them to the whole shebang.
  6. Welcome them appropriately. As soon as subscribers confirm subscription, they should receive a welcome email telling them what to expect from your company. This is a good time to prompt subscribers to add you to their ‘Safe List’. It will remind people that they, indeed, subscribed to your newsletter and keep you from getting flagged as spam.

These precautions will reduce the number of customers who view you as spam (which can be very damaging to your brand) but it will not eliminate the phenomenon altogether. Keep in mind that customers may have a very different definition of spam than you do. Most customers define spam as unwanted email, not unsolicited email. This means that you must make them want your messages, or you will be perceived as a spammer. That’s a high bar, but it is a reality in ecommerce.