It sounds like a story email marketers might tell their kids to scare them into being good: If you don’t behave, an evil website will come along in the middle of the night and allow your entire email list to unsubscribe with one click!
As you’re probably aware, the nightmare has now become a reality, and email marketers all over the world are panicking at the growing success of email rollup services such as Unroll.me.
If you haven’t been paying attention, the concept is simple. Users allow unroll.me to scan their inbox for email subscriptions.
They are then presented with a long list of all their regular emails and given three options: leave it as is, unsubscribe or “roll up” into a single daily digest.
You might hope that your email will survive this cull. Subscribers signed up voluntarily, right? And your emails are timely, valuable and relevant — you hope. Surely people won’t unsubscribe en masse just because a third-party website made it marginally easier to do so?
The Bad News About Unroll.me
Unroll.me is the current leader in the field, having fixed some early bugs, relaunched with a clean UI, and successfully harnessed a social media campaign where the service is offered free in exchange for tweets and likes.
Their 2013 figures claim to have stopped over one billion emails. And they’re not borderline spam emails like you might think; the biggest victims include Expedia, TicketWeb and 1-800-Flowers. Reputable companies all, but they have experienced unsubscribe rates of up to 55%.
If your subscribers don’t unsubscribe, they may still choose to rollup your email into the digest. In practice, this means that the user receives one email each day from unroll.me.
Within that email, each subscription is displayed in a brief summary, usually the email title, main image and first paragraph.
The user needs to make the decision to click on the preview if they want to see the whole thing, which is not good news for anyone who has previously struggled with open rates.
Services like these seem set to compound the misery of those email marketers threatened by other developments, such as Gmail’s introduction of Inbox Tabs, as mentioned in this blog recently. What are we to do?
The Good News About Unroll.me
Unroll.me is not going to kill email marketing. It is going to kill bad email marketing.
Like every other attempt to move power away from spammers and back to users, the main threat is to those who send emails without really asking what value they are providing to the recipient.
The uptake of unroll.me shows there is an appetite out there for this kind of service: people do feel overwhelmed by their inbox, they sign up for things they don’t intend to, and the only thing preventing them from unsubscribing is, often, the inconvenience of doing so.
Understanding this gives you an insight into how to reconnect with those customers who may have passively been receiving your emails but not your message.
Digest emails may actually help build engagement with those readers, should they choose to start rolling up your messages.
Receiving a single, daily email is a lot more manageable than receiving a steady stream of them during the day, so that digest email takes on a greater significance for the reader.
They are more likely to open it when they have free time, and they’re also likely to read through the whole thing just to make sure they’ve not missed anything. In other words, if you get through that first couple of hurdles, you may be one step closer to a conversion.
If you’ve not seen a digest email yet, it’s worth doing so right away so you can get an idea of how your email will be represented.
Consider how you can develop your emails to stand out in this brave new world, and soon you’ll probably see that nothing has really changed at all. Be relevant, be useful, be timely, be interesting and your email will be read.