Recently I found out that OtherInbox planned to end the use of their Defender product which went into sunset a long time ago. I’ve used the product for nearly 8 years to manage my emails because I couldn’t be bothered to change. However the ability to have a custom email address for every newsletter (the very purpose of Defender) is possible through my hosting, so I set about updating hundreds of email subscriptions. Here’s what I learned along the way.
1. Very few newsletters let you update your email address
The only option you have is to unsubscribe, so you need to sign up again on the website. On the surface this won’t seem like an issue to most people, however it means that you’ll only be able to see a person’s email “history” for their most recent email address. This can give you some false reporting – particularly in regards to new signups.
The fault doesn’t solely lie with the newsletter sender. In fact, many ESPs don’t even give you the ability to change email addresses. At the time of writing, Mailchimp doesn’t allow you to update the email address via API 3.0, but you can do it via the preferences merge field. This means if you manage preferences via your own website and sync to Mailchimp via API, you’ll need to unsubscribe and resubscribe them to change their email.
2. Unsubscribe pages are neglected
Take the example below from Boden. I couldn’t unsubscribe because I couldn’t see where to click the link. I actually had to tweet them and tell them it was broken, meaning it could’ve gone some time without be checked. It’s so important to check these things on a regular basis to see whether they still work.
The worst thing is that the button is just part of the background image!
3. Even after I unsubscribed, I was still getting emails
Related to #2 above, some of the unsubscribe/preference management options are either broken or so confusing that I wasn’t 100% sure whether I had actually unsubscribed. To top that off, it says it can take x amount of days to be removed. Why? Surely if you’ve unsubscribed, the system suppresses the ability to send to that recipient? Here’s a couple of the worst offenders:
- Zara Home. The unsubscribe link doesn’t 404, it just redirects to the home page so you think you’ve unsubscribed when you actually haven’t. Their customer service is also appalling and rather than me telling them via twitter/facebook and them fixing it, they then want me to send them an email which they’ll then investigate (as they do for every single question anyone asks them).
- Martha Stewart. Ultra confusing email management. So many checkboxes and options – I reviewed the account options each and every time I received a message (and I was pretty sure I’d removed myself from all the lists) but that, combined with the unbelievably long turnaround time for removal was extremely frustrating.
4. No-one ever really reviews your engagement
My OtherInbox had over 3000 unopened emails spanning about 6 months. There was not a single “Hey we’ve missed you” email in there and I’m signed up to a lot of the big UK retailers. Proving that all they really care about is that the email list grows, not about how engaged the recipients are, which is more important for revenue and deliverability.
5. Email addresses get violated all the time
One of the great things about having an email address you only use for one company means that you can see when your email address has been used by another company. It looks like my Dropbox email address has been compromised as well as my Crate and Barrel and Covent Garden Soups ones. At least it’s easy with Gmail to create filters that automatically delete emails that go to a particular email address.
6. There is poor support for modern email address formats
I’m talking about the ability to use a + in my email address. My original idea was to just use a + to manage individual email addresses but after encountering too many sites that wouldn’t allow me to use the plus, I had to switch tactics.
In one case, I wasn’t even allowed to use the company name as part of the email address! It kept returning an issue (I couldn’t figure out what) until I removed the offending detail from the email construct.
7. No-one really validates email addresses on signup
For example, to reduce the amount of email addresses put in incorrectly. Rather they wait to confirm your email address and opt-in by clicking the link in a subscription confirmation email (if they even have one). However, I did like this cool little pop-up for email confirmation from Benefit. You put in your email address then the popup allows you to confirm with a double entry input.