Is Double Opt-in Overrated?

By AdStation | June 21st, 2012 | Categories: Email Marketing

Why are we still talking about “double opt-in?” It has been discussed, debated, and explained by the industry leaders over and over again. Yet, it is still considered by many to be the highest standard of email permission.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against double opt-in. My reservations are for the illusion that has the industry believes that it is the highest standard of email consent. In reality, a double opt-in method is a tool that allows email senders to segment subscribers who are excited about a program and are willing
to take another action by clicking on the link to ensure they remain with the email program.

But does that mean the subscribers using a double opt-in method are clear as to what they are opting into? Maybe, and maybe not. The answer lies in the disclosure language of the consent. I suggest we put more focus on the disclosure at the time of consent and less focus on the double opt-in method.

But first, when is double opt-in a good idea? If you run a community website and users are required to sign up to be a part of this community site, then why not use the double-opt-in signup method to collect emails? Similarly, if you are sending a diabetes newsletter and your audience includes patients seeking education, you have an energized audience excited enough to confirm a subscription. Double opt-in is also recommended for companies that are capturing emails through co-registration programs so they can confirm the true owner of the email address.

Conversely, if users navigate through your site during comparison shopping and sign-up to receive your messages, why would you initiate a double opt-in and risk missing out on the chance to communicate to all of them? If you are only mailing to a double opt-in list, you may be missing out on marketing to a huge segment that would like to receive your communication but was not excited enough to opt-in for it twice. That’s the biggest drawback to double opt-in – lost opportunities.

Regardless of where you stand on double opt-in, do not confuse it with permission levels. Generally, senders that restrict subscriptions to double opt-in adhere to the highest standards. (This could be why the double opt-in signup method has gained a reputation as the highest standard of email permission.) The knee-jerk implication is that single opt-in methods cannot maintain the same standards. That is simply not true. You can still maintain the highest standards of permission levels!

The health of the email program does not lie in whether you use a single or a double opt-in method. If you want to positively impact the health of your email program, focus your attention on these key areas: signup disclosure, relevance, and frequency.

Signup Disclosure – Signup disclosure is incredibly important to your list health, but is often given the least attention. When creating a signup process, focus on aligning user expectations with the communications you plan to send. Make sure the process is clear and conspicuous. Set the right expectation regarding frequency and content at the very beginning. Many senders are reluctant to disclose frequency at this point in the collection process. Later, they find themselves struggling with elevated complaints. You can avoid, or at least diminish, this problem by using words such as periodically, frequently, weekly or daily.

A clear and conspicuous signup process also means that disclosure language cannot be in fine print or hidden in the privacy policy. Instead, it should be present at the point of collection. A preference center is a great way to capture interests and set the right expectation on what subscribers can expect to receive after signing up. A welcome message is another way to reinforce these expectations.

Frequency – Most senders struggle to find the optimal frequency for their subscribers. They are either too afraid or don’t have the technical ability to give this control to users. My advice? Stop trying to guess the right frequency for your list. Once, twice, three times a week? Who can tell?

Instead, improve frequency governance by shifting the controls from list level to user engagement levels. Set frequency based on where users are in their lifecycle. If they are actively responding to your communications, then it is likely they are happy with the frequency and content. If they are not responding to your communication, then allocate more resources to improving your content and making it more relevant.

Relevance – You can have the best signup and consent process and the best preference center in the world, but unless you can keep your message relevant, your subscribers will disengage over time. Segmentation through demographics and interests is a successful method for ensuring message relevance. Plus, it is generally easier to execute. If you segment based on user preferences, then it is important to frequently encourage users to update their preferences since these can change over time.

Behavioral targeting is also a great way for you to keep your messages relevant, especially through predictive analytics. With predictive analytics, you can study user behaviors and model them against other users with similar behaviors. This can be a powerful tool to keep messages relevant over time. Making simple adjustments in your program can translate into increased performance.

Remember, opt-in is important, but if you want to make your list – and profits – soar, focus on signup disclosure, frequency and relevance.