Unroll.me: A Flawed, Misleading Unsubscribe Service

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Have you ever glanced at a friend or family member’s phone or computer and been shocked at the number of unread emails in their inbox?

I may be far too neurotic not to zero-out my push notifications in my inbox, but I know I’m in the minority. Most people receive so much email on a daily basis that they can’t even keep up.

Sound familiar?

According to a report from the Radicati Group, the number of business emails sent and received per person in a day totals 122 emails in 2015. This figure is expected to increase to an average of 126 messages sent and received per person in a day by the end of 2019.

Set Them Free

Should an email marketer fear the unsubscribe?

Sure, in an ideal world every individual that subscribes to your email campaigns would want to read them for the rest of time. However, you don’t want to send to people who don’t want to hear from you.

In that instance, those who unsubscribe save you the time of removing them from your list once they go inactive. Unsubscribes can save you from low Open Rates and Abuse complaints.

Is Unroll.me the Solution?

It is one of the most perplexing paradoxes to face any marketer in any industry through any channel in the world. Every day any brand marketer is confronted with customers who have voluntarily subscribed to their email campaigns but now want out for any variety of reasons.

While some unsubscribe in the conventional manner, many more just mark the emails as spam when they’re tired of them, causing significant damage to your sender reputation.

The reasons why so many millions of subscribers just can’t seem to “do the right thing” and unsubscribe conventionally may be a question to be solved by the digital historians of the future, but one of the latest developments has caused even more consternation among marketers: Unroll.me is a service which promises to mass-unsubscribe customers at a single click and which presents a possible threat to all email marketers.

Rollup or Nuke

While it is true that Unroll.me offers a single daily rollup, a digest of sorts of all your accepted email marketing missives, the feature which has caused the most concern among email marketers is the ease at how users of this site can easily wipe out subscriptions to dozens or even hundreds of brands at one fell swoop.

The user begins by giving Unroll.me access to Yahoo, MSN, AOL, or Gmail account and then letting it scan the complete contents of the inboxes and storage folders to arrive at its determination of what is commercial email. The user is then presented with a list whereby they can sort out what they want to continue to see, but presented in a rollup fashion, and which ones they want to nuke outright.

Since When Are They Unwanted?

By the end of 2013, Unroll.me boasted that it had killed over a billion “unwanted emails.” Therein lies the paradox of the entire email subscriber psychology and the failing that Unroll.me is capitalizing on.

None of these billion emails were at all “unwanted.” They had all been generated by permission of the customer which they had voluntarily given at some point in the past. The vast majority of these permissions were marked by a double opt-in policy which reconfirmed the desire of the customer to receive these emails.

However, even with all of those more than ample justifications for the statements that these are indeed “wanted” emails, it does not stop the very same customers who agreed at every step of the process to have them disappear from their sight. As I stated, all of this is nothing more than a very strange paradox, but one that is unfortunately central to the life of the email marketer.

1-800-Flowers Lost 52.5%

The amount of “damage” which has been done by Unroll.me to legitimate brand email marketing is only now coming into focus.

2.5 million subscriptions were negated in 2013, with 1-800-Flowers having the highest percentage at 52.5%, TicketWeb in second place with 47.5% and ProFlowers at 45.1%.

Again, it begs the question of what these subscribers were thinking when they agreed to receive these brand emails which they had since changed their minds around, but that delves into the realm of psychologists and psychiatrists.

It Doesn’t Unsubscribe, It Mass-Junks!

The largest single problem with Unroll.me for email marketers is not just the number of legitimate subscriptions which have been rendered null and void by the service, but the way which the software unsubscribes. As it turns out, Unroll.me doesn’t unsubscribe at all!

Although the site itself barely mentions what happens to the emails which are listed as to be unsubscribed from, there is ample evidence that they are essentially held in limbo which is only a whisker’s breadth away from having them marked as spam.

Therefore what Unroll.me has created is not so much a mass unsubscribe service as a mass spam folder service which can make a considerable ding in any email marketer’s online reputation with the all-important ISPs.

There is no reason why Unroll.me couldn’t have been created to correctly unsubscribe emails rather than mass-junking them. That is the primary reason why it is an essentially flawed and misleading software that could be very dangerous to email marketers.

Other Issues with Unroll.me

Recently, more negative press has surfaced about Unroll.me. It turns out, Uber had been using data from Slice Intelligence, a data firm which uses Unroll.me to scan inboxes for information, to track users from its competition, Lyft. While not illegal, it certainly upset many Unroll.me users.

As long as the data sold doesn’t identify users by name, it happens with many free services. Unroll.me included.

What Other Options Do Subscribers Have?

There’s plenty of other practical ways to manage your crowded inbox.

  • Smart folders are a popular solution, even amongst the team here at Benchmark. You can create smart folders that sort the clutter in your inbox into more manageable sections. This allows you to focus on the more important items first.
  • Preference centers allow you to manage the frequency of which you receive email campaigns from individual companies. Maybe daily or weekly is too often for you, but you can probably handle one email per month.
  • Just hit Unsubscribe! Once in a while, a bit of inbox maintenance is helpful. There may just be some places you don’t need to hear from anymore. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten why you subscribed in the first place.

What Can You Do As An Email Marketer?

The biggest thing you need to answer, as an email marketers, is why an individual wants to unsubscribe in the first place.

Are you sending too often? Maybe not enough and they forgot why they subscribed in the first place? This is where setting up an aforementioned preference center can save you from unsubscribes.

Maybe your content isn’t relevant enough. Not providing the value that people signed up for is another way to lose your audience. Make sure you’re paying attention to your reports. Segment your lists accordingly and tailor content to those individual audiences.

Speaking of relevance, are you using different signup forms in different locations. Each signup form will attract a different audience. You can being the segmentation process upon signup when you do it right.

Share Your Experience

Have you used Unroll.me? What are your favorite solutions for managing a crowded inbox. What do you do as an email marketer to reduce list churn and unsubscribes? Tell us in the comments!

Are you ready for a smarter way to engage with your customers?

Benchmark helps you do email marketing the practical way. Create an ongoing relationship with your subscribers that leads to increased sales and happier customers.

Content & Social Networking Manager

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Christy
Christy

Also, you’re thinking about this the wrong way. Clearly, there are marketing emails consumers do want to receive, that’s why we’re rolling them up. For all the marketing emails I’ve booted to Unsubscribe, I’ve currently got about 58 marketing emails in my rollup. Do you think I would tolerate so many if they were individual emails? No way. When they are bundled together and I can look through them at my leisure, those companies are still reaching me, but they are doing it on MY terms as a consumer. If you are doing your job and making your emails interesting and relevant to my life, then Unroll Me is doing you a favor by increasing the chances I will read them in a context where I don’t feel the content is being shoved down my throat.

Christy Moceri
Christy Moceri

It’s not really a psychological conundrum so much as a failure to grasp how consumers operate. Most websites require an email address to do anything meaningful and they will sign you up for their spam whether you want it or not. Many marketers also use multiple email lists so that if you unsubscribe from one, you will still be hounded by others (Amazon is terrible about this.) I have one service I like and regularly use that emails me two to three times a day. Changing the settings did nothing to stem the tide. Unroll me is a gift to consumers trying to get out from under the thumb of pushy marketers. Instead of acting like the problem is due to the consumer, you’d be well-advised to focus on the problematic things that marketers do to cause the need for this service in the first place.

Michael
Michael

I started using Unroll.me recently after having my email address innundated with spam by someone who was able to compromise our online banking and attempt to transfer $5k out of our savings account. They were attempting to mask the emails from our bank in a deluge of email signups.

Quite a few of the emails were double opt-in confirmations but the majority of the lists were not. As someone who uses email marketing myself, I’m happy to “do the right thing” and unsubsubscribe from lists I originally signed up for and I’m even trying my best to unsubscribe from as many of these lists that I did not. I will also provide two clicks max to unsubscribe from any list. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to unsubscribe with just one click on a link in the email itself. If it takes more than that I just go back and mark it spam myself. I have hundreds, if not thousands of these lists to unsub from so multiple clicks would really add up.

I’d really like to see an unsubscribe tool right in gmail.

Gustav
Gustav

I just started using unroll.me after reading your post.
anything that hurt email marketeers is automatic a+ in my boook.

I have the following reasons.
I had (according to unroll me) a total of 33 subscriptions.
I removed 26. The reason:
I had never signed up for those services or had previously unsubscribed from.
To me it seems that ever so often greedy marketeers will resubscribe me to lists that I had previously opted out. So basically:
I have yet to meet an email marketeer that I actually trust – so please. Have biscuit while I play a very small violin for the woes of spammers….

Laura
Laura

Why is it so difficult for you to understand why I may have signed up to receive emails, and then a year (or more) later, my preferences have changed and I am no longer interested? Many times I believe that companies shoot themselves in the foot by requiring an email address to complete a purchase, and even when I have very deliberately unchecked the sneaky little box to ‘receive future emails, it sends them anyway! Or my ultimate ‘favorite’, getting an email once per day. It’s ridiculous. Believe me… Once per month is MORE than enough. I’m not absent minded. I know what companies I wish to do business with. Sending me constant crap only makes me LESS likely to buy from a company. Also, going through the unsubscribe process is a pain in the a** when I need to do it for HUNDREDS of emails. Especially on my main personal email that I’ve had for 15 years. So far, Unroll.me is my hero. Of course, if I find them violating my privacy I’ll drop them too, but I’ll definitely be looking for a similar app that can do the same thing.

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