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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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.

Marybeth
Marybeth

While I am somewhat sympathetic to the impact on marketing, Unroll.me has helped control my email beyond anything else I’ve used. Multiple marketing emails per day from the same company don’t influence me to purchase more – they aggravate me to the point of finding another vendor (1-800-Flowers was a huge offender for me, so I’m not so sympathetic toward the impact).
I agree with Morilon: I’m tired of “conventionally unsubscribing” to something and to my surprise, few weeks after, I receive the same email.
I’ll continue to use Unroll.me to manage those marketers who hound me mercilessly. Those who I hear from once a week or less – I’m a little more tolerant and they may get moved to the roll-up.

Morilon
Morilon

As a customer, I don’ care if the e-mail is being sent to junk or conventionally unsubscribed. I’m tired of “conventionally unsubscribing” to something and to my surprise, few weeks after, I receive the same email.

Unroll.me helps me do that.

And “they accepted in the past” doesn’t mean that I want it, haha. Sometimes it’s so well hidden in the terms of acceptance that you HAVE to accept it in order to complete an order, or something.

So NO!

NO SPAM!

Unroll.me rules.

Whomever
Whomever

Long winded explanation. Actually just by being on Facebook….yes inadvertantly without actually saying …yes…we get junk mail. 90%+ of my junk mail comes from one marketing agency in Baltimore. Have sent over one hundred unsubscribes to them viea emails! To no avail. In fact they send even more crap. I am going to delete my email address in a few days and start overt. I get over 200 shit ads a day and on my kindle fire…I have to transfer each one individually to trash and then delete. Unrollme seems to have increased junk mail.

Danielle
Danielle

Hey Andy! Thanks for this article.

I recently discovered this flaw with Unroll.me, and did a search only to find that your post confirmed my suspicions. Great read, and very informative!

Now I’m off to “really” clean my inbox and unsubscribe from Unroll.me.

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