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Building Trust 2 November 2016

2016 Email Marketing & Unsubscribe Audit

The 2016 Audit found that the vast majority of top online retailers have embraced unsubscribe best practices that go beyond mere compliance and have shown improvement since 2014 despite more stringent criteria. This year’s audit was expanded to examine the entire email engagement process, from signup to the unsubscribe user experience. Consistent with the 2015 and 2014 reports, the Audit focused on the top 200 online retailers.1 For each site, analysts measured and tracked the sign up process, and after observing emails received for over a month, each account was unsubscribed, and activity and compliance was monitored for a period of thirty days.

The primary objective of this report is to provide marketers, service providers and policymakers strategic insight about how to enhance the integrity of email marketing. Marketers achieving scores of 80% or higher received designation as “Best of Class.” For 2016, 69% of the top retailers qualified, a drop from 75% in 2015 and roughly equal to 2014. Twelve sites had perfect scores – Blue Nile, Carter’s, CDW, Evine, HSN, Jomashop, Lands’ End, Sierra Trading Post, Sweetwater, ULTA, Walgreens and Wayfair.

In spite of these improvements, the average scores decreased in 2016, raising a call for self-examination by the online marketing community to put the user first and embrace the outlined practices. The results will provide dividends in engagement, deliverability and brand reputation. As the regulatory landscape is evolving, marketers need to look beyond North America to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which carries potential fines of up to 4% of global revenues for violation of marketing, privacy and data protection practices.2

Key Findings

Overall Results

• 68.6% of sites qualified as “Best of Class,” scoring 80% or higher and being CAN-SPAM / CASL compliant, down from 2015

• 12 sites had perfect scores (a significant drop from 23 last year). Primary causes for this decline include: 1) sites no longer soliciting customer feedback, 2) sites no longer offering a preference center or opt-down choices and/or 3) failure to render a “clear and conspicuous” unsubscribe link

Signup Practices

  • 6% of sites used Confirmed Opt-In (COI) to verify subscriptions, down from 11% in 2015
  • Only 3% of sites used CAPTCHA to reduce the risk of bot signups and “list bombing” 5 Source: Internet Retailer® https://www.internetretailer.com/top500/ 6 GDPR Overview http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/reform/index_en.htm

1 Source: Internet Retailer® https://www.internetretailer.com/top500/

2 GDPR Overview http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/reform/index_en.htm

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