Building Trust 6 December 2017

2017 Email Marketing & Unsubscribe Audit

The 2017 Audit found that the vast majority of audited online retailers have embraced unsubscribe best practices, going beyond mere compliance, and have shown improvement since 2014 despite expanded and more stringent criteria. This year’s audit was expanded to examine the entire email engagement process, from signup to receiving email to the unsubscribe user experience.

Consistent with the three previous reports, the Audit focused on the top 200 North American online retailers.1 For each site, analysts measured and tracked the signup process and user experience, and after observing emails received for at least a month, each account was unsubscribed, and activity and compliance was monitored for a period of at least 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. Retailers achieving scores of 80% or higher received designation as “Best of Class.”

For 2017, 67% of the top retailers qualified, a slight decline from 69% in 2016 and down from 75% in 2015. Nine of the audited retailers realized perfect scores – Blue Nile, Home Shopping Network, Lands’ End, Musician’s Friend, Sierra Trading Post, Stitch Fix, Talbots, Toys’R’Us and Walgreens.

Despite the dip in “Best of Class” achievement, average scores actually increased slightly this year. OTA asserts that in order to maximize engagement, deliverability and brand reputation, the online marketing community needs to continue to put the user first and embrace the outlined practices.

As the regulatory landscape is evolving, marketers need to look beyond North America to anti-spam and data protection laws in other countries, most recently represented by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Companies with an EU citizen or resident on an email list run the risk of potential fines of up to 4% of global revenues for violation of marketing, privacy and data protection practices.2

1 Source: Internet Retailer®,
2 GDPR Overview,

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