Texting vs. Email: Which Offers the Easier Opt-out?

Woman looking through her phone at work

Keeping in touch with your customers requires regular outreach. Whether it’s done through emails or text messages (ideally it should be both!), the last thing you want to see is a request from the recipient to cease contact.

An unsubscribe from your contacts list doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though; you may still have them as a customer down the road, they probably just don’t need to hear from you right now.

For that reason, the user experience still matters when an unsubscribe request comes in. Making your recipient jump through hoops isn’t user friendly and could leave them frustrated. While it seems like a small point of concern in the grand scheme of things, every step in the customer journey counts.

It’s likely you’re already emailing, but if you haven’t considered texting to communicate with customers, it’s a preferred medium for many reasons. Among them is the convenience of use throughout the entire customer journey, from getting the first text to opting out.

Let’s take a look at how both email and texts compare with the opt-out experience.

The long journey: unsubscribing from business emails

Email may not be as effective in getting a customer’s attention as it used to be, but it’s still important to any business’ marketing strategy. According to email platform provider Campaign Monitor, nearly 90% of marketers consider their email marketing strategy successful.

Email is here to stay, but there will always be a reason to unsubscribe from an email list. Research institute MarketingSherpa offers insight into why consumers want out of a communications list with the top three reasons being:

  1. Getting too many emails in general
  2. Getting irrelevant emails; and
  3. Getting too many emails from a specific company

These all point to a common theme: We all get way too many emails.

The CAN-SPAM Act gives recipients the right to stop receiving unwanted emails and requires the sender to provide a clear way to do so. As consumers, unsubscribing from emails makes sense to clean up our inboxes, but the process isn’t always straightforward.

First you need to look for the unsubscribe link. It can be tough to find, sometimes labeled something like “Manage your preferences” or it can be in tiny font at the bottom of an email.

Of course, making the unsubscribe process not-so-obvious is done to keep people from unsubscribing in the first place. In the scenario where you can’t find the link right away, you may decide to go through the process later when you have more time or you just forget about it entirely.

American Express Unsubscribe Email

An unsubscribe email sample with a “Manage Email Preferences” link.

Steve Madden Unsubscribe Email Example

An example of an unsubscribe link toward the bottom of an email.

When you do find the link, a new browser window pops up with either a confirmation page that says you’ve been removed or, more likely, a page that has you double check that you want to unsubscribe.

The page will prompt you to enter your email address or customize the types of emails you’d like to continue receiving from the business. Some can even be a little sneaky to keep you from unsubscribing, like putting a “cancel” button ahead of the “save” button before you confirm your preferences, like the in the image below.

And to top it all off, it can take a few days or weeks to be fully unsubscribed from an email list while the email provider updates its contacts.

Example of an email unsubscribe opening in a new browser window.

An example of an email unsubscribe page with two options: update your email address or unsubscribe (toward the bottom).

Email unsubscribe example with the "save" button on the opposite side of the form.

Email unsubscribe example with the “save” button on the opposite side of the form.

A few years ago, select email providers took note of the multistep unsubscribe process and implemented a more user-friendly way to get out of unwanted emails. It’s a welcome improvement, reducing the process to about two steps: click or tap on the Unsubscribe link at the top of the email panel, then confirm you want to be removed. For mobile users, however, there isn’t always a follow-up message that confirms you’ve been unsubscribed, and the unsubscribe prompt doesn’t always appear for every email.



Unsubscribing from email using email provider opt-out on mobile

Unsubscribing from an email list using email provider opt-out on mobile

Unsubscribing from an email list using email provider opt-out on mobile

Part 2: Unsubscribing from an email list using email provider opt-out on mobile

This may be a much easier process for the user, but it ultimately takes the onus away from the business to make the unsubscribe experience upfront and manageable.

In a jiffy: opting out of a text message

We’ve walked through the process of getting off an email list; now let’s take a look at how it compares to text messaging. Spoiler alert: this won’t take long.

Texts are welcomed by consumers (and can be more effective in getting their attention) because it’s easy to miss a message in our stuffed email inboxes.

Just like emails, the recipient must give the sender permission to deliver texts, and the sender must provide an easy way for the recipient to end communications. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) — which has evolved to extend regulations to text messages – suggests letting the recipient know that they can opt out at any time by texting STOP. An easy way to do this is by adding simple language to the end of your messages. Something like, “Reply STOP to unsubscribe” will usually do the trick.

Typically, an auto-response is sent confirming that the recipient will no longer receive texts or that the sender can manually send a text with the confirmation.

The process of opting out of a text message from a business

The process of opting out of a text message from a business.

Opting out of a texting list from a business

Using the STOP command to opt-out of text messages from a business

That’s it.

Why so straight forward? Part of it has to do with the structure of a text. Conversations are taking place within a single texting app and are organized in one window. There’s no complex design like you would see in an email, leaving little distraction from the conversation. This eliminates any confusion about how to unsubscribe from texts.

It’s clear that a text message provides an easier way to cease communication with a business but why does this matter?

Consumers want control over who can contact them. Spam is prevalent and has already polluted email, but texting is still a tightly protected medium. People want text messages from your business, but they also have the right to cut communications (no matter the reason).

Email marketing expert Guy Hanson said the following of businesses making an unsubscribe link clearly visible in every email message, but the sentiment can also be applied to text messages:

“They are basically saying to their customers that they would like to be transparent, and while they never want to lose them, they don’t want to make it an unpleasant process if they do choose to do so.”  – Guy Hanson, email marketing expert on businesses that offer an obvious opt-out link

To keep recipients from unsubscribing from your texts, follow the same principles as email: keep texts relevant and don’t send too many. But for the times when an unsubscribe will happen, you don’t want to hold the responsibility of keeping track of your “do not contact” list manually. There’s more room for error by doing so (such as accidentally texting an opt-out contact), so we don’t suggest it because of the volume of people your business can deal with.

Use Business Texting software for a greater chance of staying compliant

There are plenty of benefits to using texting-for-business software, and one of them is helping your business stay TCPA compliant by automatically managing opt-out requests.

Using our direct carrier connections, Zipwhip provides businesses with STOP commands at the network level, so every request is processed instantly, ensuring zero contact unless the consumer decides to opt-in again. Learn more about how Zipwhip works here and download our free e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers, to learn how you can adopt text messaging into your communication strategy.

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