Why Unsubscribe Matters More During The Festive Season


No one likes unsubscribes, but are they really as bad as you think? The dotdigital Deliverability team is here to shed new light on email unsubscribes and show you how to use holiday list churn to your advantage. This article is the second in our Deliverability holiday countdown series. Keep an eye out for more top tips and advice.

The festive season is upon us and everyone is getting ready to send their best offers and campaigns to their databases. 

During this time recipients are receiving a lot of emails as businesses try and reach large revenue goals. One of the common challenges during the holiday period is list churn. Recipients change their email addresses, report messages as spam, and unsubscribe. Interests change over time and something you would subscribe to five years ago is something you are no longer interested in. Some people just signed up to get a welcome reward, others might have found a better offer and some might have not got what they were expecting or received too many emails. 

Ultimately, there are a lot of reasons why recipients unsubscribe. With the sheer amount of marketing emails in people’s inboxes respecting unsubscribes is more important than ever.

Unsubscribes are great

Yes, you read that right. Unsubscribes are great. 

As I said before, you won’t be able to keep everyone on your marketing list engaged, especially during the festive period. 

If someone wants to leave they usually have two ways to go: hitting the unsubscribe button or the “this is junk” button. If a recipient marks your campaign as junk this has several bad effects:

  1. There might not be a back channel letting you know about this, so you will continue to send unwanted email. While there are so called “Feedback Loops” (FBL) for some mailbox providers, not everyone is sending these and of those which are sent, not every single “click” is being reported. 
  2. This is considered a bad engagement, which will have a negative impact on your sending reputation, which might hinder your success; mail in the junk folder doesn’t drive revenue. 

If a recipient decides to unsubscribe instead of hitting “spam” this also means that the recipient trusts your brand to handle their wish to be removed. 

What can we do to get the unsubscribe

Besides the general trust in your brand, it’s important to have an easy opt-out process. More often than not a recipient wants to unsubscribe but stops midway as it gets complicated. Given the number of emails a recipient will get throughout the festive period, they don’t want to spend a lot of time jumping through hoops to get removed. 

Here are some recommendations to optimize your unsubscribe process:

  • Easy to find: you don’t want a recipient to search for the unsubscribe button, don’t bury it in your footer, have it standing out and quickly reachable.
  • Be clear: “please contact our support”, “send an email to dpo@example.com” or send us a letter will get you the “junk treatment”. Using a landing page is the best approach.
  • No verification: don’t make recipients sign into an account or have them enter their email address. Don’t sent a double opt-out mail or add unnecessary hurdles.
  • Think mobile-first: with lots of us checking our email on smart phones, always make sure your unsubscribe process is mobile friendly. The greatest landing page won’t do you any good when it’s not really useable with a mobile device.
  • Act immediately: I get it, it’s the holidays and you have a lot of great offers but you should remove a person from your list immediately upon getting the request. You loose the trust that recipient had if you continue sending for another 2 weeks. This can ultimately damage your reputation further.
  • Keep it simple: If you are using a preference center style landing page, make sure the “unsubscribe from all” is present and easily reachable. 

But what if the recipient doesn’t trust me?

how to get email unsubscribes during seasonal campaigns

We do hope that they do but in case they don’t, maybe they are trusting their mailbox provider? This is where the so-called “list-unsubscribe header” comes into play. 

This is an email header which like others is part of every email and is not visible in the content.  Some mailbox providers like Gmail or outlook.com as well as mail clients like Apple’s mail app use this header to create an additional unsubscribe link within their user interface. Gmail even offers this when you hit the “report spam” button. 

Here again, trust plays an important role. Gmail only displays that link if they trust the brand enough to handle the request.


The festive season will see an influx of emails into the recipient’s inbox. As a result, there will be an elevated unsubscribe rate. It’s important to make sure the unsubscribe process is as easy as possible for the recipients to prevent negative engagement, which is ultimately a risk to the success of your email marketing.

Making it quick and easy for recipients, easily reachable, and straightforward. Don’t let them jump through hoops and honor the request immediately. If a recipient is happy with the process, you might win them back when the overall volume has decreased.

Special thanks to our friends at dotdigital for their insights on this topic.
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