Embracing the Double Opt-In: How It Can Be an Email Blessing, Not a Curse

Email marketers can get better engagement by making sure their subscribers really want to be there

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You know what might really help your email outreach? Making all the people who give you their email addresses indicate a second time that they actually, really, genuinely want to receive messages from you.

Sound crazy? It isn’t.

At first glance, the benefits of requiring a double opt-in (DOI) might be hard to see, especially compared to the potential downsides. After all, what if your customers decide that they don’t want to receive emails from you, now that you’ve been nice enough to give them a second to think it over? But that’s the wrong way to think about it. Customers who don’t want to receive emails from you aren’t customers who are going to engage with the emails you send their way. And the downsides of sending emails to people who don’t want them are very real.

How does double opt-in work?

With DOI, when someone provides your brand with their email address–whether by logging into your app or website using an email or social account or by entering it into a subscription form–they aren’t automatically added to your email list. (That’s called single opt-in, for obvious reasons.)

Instead, they’re sent an email that lets them know that you’d like to add them to your email list and asks them to click a link that will confirm that’s what they want, too.

But what if they forget to click the link or the email ends up in their junk folder?

Then they aren’t added to your email list. But the story doesn’t have to end there.

For customers who remain active on your website or blog after failing to complete the DOI, you can use in-app messages or push notifications to reach out again. By giving them the option of having another confirmation email sent (or, if they’re really not interested, to stop getting these email requests), you can make sure that their decision not to complete the DOI process was intentional, rather than an accident.

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What are the benefits of making customers go through the DOI process?

There are a few big ones, like:

1) Not owing millions of dollars in fines

If you send a marketing email that’s opened by someone in Canada who hasn’t explicitly agreed to receive messages from you and isn’t a family member, employee, contractor, or recent customer, you could be liable for a fine of up to 10 million Canadian dollars. And that’s PER email.

Back in July 2014, Canada passed a major piece of anti-spam legislation called (and this is for real) Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). The law placed strict limits on marketing messages and established heavy fines that apply even if the sender isn’t Canadian. And last March, a company from Quebec was fined $1.1 million Canadian for sending emails to people who hadn’t explicitly agreed to receive them.

There are other things you should do to stay in compliance with CASL, but the DOI process is an important step in following the law. And as time goes on, there’s a strong chance that more countries will adopt these sorts of stricter standards, making setting up a DOI process now a smart move.

2) Making sure your signups correspond to real email addresses belonging to real people

When an email address is added to your mailing list through a form on your website, how do you know that the person who owns that address was the person who typed it in? For that matter, how do you know they didn’t type in the address wrong? You want to make sure that each new email address corresponds to a real, interested customer. By using the DOI process, you’ll weed out impersonators and confirm that the address matches the person who signed up.

3) Keeping your customers’ good will (and your delivery reputation)

People who feel like they were tricked or manipulated into sharing their email address with you are not customers who are going to feel fondly about your brand or want to build a relationship with you. The DOI process gives members of your audience the opportunity to signal that joining your email list is something they did because they wanted to.

Sometimes customers will feel tricked even if everything you did was on the up and up. People who don’t realize (or forget) that they were signing up for your email list may well block future emails directly from their Gmail account or mark the messages that you send as spam. That can have a negative impact on your email reputation, increasing the chances that ISPs refuse to deliver messages in the future, even to your most loyal, engaged customers.

4) Identifying promising members of your audience

Your customers aren’t obligated to just hand over their email addresses. Plenty of them won’t. But when someone decides not only to join your email list, but to positively affirm that, yes, they really do want to know what your brand has to say, that’s a great thing.

This person wants to hear from you. And they’re willing to do what it takes to make sure they do.

Obviously, that’s not a license to hit them with a barrage of email. But it does mean that they’re a customer worth paying attention to. By focusing on delivering real value that’s relevant to their needs and wants, using personalized messaging when appropriate, you could nurture them into a consistently engaged customer who’s loyal to your brand over the long haul.

The gist

By making use of the DOI process, you can protect your bottom line, maintain your reputation among your customers and ISPs, and identify members of your audience who are primed to become loyal long-term customers. Pretty smart, right?

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