The Impact of Gmail’s One-Click Unsubscribe Button and 5 Ways To Keep Your Unsubscribe Rates Down

Petr Václavek
Petr Václavek

This is a guest post written by Bloomreach Ambassador Petr Václavek, Head of Customer Engagement at Colours of Data, a data analytics consultancy boutique combining business insight with big-data experience. 

Google’s recent announcement regarding email deliverability — particularly the requirement of one-click unsubscribe buttons — has sent ripples through the email marketing landscape.

This feature simplifies the process for users to unsubscribe from unwanted emails with just a single click, streamlining the user experience and providing greater control over inbox clutter.

The reverberation of this change is affecting everyone. We’re already seeing up to 57% of unsubscribes coming from our customers using the one-click unsubscribe button.

But as a marketer, I feel great about this feature. It’s a welcome update to the status quo, not a panic-inducing change. 

The fact is, I’m not worried about the one-click unsubscribe button. I’m worried about the email practices that get people to click the button, and other email marketers should be, too. Here’s why. 

Unsubscribes Are Scorecards for Your Email Campaigns

An unsubscribe from an email recipient can be a learning experience for your email strategy. Nobody unsubscribes without a reason. You shouldn’t cheer when you get more unsubscribes, but you shouldn’t despair, either. It’s a fact of email marketing life that can teach you a lot.

Similar to the inevitability of a negative Yelp review, your business will always have recipients who unsubscribe. But this is a form of feedback, and it’s important to think critically about why your customers are unsubscribing so you can improve your campaigns.

Here are some typical reasons that people unsubscribe:

  • They only subscribed for the welcome discount. These subscribers planned to unsubscribe from the beginning, but there are strategic ways to offer welcome discounts that increase conversion rates without sacrificing profits. 
  • They are automatically subscribed with a purchase. Subscribing customers automatically during checkout might seem like a clever tactic, but it often backfires faster than you can say “opt out.”
  • They are no longer interested. Email campaigns can be a lot like dating — sometimes the spark just fizzles out. Whether it’s your content growing stale or their interests evolving, subscribers can lose interest and that’s a reality that businesses need to accept.
  • They get too many emails from your business. Ever feel like your inbox is about to burst at the seams? So do your subscribers. Bombarding them with emails faster than they can hit delete is a surefire way to push them to unsubscribe.
  • They get tired of repetitive content. When every email feels like a broken record, subscribers aren’t sticking around for the rerun. Without a refreshing spin on your campaigns, your audience is more likely to unsubscribe.
  • There’s no personalization and segmentation. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all campaign. Generic emails that don’t cater to your subscribers’ unique wants and needs are about as effective as shouting into the void. 

No matter the reason, your unsubscribed recipients are communicating a valuable lesson: Your marketing tactics aren’t working for them. If you want to reach and retain customers that share similar preferences, your email strategy needs to adapt. 

CRM Strategies of the Past Won’t Survive

Email as a channel is changing. Not only do I feel it, but I see it in the data, too. If you look at your business’s click-to-delivery ratio, you may see similar trends:

The number of clicks that email campaigns earn from recipients is waning. But despite this trend, many customer relationship management (CRM) teams don’t change their tactics. Customers clearly want long-lasting and meaningful communications with the brands they subscribe to, but too many companies are misusing email as a short-term cash cow with no regard for the long term. 

Do you personally read emails from companies that have the same practice? I bet the answer is no, and you shouldn’t assume your customers are any different.

Follow the Golden Rule: Treat Subscribers as You Want To Be Treated

The most important rule of thumb for brands to follow isn’t a groundbreaking one: Don’t send an email you wouldn’t want to receive. This is the benchmark that all marketing strategies need to aspire to (but that too often gets pushed aside for other priorities).

Every time you plan a campaign, ask yourself the question, “Would I appreciate this email as a customer?” and answer honestly. Your subscribers will appreciate it and are sure to take notice when substantial, relevant content lands in their inbox.

Five Actions To Take To Keep Your Unsubscribe Rate Down

Wondering how you can keep your customers from clicking unsubscribe? Here are a few actions that everyone should start doing today. 

Refresh Your Content

Is your content plan similar to what you did in 2015? If so, it’s a clear sign that your content needs to be reworked from the ground up. Keeping your email campaigns fresh and up to date is vital for driving results, and if you’re not regularly updating your content, you’re leaving money on the table.

Test Your New Approach

Testing your email strategy is a vital step for any business, no matter how big or small your potential changes may be. Setting a control group, experimenting with new tactics, and analyzing the results will help you determine what works and what doesn’t so you can apply the best approach to your audience as a whole. 

Approach Email Frequency as a Valuable Opportunity

Sending more emails doesn’t compensate for declining performance. In fact, it can easily backfire and accelerate the decline. Finding the right email frequency for each individual subscriber is the key to maximizing their short- and long-term business value.

Craft a Resubscription Strategy for Unsubscribed Customers

Once you get your email campaigns right, your lapsed subscribers might be willing to give you another chance, especially if they make another purchase or are active on other channels. With rock-solid and relevant email campaigns to offer, you can ask them to resubscribe and experience the benefits of your revamped email strategy. 

Align With Other Stakeholders

There’s always the pressure in business to continuously deliver results quarter after quarter, month after month. However, it takes time to find the right campaigns that deliver long-term success. If revamping and testing a new email strategy is the best thing for your business’s big-picture goals, it’s important to sit down with other stakeholders and get everyone behind the initiative.

The Time To Act Is Now

Refreshing your approach to your email campaigns might seem like a daunting task, but you can’t afford to put it off. Passivity comes at a price, and if you wait another year for things to change, the majority of your subscriber base could be irreversibly lost.

For starters, the cost of lost subscribers from unsubscribes or lapsed activity has major consequences. Disengagement from your current subscriber base will cost you dearly, and it costs you twice — you lose the subscriber and you also damage your sender domain’s reputation by sending low-engagement emails.

On top of that, you also risk increasing the cost of unrealized revenue from new subscribers. Customer acquisition costs are rising all the time, and negating potential customer lifetime value (CLV) with bad email practices can be fatal to a business model (or at minimum, to your marketing team’s numbers).

Again, the new requirement for a one-click unsubscribe button is nothing to worry about. It’s the reason a recipient clicks that button that businesses need to pay close attention to. But with smart strategies and the right approach, businesses can adapt and thrive with email campaigns that reach and retain valuable subscribers.

Interested in learning more about the one-click unsubscribe button requirement and all the new changes from Google and Yahoo? Get the latest updates here.


Petr Václavek

Head of Customer Engagement at Colours of Data

Petr is an experienced, data-driven ecommerce expert who’s spent over 10 years helping businesses achieve their goals, optimize marketing campaigns, and personalize customer experiences. His expertise lies in leveraging customer data to drive business value and performance. He is passionate about using data and AI to transform the ecommerce landscape.

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