Email Marketing is Permission Marketing. This means the sending of promotional emails to a user is only legal with his explicit consent (opt-in). You can find more information on the legal requirements in email marketing in our checklist 23 Questions About Email Marketing and Law). Generating opt-ins is becoming an important task in email marketing. It is necessary to understand the motivation of users for giving consent, as well as the obstacles, which prevent them from doing so. So, what are the determinants for consent from a user point of view?
Simply put, users make a decision on agreement based on a cost-benefit calculation. The benefit may result from the content of the subscribed newsletter or from incentives, which the user received as a direct response to his consent. “Costs” are generated by usability barriers in the registration process, but also through the fear of disadvantages after the opt-in. Cost and benefit of an email marketing opt-in can be influenced directly through the design of the specific determinants. Furthermore, you should bear in mind indirectly controllable factors, such as your image or possible user experiences with email marketing measures of other providers. However, these factors will not be described in this article.

User Determinants

In the following, we will explain the most essential determinants, which have a positive effect on the motivation of users in regard to giving consent.

1. Content-related Relevance

The basic pre-requisite for user consent is that the newsletter content is relevant to the user, or at least that the user assumes it will be relevant for him at the time of giving his consent. You should therefore take on a user’s point of view when designing the content and ask yourself, which benefit the user could derive from your content, e.g. cost saving through special offers. Aggressive product promotions from a company point of view are mostly counterproductive in email marketing. Even when a user has given his consent, he can withdraw it at any time when the communicated content does not meet his expectations. In contrast to most other marketing channels, with email marketing, he can chose whether or not he would like to view the content. In a current study by Ascend2, 51% of questioned email marketers see the provision of relevant content as the most effective email marketing measure of all. 40% however, classify it as the most difficult one to implement.

2. Individualised Approach

A user considers email marketing content especially relevant, when it is adapted to his personal preferences: the right content at the right time at the right place. The necessity of individual communication has been stressed for years in email marketing, but the correct application is still lacking. Individualising does not mean “only” sorting users in a segment as small as possible and providing them segment-related content. Real individualisation, super-personalisation means to lead an individualised dialogue with each individual user and provide exactly the right content he can benefit from at this point in the customer lifecycle.

3. Exclusivity

A large and increasing number of digital options are available to users in order to provide them with beneficial (marketing) content. Why should a user then chose your newsletter? Offer exclusive content, which makes your newsletter stand out from the other offers and increases your relative value proposition. Exclusive content may be, e.g. advanced notifications or special offers, which are only valid for newsletter subscribers.

4. Time Savers

Users look for the most convenient method to consume relevant content. Email marketing, especially in the form of a newsletter, pre-selects relevant information for users and saves them a lot of research work. Especially important points in media newsletters with news content:  newsletters condense information in one medium and at one point in time. Users therefore do not need to monitor different information sources, but receive the required information compiled in an email, in the best case scenario, even at a specific time.

5. Direct Incentives

Incentives offer users a direct stimulus to register for a newsletter, but usually do not have a long-term benefit. Common incentives are competitions or discount vouchers. Incentives may be very effective in the short-term, but always carry the risk of loosing their effect quickly, resulting in the user’s unsubscription if no more relevant content is communicated in the following dialogue course. In order to avoid that users only register due to an incentive, even though they are actually not interested in your company, you should link incentives, at least vouchers, to conditions, such as a minimum order value.

Cost Determinants

Even when a user expects a great benefit, there are a number of barriers or cost determinants, which can prevent him from his consent.

1. Registration Expense

Even the registration itself can be a hurdle. The longer and the more complicated the registration process, the more likely that the user gives up. A few clicks, i.e. a few seconds can make a difference here. Design your opt-in form as simple as possible. Ask only for essential data (email address and possibly name and title) compiled together in one form in order to save users from clicking through several pages. Even when you require further data for the individualisation, you should request it only later during the dialogue course, e.g. in the context of the Welcome Series. Confirmation of the registration via double opt-in email should also be as simple as possible. Send double opt-in emails always directly after registration and design the email in a way that the confirmation link is clearly visible.

2. Opt-out Process

Whatever applies for the consent to email marketing, also applies to the withdrawal of this consent. Users expect that they can cancel their consent at any time and without a problem. Unfortunately, many companies still make it unnecessarily difficult for users to unsubscribe and cause discontent not only towards the company in question, but also towards email marketing as a tool in general. Some companies even abstain from any unsubscribe function, which is not only  user-unfriendly, but also illegal. You should therefore design the unsubscription process as simple as possible.

3. Data Privacy Concerns

Consent to email marketing always includes the transfer of personal data, at least the email address. A study by the DDV in 2013 shows that users generally do not have a problem with submitting personal data, but are very sensitive when it comes to the privacy of this data. The fear of data misuse is therefore one of the biggest obstacles on the way to email marketing consent. In order to deal with this fear, you should not only ensure that you fulfil the legal regulations, but also create the consent as transparently as possible to win the user’s trust.  It must be very clear for which purpose the data will be used, which benefit the user will have from this, in which frequency he will be contacted and how he can cancel his consent. Also, data privacy seals, such as the ISO/IEC27001 Certification, have a trust-building effect.