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Top 7 Reasons Customers Unsubscribe From Your Emails and How to Stop Them

Email marketers have a habit of focusing on acquisition, forgetting that retention is also major part of growing an email subscriber base. Customers don’t just stick around forever once they’re opted in to your email list. You have to work to keep them.

The customers on your email list are valuable. We learn time and again that customers who are subscribed to your list are more likely to purchase from your company than those who aren’t. Unfortunately it’s likely that you will lose subscribers. But if we take a look at the top reasons customers tend to unsubscribe from email lists, you can be certain to take action against some of the most common ways to rub customers the wrong way… and avoid doing it.

gazelle too frequent email marketing

1. You’re emailing them too much

The issue: According to a 2011 poll, increased email frequency, or too-frequent emailing, is the number one reason people unsubscribe from email lists they’ve opted into. Even people who willingly subscribe to daily deals emails can become fatigued with the inbox onslaught.

The solution: Ideal email frequency varies by industry, but your goal should be to state a frequency and stick to it. Or ideally, to let your subscribers choose their preferred frequency by separating your lists. Even if your business model is based on a daily email offer, like Fab.com, give subscribers the option of opting in to a less frequent campaign.

2. You’re not emailing them enough

The issue: If you’re not emailing frequently enough, you may see a higher-than-average unsubscribe rate each time you send because customers aren’t expecting your emails. If someone opts in to your list in January and you don’t send any communications until July, your email — and business — may no longer be relevant to that subscriber.

The solution: When someone subscribes to your email list, follow up with a useful welcome email, then send another email within 2-3 weeks to keep your organization fresh in their mind. You can do this by creating a regular monthly newsletter, or by creating a drip campaign or follow-up messages you can automatically send within a certain timeframe after someone subscribes to your list.

irrelevant email marketing

3. Your emails aren’t relevant

The issue: These days, segmentation is everything. We often see cringe-worthy Tweets like the one above when emails with targeted information are sent to the wrong segments. It only means people are increasingly looking to receive only emails that are personally relevant.

The solution: Collect a little more data, like zip code and gender, when a subscriber joins your mailing list, or send a poll later on that updates the data in their contact profile. Use that information to segment your list, sending targeted messages relevant only to those people who fit your targeted segment. In other words: don’t send your “girls night out” emails to the guys on your list.

4. Your emails aren’t mobile-optimized

The issue: A recent study found that in 2013 the number of people opening their email on a mobile device will surpass those opening email on desktop. This means emails that don’t look good on mobile are likely to get trashed, as users who can’t read your content will get frustrated. This frustration can also lead to unsubscribes… if your mobile subscribers can find the tiny unsubscribe link.

The solution: Work with an email marketing software that provides ready-made mobile-optimized email newsletter templates, or design your own.

5. Your emails are too long

The issue: Segmentation and mobile trends mean people are beginning to expect shorter, more relevant emails. Emails that are too long don’t feel relevant or useful, and are hard to read and digest from a mobile device.

The solution: Strip the extra content from your emails and identify a single call to action for each message. (If you can’t isolate a single call to action, try segmenting your recipients into different targets.)

6. Your content is repetitive or boring

The issue: You might be flogging the same content again and again. Subscribers have heard it all already, assume you’re out of messages, and unsubscribe.

The solution: Even if you’re promoting the same upcoming event, for example, try highlighting different content each time you email potential event attendees. This may even involve creating additional content via your website or blog to include in your email, but keeping your email content fresh — and holding on to subscribers! — is worth the extra effort.

7. The same information is available online

The issue: Your email is really just an aggregator of the same content you’re already hosting online, and isn’t providing any additional relevant information to your subscribers. Subscribers like to see a value in opting in to your email list, and part of that value comes from receiving information they can’t get just by visiting your website.

The solution: Even if you’re providing links to the same content you might already be hosting online, find a way to make that content more relevant to your email list. For example, rather than just linking to items in your shop, provide free shipping for email subscribers. Rather than simply highlighting a new menu item, add an in-store coupon to your email.


In addition to avoiding these 7 bad email habits, keep track of your unsubscribe rate and, if possible, record any unsubscribe reasons. Monitoring your overall email list health will help you track any upticks in unsubscribe rates that can be attributed to changes in your marketing strategy.