If you’ve got an email address you’ll currently be inundated with GDPR emails pleading with you to “stay in touch” or “take control of your privacy options” (the least compelling call-to-action ever?). The companies sending these emails are increasingly starting to sound like desperate exes trying to convince you to give them one more chance. I’ve received some good GDPR emails, lots of terrible ones and some which almost certainly aren’t compliant. There is even an argument that all the emails being sent asking you to opt in are at best not required and, at worst, illegal.

Based on reported opt-in rates of around 10%, it’s clear that email subscriber lists will be drastically reduced after the 25th. Many companies will be left with almost no usable contact details although those who remain will no doubt be much more likely to engage. The barrage of emails consumers are receiving will presumably be followed by some nice quiet inboxes.


Public Opinion

Monitoring the response to GDPR via social media it’s clear that many people are very pleased with the opportunity to cut down on the amount of email they receive. People who would never think to unsubscribe from emails are now happy to ignore opt-in emails in order to opt-out. The average person presumably knows very little about the full scope of GDPR beyond the need to opt-in to receive emails and continue using social networks. Despite this, I think it’s safe to say most people are pro GDPR, if a little tired of it.

What’s become apparent is that those on the receiving end of email marketing are, for the most part, fed up with the emails they get. People are (passively) opting out in huge numbers without hesitation. It’s arguable then that we’ve all mostly been sending uninteresting emails to uninterested people. The marketing industry needs to learn from this and make some serious changes.


If only 10% of your subscriber list opt-in to continue receiving emails you need to rethink your email marketing strategy.


We can’t continue to send emails which are of questionable relevance and interest to our audience in the hope that a percentage of them will buy something from us. Or rather, we can, but we’ll be doing it to a smaller list and burying our heads in the sand.

What’s Next?

So, what can we learn? How can we use this as an opportunity to refocus our activity and ensure that we are only sending emails which people will engage with? A quick (and not necessarily representative of the wider population) survey in our office and Twitter highlighted some reasons people have chosen to opt-in or out:


Reasons To Opt-In

📅 Clarity over the amount of content which will be sent, favoring less-frequent emails.

👍 Providing interesting or useful content which isn’t found elsewhere.

💸 Updates about products which are often of interest (typically from niche Ecommerce sites rather than algorithmically selected “you may like” emails from Amazon etc.).

🍕 Regular money saving offers.


Reasons To Opt-Out

💤 Emails which are dull.

📢 Emails which are heavy sales focused but provide no benefit (a lot of B2B companies fall into this category).

🤔 Having not heard from the company in years / no recollection of signing up.

🛑 Opting out of everything and then signing up for anything you miss.


There’s nothing groundbreaking here – it’s all pretty obvious stuff! One important thing to bear in mind is that an email which is interesting and useful to only 10% of your audience is dull and not useful to 90% of your audience (I have a solid B in maths GCSE). If you’re not using personalisation then you need to try and make sure the content you’re sending has a wide appeal. Once you’ve decided what your email is about, check whether you should send it or not using our handy flowchart:


How to do Email Right

There are lots of blog posts already about the best ways to do email marketing so I won’t go into too much detail but here are some quick ideas for email campaigns which will be of genuine interest to your subscribers. These won’t all be relevant to your organisation but you’ll probably find something worth testing – the great thing about email marketing is that you get very fast, clear feedback in the form of open rates, click rates and even sales.

1. Offer an Incentive

Many of us are happy to receive emails from a business if they offer us a decent incentive. Discount codes, free shipping or notifications of sales all work well but bear in mind that shoppers are savvy and have short attention spans. A 5% discount isn’t going to encourage anyone but the most weak-willed of shopaholics.

2. Personalised Product Recommendations

If you want your subscribers to make a purchase but you’re not going to offer an incentive you’ll need to make sure you’re putting exactly the right products in front of them. If you sell a small, curated selection of products this is quite easy. If you sell a wide range of products to a wide range of people then personalisation is a must.

I read the emails I receive from Goodhood as I want (but unfortunately can’t afford) pretty much everything they sell. I’ve unsubscribed from ASOS emails as, despite efforts at personalisation, they don’t always hit the mark.

3. Create Remarkable Content

The internet is awash with crappy content. Blog posts recapping other blog posts, updates about the latest going-on in an office full of people you don’t know and other nonsense thrown together by someone with no time to spare don’t cut it anymore. If your content isn’t remarkable it’s a waste of time. You should aim to create something newsworthy, fun, interesting or provocative.

It’s easier said than done but it’s not impossible. Here’s an 8-point checklist for remarkable content.

4. Share Your Best Content

You don’t necessarily even need to create content from scratch, you could just re-use your best content. Look through Google Analytics or your social accounts to see which blog posts have performed best. If these posts are old, many of your subscribers may not have seen them yet and you can even update them to add a little fresh insight.

A great way to automate the sharing of your best content is to create an email journey for new subscribers which sends them a series of emails with your most popular content. This can be automated to send them content they’ve shown an interest in and to stop sending them content if they don’t engage with previous emails.

5. Send Something Fun

If you know your audience really well you’ll know what their challenges are and what they like and dislike. Why not send them an email with a great video you think they’ll enjoy? Or a call-to-action next to a picture of your office dog? It might not help your bottom line but it might make them more inclined to stay subscribed and open your next email.

It’s easy to go wrong with this technique and miss the mark but if you’re the right type of business with the right audience it can work. If it doesn’t work you’ll know pretty quickly and you can adjust your approach.

Hopefully, you’ll agree that email marketing needs to change in order to re-engage with a general population who are tired of receiving boring emails from companies who don’t care about wasting their time. The good news is that anyone you still have on your subscriber list is really interested in hearing from you!

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment