Google’s harsh new unsubscribe prompt could destroy your marketing database
9 October 2020
Stacey Lyons

The ability for users to be able to unsubscribe from email marketing lists is a regulatory requirement. But Google’s increasingly sophisticated and automated process which now pro-actively prompts users to unsubscribe from email lists would be a frightening feature for many marketers.

The feature sits in the header of Gmail, actively notifying users when they haven’t opened a promotional email for 30 days or more, and providing them with a one-click way to unsubscribe for good.

The purpose of the feature is to enable users to more efficiently manage their inboxes. As a side-effect, brands who haven’t evolved their marcomms to properly engage members, will be exposed.

Here’s what the feature looks like:



And users seem to like it (and want more of it):

Why could this be bad for brands?

  • Sending generic marketing campaigns (and marketing abuse/spam) will become even more costly and inefficient.
  • The number of contactable customers can easily crumble.
  • More money will need to be channelled into paid media to make up for lost revenues (eating directly into profits).
  • Disengaged customers are harder to winback than a non-customer is to acquire.

Best-practice strategies for outsmarting Google’s unsubscribe suggestion:

  • Personalisation and relevancy: if your communications are meaningful to each member, the member base will remain largely engaged. Preference centres can help ascertain the types of offers, channels and frequency of comms each member sees as suitable for them.
  • Proper segmentation: understand your customer segments (using demographic, behavioural, cultural, and psychographic insights) and only send emails to those who are likely to interact with them. Don’t risk contacting inactive members if you want them to stay in your database.
  • Quality retention and winback comms: as part of a comprehensive member lifecycle management strategy, automated trigger comms should be set-up to arrest and reverse signs of disengagement (strong value offers work well in these instances). In a study of over 14 industries, Riechheld (1996)[1] reported that a 5 per cent increase in customer retention can generate a profit increase from between 25 per cent and 95 per cent, showcasing just how valuable a quality retention campaign is.

Basically, a hard-earned, expensively acquired and extremely valuable member database does not need to fall victim to the Google unsubscribe prompt. This feature is not the enemy, it will just simply cause some marketers to win and others to lose – and those who already follow best-practice principles will win.

Winning looks like a clean and valuable email list, like increased attention and cut through from customers who have de-cluttered their inboxes, and like long-term loyal members.

[1] Reichheld, F., 1996, ‘The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits, and Lasting Value’, Harvard Business School Press, Boston.

<a href="" target="_self">Stacey Lyons</a>

Stacey Lyons

Stacey is the Loyalty Director at Loyalty & Reward Co, the leading loyalty consulting firm. Loyalty & Reward Co design, implement, and operate the world’s best loyalty programs for the world’s best brands. Stacey has extensive experience in loyalty, digital marketing and eCommerce with roles at ModelCo, MyHouse and Boost Juice. For the past five years, Stacey has worked with Loyalty & Reward Co clients to design loyalty programs, apply loyalty psychology, develop member lifecycle communications strategies and data capture, reporting and analytics strategies. Stacey co-created the book Loyalty Programs: The Complete Guide, the most comprehensive book on loyalty program theory and practice available. She also presents a number of modules as part of the Loyalty Programs Masterclass run by Loyalty & Reward Co in conjunction with ADMA.

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