The top reason U.S. consumers unsubscribe from email is because they get too many emails in general

MarketingSherpa asked 1,200 U.S. consumers, “Why do you unsubscribe from the email lists of companies with which you are satisfied? Select all that apply,” and it asked another group of 1,200 the same question about companies with which they are unsatisfied.

In previously released data, MarketingSherpa discovered that a satisfied customer is 154% more likely to stay on a brand’s email list than an unsatisfied customer. However, the reasons for why customers end up leaving a list were consistent enough between satisfied and unsatisfied customers that MarketingSherpa was able to aggregate the data.

The top reason consumers unsubscribe is because of the frequency of emails — a quarter of Americans (26%) say, “I get too many emails in general,” and 19% say, “I receive too many emails from this company specifically” (the third-most-popular response). Relevance played a role as well — “The emails are not relevant to me” was the second-most-chosen response (21%). The least frequently chosen response was “I get emails that don’t look good on my smartphone” (7%).

MarketingSherpa published the data for 12 reasons consumers might decide to unsubscribe along with qualitative responses from consumers today in the article “Email Marketing Chart: Why consumers unsubscribe from brands’ email.”

“In fairness, this question of frequency isn’t unique to email. It applies to everything in life. If I asked my elementary school-aged daughter if she would like vanilla ice cream with sprinkles on top for breakfast, lunch and dinner, she would likely be very happy. However, after experiencing this cadence for a few days, we would both soon realize that this is not the optimal frequency,” said Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa. “This data suggests that brands experiencing a high number of unsubscribes have not yet found that optimal frequency. There isn’t one correct answer. Different groups of people on an email list often want email at a different cadence, and you should either test to determine the optimal frequency for your list as a whole — or, if you can’t get that granular, test across your entire list and average it out.”

“Naturally, data about why consumers unsubscribe is going to skew to the negative. So, let’s find some sunshine as well. An element that many in the email marketing industry thought could be a major cause of unsubscribes — email that doesn’t look good on smartphones — was actually the reason cited least often by consumers for unsubscribing (7%). This may be because brands have gotten better at creating mobile-friendly email. Or, it could simply be that unsubscribing while conducting ’email triage’ on a smartphone while you’re on the go is just too much of a hassle,” Burstein added.

The data is from the MarketingSherpa Customer Satisfaction Research study of 2,400 consumers, sampled to reflect a close match to the U.S. population’s demographics, conducted in September and October 2016 during the planning of MarketingSherpa Summit 2017’s content. Half of the respondents (1,200) were asked to reflect on their experiences with a brand with which they are highly satisfied, and the other half (1,200) were questioned about a brand with which they are not satisfied. Consumers were also asked about companies they were satisfied and unsatisfied with in general, and about general marketing topics like which ad types they dislike. The responses of these two groups were then compared and contrasted against each other. The respondents from each age group, the Silent Generation (71-93); baby boomers (52-70); Generation Xers (34-51); and millennials (18-35); were nearly evenly split between the paired surveys.