Opting in Opting in

Why we believe eCommerce stores should use a single opt-in system for email marketing

One question we hear quite a bit from Jilt customers is: What’s the right way to add new subscribers to my store’s email list: Single opt-in or double opt-in? Our answer is: For eCommerce businesses, single opt-in is the way to go.

With single opt-in, a customer (or potential customer) adds their email to your email list and, well, that’s it—now they’re on the list. With double opt-in, there’s another step: You send a confirmation email immediately after a subscriber has signed up for your list. That confirmation email includes a link that the person has to click to confirm their subscription before they can actually begin receiving marketing emails from your store.

A double opt-in email.
An example of a double opt-in email.

Why bother with that extra step? Those who argue for double opt-in say it ensures a cleaner email list—the confirmation email is meant to weed out fake email addresses and unenthusiastic subscribers. The result, the argument goes, is a list of people who really want to be there—and who are less likely to go inactive or mark your emails as spam, both bad things that could affect your deliverability.

But the truth is, those fears are overblown, and double opt-in has plenty of downsides as well—lots of them, in fact. The biggest, though, is how negatively it will affect your store’s subscriber numbers. The percentage of your customers who will actually follow through with the second opt-in can be jarringly low—39 percent, according to one study, and as few as 23 percent according to one email marketing expert. That tracks with the the 20 to 40 percent failure to confirm rate another email marketing expert said he sees on double opt-in emails.

On the other hand, single opt-in makes it far easier to build your list; whether a person fills out a sign-up form on your website or opts in during checkout, they’re added to your email list without any extra barriers or hurdles.

Marketers in industries outside of eCommerce, especially heavily regulated ones, may well find that double opt-in makes sense for their particular business. However, when it comes to eCommerce stores, single opt-in is absolutely and indisputably the best practice for stores building their lists.

Here’s why.

Single opt-in allows stores to grow their lists faster 

Your email subscribers come from a number of sources, including customers who opt-in during checkout, sign-up forms and pop-ups on your eCommerce site, and lead magnets. All of these sources have one thing in common: They require a voluntary, intentional action (or opt-in) in order for a person to become a subscriber. So it feels pretty unnecessary, after that voluntary opt-in decision, to say, “But wait, are you really, really sure you wanted to opt-in?” 

That initial opt-in is enough; asking for additional conformation is just an unnecessary roadblock. Why throw obstacles in the path of customers or potential customers who are telling you they want to join your list? By trusting and honoring that first opt-in, you can add subscribers to your email list faster, so you can begin the process of turning them into first-time or repeat customers. 

Single opt-in allows for faster list growth; at least 20 to 30 percent faster, according to one study.

The flip side of not trusting that subscribers know what they’re doing when they opt-in the first time and using double opt-in instead is the risk of losing subscribers who are legitimately interested in receiving your emails. And that means a risk of losing customers. One case study called a double opt-in process a “success” because 80 percent of people clicked the double opt-in email and joined the list. That’s celebrated as a success—and it lost one in five people who initially subscribed! You’ll never know why they didn’t click the double opt-in confirmation—but there are plenty of reasons besides, “I changed my mind and wasn’t interested.” Maybe it got lost in their inbox. Maybe they just forgot. Maybe they found it annoying or overbearing and it’s the reason they decided not to join your list after all.

Single opt-in is less confusing for paying customers

A first-time customer will likely receive at least two emails from you within 24 hours of purchase: an order receipt and a welcome email. If you add an email subscription confirmation email to that mix, it could make them confused or annoyed at you for flooding their inbox—and could discourage that customer from opening future emails or having a positive first impression of your brand.

First impressions are critical, and the first few emails a new customer receives kick off their customer journey with your brand. An order receipt shows you’re dependable and transparent; a strong welcome email starts building a bond between the customer and your brand. A double opt-in interrupts the beginning of a customer’s relationship with your brand by asking a customer to verify (and, potentially, reconsider) their interest. It’s like being on a first date that’s going well, then suddenly standing up in the middle and saying, “Wait, are you sure you want to be on this date with me?” And after the person looks at you confused and says, “Um, yes?”, then sitting back down and trying to jump right back into the great conversation you were having.

A double opt-in interrupts beginning of a customer's relationship with your brand by asking then to verify (and, potentially, reconsider) their interest. Click To Tweet

The dangers to deliverability are overblown

So it’s clear that single opt-in is easier for subscribers, especially paying customers, but what about deliverability concerns? Doesn’t the lack of confirming intent to subscribe put your list at risk of a bunch of fake email addresses?

Not really. While it’s true that a double opt-in can provide some reassurance that a fake email address hasn’t been added to your list, that feels like an unnecessary safeguard in the eCommerce world—where many of your new subscribers are paying customers. It’s not likely that someone would give out a fake email when they’re buying something online—they need to use a real address to get important emails that everyone wants, like order and shipping confirmations.

Even when people or bots might sneak a fake email address onto your list via a subscription form or pop-up, there’s no real advantage to using double opt-in.

That’s because double opt-in won’t prevent you from sending emails to fake addresses. A fake email address will result in a hard bounce (meaning it was sent to an invalid or nonexistent email) whether your first message is a welcome email to a new subscriber or a double opt-in confirmation email.

Welcome emails can provide the same benefits as a double opt-in without adding an extra step

Welcome emails are a powerful tool for eCommerce stores. For starters, they produce significantly higher engagement rates than a typical marketing email. At Jilt, we’ve found welcome emails to new customers achieve an excellent 35 percent open rate and 6.3 percent click-through rate—and bring in $1.53 per email sent, on average. And welcome emails are versatile; you can use lots of different strategies can to capitalize on those high engagement rates as you introduce your brand. 

A welcome email.
A welcome email example.

When you’re putting together your welcome email (or the first email in a welcome series), it can be helpful to think about how it can serve as a replacement for a double opt-in. The main purpose of a double opt-in is to confirm that an email address is legitimate and to make sure that the customer truly wants to be subscribed to your list. This can be achieved, and even improved upon, by using these tactics in your welcome email:

  • Provide a clear opportunity for the customer to unsubscribe. It’s possible that a first-time customer didn’t mean to sign up for your marketing emails. By providing an unsubscribe link that’s clearly visible, you show that you care about your customer’s preferences. Of course, the hope is that your subscribers will stick around, but ultimately it’s better for your email deliverability for disengaged customers to unsubscribe than it is for them to remain on your list and become inactive—or worse, mark your emails as spam.
  • Let your subscribers know what to expect. Be upfront about how often you’ll be sending marketing emails. If possible, offer opportunities for the customer to choose what types of emails they want to receive and segment your list accordingly.
  • Provide an incentive that you’d normally include in a lead magnet. If you use lead magnets, like free eBooks, to build your email list, make sure new subscribers from other sources get a chance to download them too. For example, for customers who subscribe while making a purchase, build goodwill by using your welcome email to offer them the same perk you offer to non-customers for subscribing.
  • If a welcome email returns a hard bounce, remove it from your list. At Jilt, we automatically remove hard bounces from your list for you, ensuring that invalid addresses don’t hurt your sender reputation.

Keep single opt-in customers happy with good email practices

The two most frequently cited reasons for double opt-in are: Make sure subscribers really want your emails, and reduce the number of people who might hurt your deliverability by going inactive or marking you as spam. We’ve seen how both of these concerns are actually quite minimal and how a good welcome email can mitigate them. You can further mitigate these issues with good email practices.

First, make sure all you emails are relevant and timely. Segment your list and send targeted emails to customers that advertised products they’re interested in. Set up automations for customers that deliver emails that customers will find useful, such as replenishment reminders when they’re running low on a product you sell.

Double opt-in won’t save your list from subscriber churn. By sending relevant content, the goal is to keep customers happy for as long as they are subscribed and active—regardless of how they opted in. 

Second, make sure your list contains only active and engaged subscribers. Make your unsubscribe option clear in your emails, and maintain regular list hygiene to remove subscribers who’ve gone inactive. (Some of this may be done for you automatically; for example, Jilt automatically removes contacts from your email list after one hard bounce or four soft bounces.) 

Key takeaways

The relationship between a customer and a brand is built on trust, and we believe you should trust your customers when they decide to opt-in to your email list. Any perceived benefit of double opt-in for eCommerce stores can be achieved in other ways when using single opt-in—without adding extra steps to a customer’s onboarding process.

  • Single opt-in allows for more efficient email list growth. Subscribers are added to your email list immediately, allowing you to quickly add new customers to your email list.
  • Single opt-in avoids confusion and annoyance during the early stages of the customer-brand relationship. The relationship between a new customer and an eCommerce store is fairly tenuous, and every bit of communication is magnified. Brands can put their best foot forward by sending a welcome email (and order receipt if there was a purchase) immediately after a customer opts in.
  • Welcome emails provide many of the same benefits of double opt-in without adding additional steps to the process. An effective welcome email includes opportunities for engagement that are relevant to a new customer’s interests and provide them peace of mind about their order.
  • Maintaining good sending practices is the most effective way to keep your list active and engaged. Use data to your advantage and create targeted lists based on customer demographics and shopping history. Effective list segmentation results in higher engagement rates and more sales and revenue—plus a stronger sender reputation, which further aids deliverability and helps you avoid spam filters. And strong list hygiene will make sure your list isn’t filled with addresses of subscribers who don’t want to be there.
Max Rice
Max Rice is Jilt's co-founder and CEO at Jilt. He focuses on ensuring our app and integration plugins are top-notch while also working with merchants to get the most out of Jilt.

3 Comments

  1. While I agree with the benefits of a single opt-in and can confirm that only a part of users goes through double-opt-in, the article completely ignores legal questions. In Germany, and probably the whole of Europe, my understanding
    is that companies need to use double opt-in before sending out marketing emails.

    1. Hey Thomas, double opt-in is not legally required in any country — for example, GDPR requires opt in if you don’t have another legal basis (such as legitimate interest) for processing customer data. While customers must opt to receive email (checkboxes cannot be pre-enabled), they don’t have to then confirm opt in a second time. I understand that in Germany there are additional, stricter regulations for consent, but everything we found indicated that double opt in is recommended, but not required (here’s a useful resource, and a helpful article — we found several others indicating no particular law requires confirmed opt in). Of course, we strongly encourage all businesses to ensure they’re aware of the legal requirements within their own countries and to comply with them; we wanted to present the alternative viewpoint, though, that double opt in has its costs, and if possible, those costs should be measured against the benefits. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *