There are a growing number of websites designed to clean out your email inbox. Competing against sites such as Sanebox.com and Mailboxapp.com, Unroll.me is my email manager of choice. It’s quick and painless to mass-unsubscribe from every subscription associated with an email address in seconds, plus it has a variety of other interesting aspects.
Unroll.me lets a user pick any of their remaining email subscriptions to be bundled into a daily “Rollup” email. You are then sent one email per day containing all of the chosen promotional emails received in the past 24 hours.
I realise from a professional email marketing perspective, on a blog run by an email marketing company, that talking about a product like Unroll.me seems counterproductive and counterintuitive. But bear with me for a minute.
When Gmail introduced their new tabbed browsing – splitting your messages into categories including a section for promotional emails – the internet (particularly certain email marketing gurus) threw a bit of a tantrum and panicked. If you Google “Gmail tabs email marketing” there’s thousands of results, each documenting the fear that Gmail’s changes would have an extremely negative impact on email marketing trends. As it turns out, Gmail’s alteration actually had a barely noticeable impact on click-through and display rates et al.
However, marketers still get asked if Gmail tabs are hurting our open rates. This is how that question makes us react:
When the 20th person asks if Gmail Tabs are hurting your open rates.
And that’s Gmail. Used by hundreds of millions of people, all the time. If their move to relegate promotional emails to a subfolder only has a negligible knock-on effect for marketers, then a niche company like Unroll.me is hardly an email marketing rider of the apocalypse.
But more than this; these sort of inbox-cleaning sites have the potential to be beneficial to email marketing.
Last weekend, for the first time in a long time, I signed up to a website for the sole purpose of receiving their email newsletter.
I was after the Nordic Noir bulletin. They’re a company responsible for a subgenre of Scandinavian films and television that I love, but to get their newsletter I had to sign up first to Nordic Noir’s parent company, Arrow Films.
I decided I’d be happy to receive the entire updates of Arrow Films – even the programmes and films I don’t care about – because I’d put their emails in my Rollup. The reason this decision seemed important to me is because I would never have hunted out an email newsletter in the past, but having Unroll.me made it seem like a decision I will be far less likely to regret. Even if Arrow Films pester me with irrelevant messages I won’t feel bombarded.
It’s a train of thought that demonstrates why Unroll.me isn’t an enemy of promotional email marketing at all.
If you’ve been emailing a subscriber for months and they haven’t clicked unsubscribe yet then it’s likely when they sign up to an inbox-cleansing site they aren’t going to suddenly leave you. Indeed, my personal usage of the mass-unsubscription feature was by and large to remove my address from around 30 companies’ lists that I had no idea I was signed up to in the first place (and who certainly hadn’t emailed me lately).
Putting those mass-unsubscription fears aside, another bonus of Unroll.me is having just one place to browse every day for all my chosen promotional emails at once. This means I’m paying them a concentrated amount of my attention span because I’ve got some free time when I browse, rather than seeing an email, opening it, and then being distracted by work or making coffee or a hilarious new cat gif.
Users can even specify for the Rollup to arrive in the morning, the afternoon or the evening – whichever time is most convenient and will most likely mean they have the a couple of minutes to have an in-depth read.
Additionally, if a company produces content that is really meaningful, important or often filled with real-time offers – such as restaurant vouchers that have a limited time before expiration – I refrain from putting that business in my Rollup. That way I ensure that I receive the vouchers as soon as they’re sent rather than consolidated into Unroll.me’s daily digest, just in case I’m too late to take advantage.
However, here at e-shot it dawned on us that from an email marketing standpoint it was crucial to investigate whether viewing and clicking on an email contained in a Rollup had any effect on statistics. Using e-shot’s sophisticated heatmaps and analytics we tested this, and can say (with relief) that even when an email is being displayed by the Unroll.me website, interactions such as where a user clicks are accurately captured 100% as they would be if an email reached a subscriber’s inbox directly.
Having said that, one figure that will drastically change if a subscriber is using Unroll.me is the display rate. As the Rollup doesn’t arrive until a set time of day, which may be hours after your email was dispatched, the display rate is distorted by the time that the Rollup is received. Nevertheless, even if display times and rates are blurred slightly, click-through rates remain as accurate as ever.
The death bell is prematurely rung for email marketing virtually every time there’s a digital marketing innovation, like the emergence of social media and all the other “threats”. In the same way as previous developments, inbox-streamlining services don’t need to be perceived as another menace to email marketing. That’s the typical industry kneejerk reaction, but as always if your content is worthwhile then you won’t feel a thing.
In fact, more subscribers confining their promotional emails to a daily Rollup could result in a surprise windfall for companies. I know that when I browse my Rollup during my morning commute I spend far longer clicking and reading than I did when I received several emails intermittently during my day. As long as the content is worthwhile, interesting or valuable, it won’t matter what form it takes when it reaches my inbox.