The flood before the deadline

The closer we get to the GDPR deadline of May 25th, the more emails flood inboxes asking users to opt-in. While the first emails about GDPR were fresh, companies that are still preparing to blast their email lists over the coming days are at a disadvantage: Most users can surmise what the email will be about and have likely stopped caring, especially if the email has a generic subject line such as “Update to Privacy Policy” or “Updates to Privacy Notice”. The result? Unopened and ignored emails.

Under normal circumstances (e.g. a monthly newsletter) a low opening rate wouldn’t be such a big deal – better luck next month! But companies that are trying to receive consent now only have a limited number of attempts. After that, an unopened email is the same thing as unsubscribing. Except now users don’t even have to actively press the “unsubscribe” button to make that decision, they can just ignore the email and passively unsubscribe.


Don’t be just another GDPR Email

Keep in mind that you won’t be the only GDPR email in your customer’s inbox. Many, many companies are also informing their customers that they’ve updated their privacy policy, cookie policy, are compliant with GDPR, etc. If you’re just another “Updates to our Terms and Conditions” email, you’ll have less customers opening your email, removing the chance of even opting in.

I recently worked with a company where GDPR was initially an afterthought for them, even though they were aware that they still needed to get proper consent. Their approach was to write a (generic) email, asking customers to opt-in, and be done with it. One size fits all and let’s hope for the best…

After some discussions, they fortunately agreed to test the subject line and copy with a random set of 5000 customers. The result of their generic subject line was an opening rate of ~16%.

The second test sought to break through the noise. Instead of the generic “Updates to x” subject line, we changed it to “Don’t miss out!”. After all, customers who wouldn’t opt-in were going to miss out on future emails. The result? An opening rate of ~24%.

While opening rates don’t tell the full story, consider the following: this client has an email list of ~250,000 customers in one country alone. If they had sent that original, generic email to all of them, only 40,000 would have had the chance¬†to even opt-in.

The second test increased that amount to 60,000 – that’s 50% more customers that have the potential of opting in than before.

Three last minute considerations

  1. Test, test, test, and focus on the subject line. While you can wordsmith the copy as much as you like, the real impact will come from changing the subject line. In the previous example, 76-84% of customers¬†didn’t open the email. An extra few percentage points can make a substantional difference.
  2. While GDPR is about the law, don’t make that an excuse to be boring. Liven up the subject line, include a personal touch, do something to break through the noise. And relate back to point 1 to see what works.
  3. Don’t lose focus. You’re doing this to build an email list of customers who have opted in to receiving communications from you. This means that you want high opening rates, high opt-in rates, and low unsubscription rates. It can be that simple, so check out the two examples below.

The good and the bad

From all the GDPR related emails I’ve received, I’ve picked two that exemplify what I mean above (albeit in different ways).

The Good – App Annie

While I was originally considered the multiple Call-To-Actions in the body to be distracting, at least two of them are actually the opt-in themselves. The other highlights the benefits of App Annie and reminds customers why they should opt in. Clear visuals, clear CTA.

The Bad – Heathrow

While you should of course allow users to unsubscribe, you shouldn’t make that their primary option… In the example below, Heathrow puts a big “Unsubscribe” button at the end of their email, making this the only CTA of the entire body. I wouldn’t be surprised if customers accidentally unsubscribed, given the strange approach of putting the unsubscription front and center.

A final note

While the GDPR deadline is looming, it’s not too late to get customer consent and the most out of your existing email list. Test multiple variations on subsets of your customer list to see what works best (various headlines, HTML vs text only, etc.). Don’t treat GDPR as an afterthought and once you’ve sent out that email, you’re done. By putting your customer first and breaking through the other email noise, you’ll be able to maintain as much of your list as possible.