The email sign-up process is the first of many steps along the customer journey-an opportunity for would-be customers to connect with your brand.
As with any new relationship, whether it's a first date, a job interview or a new neighbor, first impressions matter, and it's essential to start things off right. As the starting point for conversation with your customers, your email sign-up process has to be solid. Here's a quick refresher on how to optimize the process, ensuring both you and your brand are protected.
Show the Value In Signing Up.
Despite what many brands would like to believe, email subscribers opt-in for only one reason-they want something. Show subscribers the value of signing up by telling them exactly what they can expect to receive when they join your email program. Tell them the types of offers they'll receive from your company and be transparent from the beginning. If you create an attractive proposition, they're more likely to join.
Keep It Simple.
Keep your email sign-up process uncomplicated, or potential customers may walk away before finishing. Don't ask for too much-or too little-information. Instead, strike the right balance with just enough required fields to provide targeted, relevant offers. Ask for only the information you need to provide meaningful offers. If the sign-up process is simple, they're likely to subscribe-if it's challenging, they could abandon the process altogether.
Avoid Pre-checked Boxes.
You'd be surprised at how often consumers make online purchases, only to find out after the fact that they've inadvertently 'opted in' to receive email offers. Pre-checked boxes are viewed unfavorably by most and, more often than not, result in spam complaints, causing future emails to be redirected from the inbox to the spam folder. At best, your reputation suffers. At worse, pre-checked boxes may trigger compliance issues as consent is implied, not express.
Balancing Customer Experience with Security
While it's important to provide a great first impression and easy onboarding for new customers, it's also critical to make sure the infrastructure delivering the experience is secure. Email marketers are responsible not only for their subscribers' experiences, but also for the processes and systems that provide those experiences. With spam, malware and now, "list-bombing," malicious actors can negatively impact your brand by inundating recipients' inboxes, which can even result in blacklistings.
When it comes to Internet security, the rule of thumb is that if something can be abused, it will be abused. Sign-up forms that are too easy are likely targets, and marketers need to find the right balance between offering convenience for subscribers and protecting the brand. Forms that are abused may result in your company becoming blacklisted, which means your emails won't get delivered to all of your intended recipients. Here are a few options to add to your sign-up form that can strengthen the process.
CAPTCHA doesn't have to be a difficult requirement for your subscribers. Far too often, brands require typing in a combination of letters and numbers that are often hard to read. A better option for the customer experience is as simple as checking a box that says, "I'm not a robot."
Honeypot fields can be challenging to implement without technical know-how, but have proved to be incredibly reliable. A honeypot field isn't visible to the human eye when looking at the sign-up form, but is included in the code. It's the perfect trap for malicious 'bots'-if you see data in a honeypot field, you know not to add that subscriber to your list.
COI (Confirmed Opt In).
COI asks customers to confirm their choice to opt-in to your email program by clicking on a confirmation email. While there can be a significant drop-off between initial sign-up and confirmation email, COI makes it possible to validate email addresses prior to adding them to your marketing stream. The point? You add only those people who provide affirmative consent and truly want to receive emails from you.
A starting point for conversation with your brand, the email sign-up process is a critical step in the customer journey. It's essential you get it right. Keep the process simple, straightforward, and attractive to entice subscribers. Finally, don't forget to be aware of the mechanics behind the process. By striking the right balance between customer experience and security, you're sure to attract real subscribers, rather than bots who are eager to learn more about your brand.
Alyssa Nahatis is director of deliverability Americas & global services for Adobe, where she manages a team of experts focused on helping clients implement more innovative and effective email strategies to optimize their inbox delivery.