For some of us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a good time to buy a new TV or a Bluetooth speaker. But for marketers, it’s the best time of the year to spam your inbox.
Because none of them want to be left out of the consumer feeding frenzy, marketers devote untold hours to designing and strategizing their Black Friday emails. And as e-commerce plays a bigger role in our shopping habits, the volume of emails they send keeps increasing. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means there will be an even bigger mess in your inbox, as marketers trip over themselves to make sure they’re part of the online shopping rush.
But while this might seem like an annoyance, it can also be a gift in disguise. Having your inbox overrun with spam means you also have a chance to easily unsubscribe from all those mailing lists you’ve been on, especially those from major brands that need your support far less than small businesses right now. All it takes is a few minutes of extra effort.
In theory, email marketers should know better than to spam indiscriminately around Black Friday. Paul Hickey, a digital marketing designer and consultant, surveyed e-commerce merchants a few years ago and found that unsubscribe rates spiked by 33% immediately after big sales events. But too often, they can’t help inserting themselves into your inbox and are just asking to get the boot.
I can’t take credit for this tip. Wired‘s Brian Barrett wrote about it last year, and it’s routinely popped up on Reddit as well. Still, it’s worth reiterating in a year when online shopping will reach new heights.
How to unsubscribe
Removing yourself from mailing lists is easier than you might think. Gmail, iOS Mail, and Microsoft’s Outlook app will all automatically detect most marketing emails and offer an “Unsubscribe” button at the top.
Otherwise, you’ll have to look for an “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” link in the email itself. These almost always appear in tiny text at the bottom of the email. (If your email provider cuts off the full email, you’ll have to click the link to view the full message, which should reveal an unsubscribe link at the bottom.) Make sure to double-check the unsubscribe page that opens in your browser as well; some marketers will make you click an additional link or reenter your email address to complete the unsubscribe process.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of bulk unsubscribe tools instead of removing yourself from mailing lists one by one:
- Leave Me Alone scans your entire inbox for marketing emails and presents a simple menu for unsubscribing to them all. It’s a paid service—starting at $2.50 to unsubscribe from 50 emails—but it’s also a privacy-focused option that doesn’t use your email data for marketing purposes.
- Unsubscriber doesn’t actually unsubscribe you from mailing lists, but it does find and filter out marketing emails so they don’t reach your inbox. The tool, which is free, effectively serves as an advertisement for the alternative email client Polymail.
- Newton is an alternative email app that works with most major mail providers and can automatically sort marketing emails into a “Newsletters” folder (similar to Gmail’s “Promotions” tab). From this folder, you can click “Bulk Unsubscribe” to send a batch of opt-out requests. While Newton requires a paid subscription, it includes a 14-day trial with no credit card information, which should be enough time to purge your marketing emails.
Cut down on future emails
Once you’ve purged your inbox of marketing emails, you might consider taking steps to get fewer of these emails in the first place. Masked email services such as Abine Blur, which I wrote about earlier this month, can generate randomized addresses for you to use while signing up for things online. Blur will still forward emails along to your real inbox, but the sender will never see your true address, and you can turn off forwarding to prevent the sender from ever contacting you again.
Just picture it: Hordes of email marketers that never got permission to email you, screaming helplessly into defunct inboxes and wondering why their open and click-through rates are so low. If that doesn’t boost your holiday spirits, I don’t know what will.