Untick this box to not opt out to not receive stuff you might not want

imageOpt-out and opt-in boxes have been a regular feature of marketing promotions since laws came into effect giving consumers the right to control the types of communication they receive by giving what the regulations call “prior consent”.

In the UK it’s the Privacy and Electronics Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 that lay out the rules for online direct marketing which require that:

“the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication” (22.3.c)

…which explains why we’ve grown so used to seeing opt-in and opt-out boxes in our online interactions with brands and services.

But these boxes are not just a legal necessity, they’re also a crucial component of the experience your customers have with your company. Done badly they can erode trust in your brand, yet done well they can instil confidence and increase the likelihood of customers wanting to stay in contact.

Take this example from a clothing brand on the web today:

Ticked box Please untick this box if you would not like to receive emails from [Brand S] on more competitions, offers & shopping news

I’ve read that clause a few times and it really messes with my brain. The marketer responsible for Brand S has pre-ticked the box, effectively opting the consumer in to receiving emails. It’s only by deciphering the double negative and unticking the box that the consumer can opt out of receiving emails.

In contrast, look at this better example from a construction company:

image I have read and accept the full terms and conditions here.
image I would like to receive information from Third Parties

Here, the brand manager has wisely given full control over to the consumer. The choices are clearly explained allowing the consumer to opt-in if receiving information from third parties takes their fancy. But, crucially, the consumer also has to tick the first box in order to proceed, thereby proving that they have read the two options and made (we hope) an informed choice.

In too many cases companies use mixed opt-in/opt-out clauses and garbled language that confuses their customers. Often this is done in the hope that consumers will slip up and unwittingly find themselves on an email list or agree to terms that are not in their best interests. Sure, it’s tempting to make customers opt-out—after all, subscription levels are always higher that way—but remember that an unwilling contact is no more useful in your marketing than no contact at all.

Trust is a two-way street. The first rule for brands looking to gain trust from consumers is to treat those consumers with the respect they deserve. Fair play when collecting prior consent is essential.

Take a look at the terms and conditions used in your business. If the words are misleading or garbled change them quickly before your customers change their buying habits and go elsewhere.

About Allister Frost

I'm a marketer who helps companies adapt and grow in our digital world. This site is the place where I share my thoughts about marketing, how it's evolving and what great marketers are doing. Let me know what you think.

Posted on January 9, 2012, in Digital Marketing, Marketing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Good post. While the Marketers behind these kinds of confusing forms might think those techniques boost their sign-up numbers, the reality is it just irritates and erodes trust. By far better to be transparent as you’ve suggested.

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