I can already hear the forces of nature starting to shift amongst the permission purists as they read the title to this blog post. In fact, some will skim over this post and either go straight to the comments, take to twitter in angst or begin to write a blog post in rebuttal. Some believe that confirmed opt-in (COI) is the only way to go when acquiring a new email address for a program and there is nothing I can write that will change their mind. However, if you have made it this far, thanks for sticking with me.
Let me first start by saying that COI makes sense in certain acquisition situations, so don’t jump on the “marketer” @andrewkordek writes that COI is a horrible idea bandwagon. For example, COI would make sense in a retail POS situation where the clerk is asking for email to send the receipt. Since its simply an ask by the clerk and there is no indication of permission given by the individual other that the receipt itself, its makes sense to not only validate the address, but to also confirm that they would want to receive marketing email going forward.
To me, this is a wonderful opportunity for the company to send out a really fantastic confirmation email which could highlight the benefits of the program, tell a wonderful story incorporating things such as social proofing, give a discount and ask the recipient to confirm. In fact, organizations could probably get away with send 2 or 3 of these emails, but should stop sending anything after X times (there is no “best practice” here) if the recipient does not confirm. I have always talked about that the little things in email programs make a big difference and to me, most organizations fall down on confirmation emails in either design, content and even messaging. This scenario provides a tremendous opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves since it is either the first or last touch they would have with that address.
However, COI doesn’t make sense all of the time despite what Spamhaus and other deliverability governing bodies might say. For example, I recently ran across an organization who required registration on the site in order to receive email. The registration process consisted of creating a username and password (with CAPTCHA), filing out a long form with information, followed by another page where I had one pre-checked box for one newsletter and then a choice of 7 unchecked boxes for other email publications (with cadence/frequency info and examples) followed by a “confirmation of choices” page and ending with a welcome email which had all of my email choices dynamically assembled within the email. The permission purists or organizations who claim that COI is the ONLY way to acquire an email address would say that this is not enough. They would require a COI/Closed Loop email for the recipient to click and confirm their choice, which in my opinion is excessive.
This is not about whether COI is better or worse than SOI debate that we have had for years. This is about applying common sense internet practices with practical user experiences on the web. At some point there is a thing called being too cautious and people who only see permission as a one way street need to not dig their heals in like Congress trying to pass a debt ceiling resolution.
I welcome your feedback and rebuttals.
Editors Note: David Romerstein, a Lead Engineer – MTA Ops at LivingSocial, wrote a rebuttal you might also want to check out, No, COI Makes Sense Most of the Time.