I recently signed up to receive promotional emails from 100 B2C brands that span the retail, travel, consumer products and media industries. I noticed five major areas of opportunity for brands to improve their signup processes:

1. Signup Forms Often Hard to Find

Unmissable signup modals and other popups are common, but far from universal. When not used, brands almost always include their email signups in their footers. If nowhere else, consumers expect to find them there, although that doesn’t mean that brands can’t increase their visibility by also including signups above the fold, but few do. Brands should seriously consider that, as many B2C homepages have grown significantly longer in recent years, which means a lot more scrolling. 

Brands can also boost promotional email signups by including an actual signup form on their homepage footer. Some merely include a signup link, which is often mixed in with lots of administrative links and therefore easy to miss.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Generate More Loyalty and Email Signups

2. Too Many Ask for Phone Numbers

There’s no faster way to crater your signup form completion rate than asking for multiple forms of contact information. For that reason, I always advise brands to focus first on collecting email addresses, which is the form of contact consumers are most open to with brands.

A number of brands were clearly aware of the danger of asking for too much contact info, but instead of asking for mobile phone numbers post-signup, they included an email address field on the first page of the signup and then a required mobile phone number field on the second page.

This is likely to stop many would-be subscribers in their tracks, causing them to abandon the form. Beyond that, it then raises questions about whether the person is subscribed to the brand’s promotional emails and whether they’ll get the signup incentive that was promised. That’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of unanswered questions that have been introduced to the interaction, which may cause the person to become frustrated and angry and look to other brands.

For my part, I wasn’t interested in receiving SMS messages from any of the brands I approached, so I abandoned every signup form when I encountered this scenario. Roughly half of the time, I ended up receiving promotional emails from the brand. The others didn’t capitalize on my interest because of their overreach.

3. Unclear and Misleading Signup Commitments

Part of the issue around asking for mobile phone numbers appears to stem from many of these signup forms actually being for loyalty programs and not email programs, with the former often requiring phone numbers for some reason. That said, based on the signup appeals for these forms, it’s usually impossible to know what you’re signing up for.

That’s because these forms are almost entirely focused on promoting a signup incentive, especially when a modal is used. That emphasis undermines the relationship these programs are trying to establish and sets brands up for higher unsubscribe rates soon after signup.

Related Article: 7 Burning Questions About Email Unsubscribes

Learning Opportunities

4. Dead-End Confirmation and Preference Pages

When someone raises their hand and signs up to hear from your brand, that’s a moment of high engagement. Unfortunately, many brands don’t make the most of this positive momentum. In lots of instances, signup confirmation pages only confirm the signup and don't direct new subscribers to do anything else of value.

Some brands do direct their new subscribers to select preferences — with standouts like CNN, Levi’s and Bass Pro Shops offering lots of detailed choices. However, at the end of that process, many of the brands collecting preferences also let the momentum fade by not trying to drive the next high-value action.

Ask yourself, "What’s the next one or two most valuable things a new subscriber could do?" And then build that into your signup process. Then ask yourself that same question again, and add that in. If you ask people to only do one thing, you’re unlikely to get them to do much more than that. Whereas if you ask folks to do three things, then many will do two of them and some do all three. Be optimistic!

5. DOI Increasingly Used

Eight of the 100 brands I signed up for use double opt-in confirmation for their homepage signup form. While objectively that’s a small percentage, it’s much higher than just a few years ago.

This increase in adoption is a positive sign, given the ongoing targeting of open forms (such as homepage email signup forms) by bots and the launch of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, which makes it hard for brands to determine if new subscribers are engaging. There is a wide spectrum of audience acquisition sources, each of which have their own risk-benefit profile. Make sure you’re selectively using tools like CAPTCHA, double-entry confirmation and DOI to protect your brand and email deliverability.  

Related Article: 4 Ways to Maximize Double Opt-In Confirmations for Email

Final Thoughts on Maximizing Email Signups

With businesses preparing for a likely recession, while simultaneously trying to adapt to the sunsetting of third-party cookies and privacy changes like Apple’s MPP, growing first-party audiences has become increasingly critical.

If you haven’t audited the signup process of each of your acquisition sources in the past year, I highly recommend you make it a priority so you can maximize audience growth and create fruitful, lasting relationships.

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