MailChimp promotes single opt-in – and why I continue using double opt-in

MailChimp is one of the biggest email service providers in terms of email volume and number of customers. The company now announced that “[s]tarting October 31, single opt-in will become the default setting for all MailChimp hosted, embedded, and pop-up signup forms. This change will impact all MailChimp users“. And it is a huge change.

If a user wants to continue using double opt-in for non-API list building, one has to explicitly set that up on the Signup Preferences page. Otherwise the opt-in confirmation email and the signup thank you page will not be sent or displayed anymore.

Mailchimp goes single opt-in

Double opt-in is best practice

Most email marketing experts agree on double opt-in beeing best practice. The validation step can prevent unintentional spam and it weakens list bombings. It (almost) ensures that only those get promotional email, who really wants it. Thus, double opt-in yields much better response rates, less spam complaints and also fewer unsubscribes and bounces. MailChimp themselves proved that:

double opt-in lists have better open rates

In addition, the click on a confirmation link can prove permission in a legal dispute. Article 7(1) of the upcoming EU-GDPR states, marketers “shall be able to demonstrate that the data subject has consented to processing of his or her personal data”. In Germany, this demonstration already fails when using single opt-in, because anyone can submit any email address, whereas with double opt-in, only the address owner can submit it. It remains to be seen how the harmonization of data protection within the EU goes forward until the 25th of May next year…

I deliberately mention Germany, not only because I live in Berlin. More than 17 out of 100 European email users aged 16 to 74 are Germans. Due to the strict legislation, double opt-in is the norm: 75% of all newsletter senders use it to validate new subscriptions, according to a recent study of Absolit among more than 3000 companies.

European Email users per country75% of German newsletter senders use DOI

Why single opt-in?

So why is MailChimp doing this? They say it was a popular request. By making signup forms default to single opt-in, users can now grow their lists easier. And bigger lists will go hand in hand with more revenue, as the pricing plan suggests. Especially when you got more than 16 million users.

Indeed: Double opt-in brings frictional losses. People don’t confirm for several reasons. Some don’t understand the need of a second step, others will (not) find the confirmation mail in the junk folder. From my experience, the extra step costs most lists about 20 to 25% of their initial opt-ins:

20-25% of addresses are lost due to double opt-in

Final Thoughts

I myself am a happy MailChimp user. I started sending my weekly email marketing roundup six years ago using the freemium plan. However, the update comes just in time for Halloween: Does it scare the chimp-deliverability-team? Probably not, since MailChimp uses sophisticated means to prevent spam; otherwise free accounts that can upload lists and immediately start sending without manual vertification would not be possible.

Nevertheless, I strongly recommend to continue using double opt-in in most scenarios. Strict permission marketing FTW. If the confirmation rate is below 70%, one should first try to optimize the confirmation process instead of loosening permission strength. Here are a few tips, to which I’d add Gmail quick actions.

Anyway, the discussion on Twitter is on. Enjoy. 🙂

Update 2017-10-30:

MailChimp is back-padelling after many users in the European Union reacted with incomprehension:

“[W]e’ve made an important change for MailChimp users located in the European Union: If your primary contact address is in the EU, your existing forms will remain double opt-in. […] We made this decision after receiving a lot of feedback from EU customers who told us that single opt-in does not align with their business needs in light of the upcoming GDPR and other local requirements.”

Former Chief Data Scientist John Foreman also explains the reasons for defaulting to single opt-in. From his experience, “the majority of companies have moved to single opt-in“. Thus,

“[R]ecipients have become re-educated on how email marketing confirmation works. Today, most people don’t expect or look for a double opt-in confirmation message when they subscribe to a newsletter. Indeed, we’ve seen double-opt in rates within MailChimp slip to 39%. This means 61% of people start but do not finish the double opt-in process.”

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