OTA Audits Email Trustworthiness of 200 Largest Online Retailers Leading into Holiday Shopping

While we found retailers are doing many things right when it comes to email, many are not making it transparent and easy to find a way to opt-out, which increases consumer frustration and ultimately reduces their trust.

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), an Internet Society initiative, today released its 2017 Email Marketing & Unsubscribe Audit. Now in its fourth year, the Audit analyzes the newsletters and promotional emails of the 200 largest North American online retailers for authentication and end-to-end user experience from signup through unsubscribe.

“Online trust plays an important role in where consumers shop, especially when they’re getting bombarded with offers during the holiday shopping season,” said Jeff Wilbur, director of the OTA Initiative at the Internet Society. “While we found retailers are doing many things right when it comes to email, many are not making it transparent and easy to find a way to opt-out, which increases consumer frustration and ultimately reduces their trust.”

In OTA’s 2017 audit, 67 percent of the retailers received a “Best of Class” designation, meaning they scored 80 percent or higher in OTA’s analysis of their marketing email trustworthiness (see methodology section below). Nine of those sites had perfect scores, which means they adopted all 12 of OTA’s email best practices, did not send an unsubscribe confirmation email, and did not violate CAN-SPAM and Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL). Those retailers are Blue Nile, Home Shopping Network, Lands’ End, Musician’s Friend, Sierra Trading Post, Stitch Fix, Talbots, Toys “R” Us and Walgreens.

Unsubscribe Undiscoverability

The overall discoverability of an unsubscribe link dropped from 81 percent in 2016 to 76 percent. This is due to a combination of factors, but primarily for the use of low contrast colors (e.g., grey text on a light grey background), -

Thirty-two percent used low contrast colors and 69 percent are under the recommended enhanced contrast ratio..

  • OTA determined that 6 percent of retailers used too small a font (less than 10 pixels), while 29 percent used a font size of 10 pixels, which is on the edge of readability.
  • Seventy-six percent used the word “unsubscribe” itself as the link to…

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