Since 2008, marketers have adopted a more simplified email sign-up process for new subscribers and now ask for significantly less personal information, according to a recent study by Return Path.

The report, which was based on an analysis of 61 email marketing programs in 2008 and 76 programs in 2013, found that today 33% of brands require just a subscriber's email address to sign up for a marketing program. Five years ago, only 20% were satisfied with just an email address.

Collecting less information doesn't appear to be hurting marketers. A comparison of those who asked for only minimal information with those who asked for more detail during signup showed no meaningful difference in inbox placement, read rates, or complaint rates.

Below, additional key findings from the report.

Unsubscribe Changes

Over the past five years marketers have shifted their approach during the email unsubscribe process to better retain customer relationships and gather more information:

  • 25% of the brands examined now offer opt-down alternatives such as different sending frequencies, something only a few senders did five years ago.
  • 22% now ask customers for feedback about why they are unsubscribing, compared with just 3% in 2008.

Welcome Messages

  • 80% of the brands examined now begin email subscriptions with a welcome message, up from 40% in 2008.

  • However, fewer marketers this year (39%) sweetened their welcome messages with special offers, such as discounts or free shipping; five years ago 65% of those who sent a welcome email included a special offer.


Only 22% of the current email campaigns examined referred to a name, location, or other identifying information in messages to subscribers, down slightly from 25% in 2008.

About the research: The report was based on data from 61 email marketing programs in 2008 and 76 programs in 2013 (many of which were the same). Return Path also analyzed data from its panel of 3 million email subscribers.

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image of Ayaz Nanji

Ayaz Nanji is a digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Media, a marketing agency specializing in content and social media services for tech firms. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji