We're getting rid of pause

Naomi West avatar
Naomi West@emailfromnaomi

In April 2022, Parcel released an email preference center for our subscribers. This preference center allowed subscribers to opt into individual topics, including Industry emails, Product updates, and Account updates but also allowed subscribers to pause emails for a defined amount of time.

This subscription center was fairly standard, but we took it to the next level with this pause functionality.

Subscribers could opt to pause individual topics or pause all types of email from Parcel — with the final option of fully unsubscribing.

Pause emails with Parcel's preference center

You can read more about our motivation behind this preference center and what we hoped to offer when giving subscribers granular control.

So, how did it perform after over a year of offering subscribers the option to pause emails when they needed a break?

For context, our subscriber base has increased by 300% in the past year, and we’ve maintained a consistent weekly newsletter. In every touch point, we refer out with explicit mention that someone can pause, or unsubscribe from our email communication.

After reviewing years’ worth of data, 98% of individuals that had the option to pause (instead of fully unsubscribing) didn’t.

Is there value in giving a pause option?

For us, giving the option to pause didn’t save enough subscribers from removing themselves from our email program to justify the engineering efforts in building this. With 98% of individuals choosing to entirely unsubscribe instead of taking the option to have a break, pausing emails was not enticing enough for the end-user.

Of the 2% that did pause, none of them had significant activity after taking a break.

What did we learn?

When users want to remove themselves from an email program, we learned that there isn’t much room to dissuade them.

When it comes to the effort required to either use an out-of-the-box subscription center, or go the custom route and build it with unique functionality, it would have been a better use of our time to use something that was already available to us, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

The effort to set this up involved multiple new boolean custom attributes on user profiles to define topic opt-in, as well as a pause status for each topic that was a time-stamped date. From a segmentation standpoint, I needed to use both topic opt-in, as well as the time-stamp for paused status to ensure that I was only communicating content to those that were actively wanting to receive it.

I wanted to try this out because we consistently hear about communicating with empathy as marketers. I thought that by allowing subscribers to take a break from our emails that they’d return ready to engage. But instead, the engineering efforts could have been used for a more front-facing customer feature request that might have more impact to our active users, vs. our users that are already one foot out the door.

I don’t think I would make the argument again when resources are limited in smaller teams. That being said, it was a great experiment, and I’m grateful that Avi was interested in putting in the time to see what results it would bring. I would highly encourage brands to test this if they have the bandwidth, as it was an insightful exercise in understanding how Parcel’s audience interacts with subscription options.