MailChimp Says Sayonara to Double Opt-In – Should Pardot Admins?

A few weeks ago, MailChimp announced that the default for its subscriber lists will be single-opt-in.  This is a reversal from its past policy to require double opt-in – and it’s kind of a BFD.  MailChimp users can still choose to use a double opt-in, but they have to go in and set it up. 

Many other platforms (Pardot included) default to single opt-in, so that’s not the strange part.  What makes this move puzzling is that it comes at a time when marketers and legislative bodies around the world are pushing so hard in the opposite direction.

CASL, GDPR and other compliance hoopla are making many marketers – especially those with a global footprint – re-examine their definitions of “permission” and their processes for gathering it.

So why now, MailChimp?  And for those of us marketing on the Pardot platform, what insight can we gather from this?

Wait remind me, what is double opt-in?

Double opt-in requires the user to take a secondary action to confirm their subscription to a list.  So for example, user fills out a sign up form, gets a confirmation email, and then they have to click a CTA that amounts to to “yes, I really do want to subscribe.”

If list quantity is the main goal, the added “friction” of double opt-in does mean you’ll lose some folks along the way.

But it’s great for list quality.  When daffy@duck.com or test@test.com fill out your forms, they’ll get a confirmation email, and for obvious reasons, won’t click to confirm their subscription.  So weeding out these email addresses on the front end is really helpful.

The net effect of double opt-in is higher response rates, better deliverability, and fewer spam complaints – but again, the tradeoff is slower list growth when you lose the people that don’t complete the final step.

How does double opt-in relate to compliance?

To my knowledge, none of the regulations impacting email marketers explicitly require double opt-in.  But what they do require is proof of consent if you land yourself in court – and the audit trail of the user filling out a form, opening an email, and clicking through is pretty solid documentation of affirmative consent

Courts in Germany, for example, have ruled that single opt-in isn’t acceptable proof of consent — because in theory, someone else could submit your email address via a web form.  As a result, double opt-in has become pretty much standard in Germany, with 75% of email marketers leveraging it for added validation.

So why, MailChimp, why?  Some theories.

This trend-bucking, against-the-grain decision is puzzling.  Let’s think through some possible things that may be motivating them to swim upstream:

1) Their users want it

In their communications about this change, MailChimp has implied that user preference was the driving force.

Um, of course their email marketers want single opt-in.  Just like some email marketers (Pardot ones included) want to purchase shady lists to spam everyone and their mom, and just cover their ears when they hear it’s not a best practice.

If anything, user preference is shifting TOWARD double opt-in.  And double opt-in has been Mailchimp’s default for years.  There’s definitely more to the story about this change.

2) It means more revenue

MailChimp’s Pro Marketer package is priced based on number of subscribers.  If its users can grow their lists faster, then MailChimp can charge more.

Hm.  Seems like a conflicting incentive.

3) Their performance data is slipping

Making marketers successful, at the end of the day, is how these platforms will stay in business. In a follow up communication about the change, MailChimp’s VP of Product stated, “the majority of companies have moved to single opt-in,” and posits:

“[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.”

I’m going to disagree with the assertion that consumers expecting to be spammed constitutes “re-education.”

I also don’t see a lot of companies choosing to move from double opt-in to single. Usually the reverse happens as a company’s marketing program matures and they realize that all of the Disney characters filling out their forms aren’t quite qualified leads.

But if marketers using MailChimp are struggling to hit their metrics, and opt-in rates are a barrier – okay, I can see why this would inspire a change.

Okay, back to Pardot – what’s an admin to do?

One of the biggest myths about marketing automation is that it’s a “set it and forget it” deal.  Nope.  Digital marketing is in a state of constant change, as are consumer expectations – so continually checking that you’re keeping up with best practices is part of the job we signed up for.

MailChimp’s news should inspire Pardot admins to do a few things:

  • Get up to speed of GDPR, CASL, and other relevant laws in countries where you market
  • Consider implementing double-opt-in if you’re going to have to get on the GDPR bus sooner rather than later
  • Consider implementing double-opt-in if your list quality needs a boost

Nebula Consulting has a great Slideshare on how to configure double opt-in in Pardot, so rather than rehasing, here’s a link to check it out.

Any thoughts to add to these speculations?  How have you decided to handle opt-in processes?  Let us know in the comments!

One thought on “MailChimp Says Sayonara to Double Opt-In – Should Pardot Admins?”

  1. This Nebula double opt-in was helpful, but I’m curious why they didn’t address the need for explicit opt-in to collect data? I imagine one could just recreate this same steps above but I am still surprised to not see a mention of the data collection (i.e. form completion for name, company, etc…)

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