Opt-In Email Marketing Best Practices & Real-World Examples

Opt-In Email Marketing Key Concepts, Best Practices & Examples

Opt-In Email Marketing Key Concepts, Best Practices & Examples

What Is Opt-In Email Marketing?

Opt-in email marketing is a form of permission marketing where individuals actively choose to receive emails from a specific company or brand.

In this approach, a person provides their email address and consent to your business, signaling their interest in your products, services, or content. For example, a customer visiting your website might fill out a form to subscribe to your newsletter, thereby opting in to receive your emails.

This method ensures that your email campaigns are directed towards a genuinely interested audience, enhancing engagement and reducing the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam.

Why Do You Need An Opt-In Process?

Opt-in email marketing is crucial for legal compliance and effective communication. Legal regulation set strict rules for handling personal data and communicating electronically. By obtaining explicit consent through an opt-in process, your business can avoid being flagged as spam, thus protecting your reputation as a trustworthy email sender.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

The CCPA protects consumer privacy rights in California. It requires your business to disclose what personal data is being collected and to give customers the choice to opt out of data sharing. Opt-in practices align well with these requirements.


The CAN-SPAM Act governs email communication in the U.S. It mandates clear identification of the sender and provides recipients the right to stop receiving emails. Using opt-in ensures your business respects these rights.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR, applicable in the European Union, sets stringent guidelines for data protection and privacy. It requires explicit consent for data processing, making opt-in email marketing essential for compliance.

Avoiding Spam Filters

Opt-in helps in avoiding spam filters. When recipients choose to receive your emails, they are less likely to mark them as spam, ensuring better deliverability and engagement with your content.

Maintaining Good Sender Reputation

When you send emails to people who haven’t agreed to receive them, there’s a high chance your emails will be marked as spam. This can harm your reputation with email providers, making it more difficult for your future emails to reach their intended recipients.

Boosting Engagement and Sales

When customers actively choose to receive your emails, they demonstrate an interest in your products or services. This engagement often translates into higher open and click-through rates, as the content resonates more with an audience that has already expressed interest. More than that, tailored and relevant email content can lead to increased conversions, as it speaks directly to the needs and preferences of your audience.

Gaining Brand Visibility

Subscribers who find value in your emails are more likely to share your content with others, broadening your reach organically. This word-of-mouth effect can introduce your brand to potential new customers who trust the recommendations of their peers.

Actions Recipients Take Against Unwanted Emails

Actions Recipients Take Against Unwanted Emails

Source: The 2023 Spam Report: The State of Unwanted Marketing, Orbitmedia.com

Types of Consent in Email Marketing

In email marketing, the type of consent obtained from recipients can significantly impact the effectiveness and legality of your campaigns. There are mainly two types of consent: implied and explicit.

Implied Consent

Implied consent, or “implicit opt-in,” occurs when a relationship between your business and the recipient indirectly indicates their willingness to receive your emails. For example, if a customer purchases from your website, their action implies consent to receive transactional or follow-up emails. Another instance is when someone is an active member of your organization or club, which suggests an implicit agreement to receive related communications.

Explicit Consent

Explicit consent involves a clear, direct action by the recipient agreeing to receive your emails. This is often obtained through a sign-up form where individuals actively check a box or fill in their email addresses, indicating their desire to receive your newsletter or marketing emails. For instance, a customer who fills out a form on your website to subscribe to updates has given explicit consent.

Acceptable forms of consent

There are various acceptable forms of consent in email marketing, each representing different levels of engagement and interest from potential recipients.

  • Individuals who submit a form on your website, indicating interest in your communications.
  • Customers who have made a purchase from your brand within the last two years.
  • Persons who have entered into a written agreement with your brand in the past two years.
  • Those who have contributed donations or volunteered for your company in the recent two years.
  • Active users of your service, organization, or club who originally signed up for such engagement.
  • Individuals who have willingly signed a physical or digital form to receive your newsletters.
  • People who have responded positively to your advertising campaigns, indicating their interest in your brand.

Single Opt-In vs Double Opt-In Email Marketing


In email marketing, the method you choose for subscribers to opt into your mailing list can have significant impacts on the quality and engagement of your audience.

The two primary methods are single opt-in and double opt-in, each with its own advantages and implications. Single opt-ins are simpler and faster, leading to a larger email list more quickly, whereas double opt-ins offer a more engaged and committed audience, albeit with potentially slower list growth.

Single Email Opt-In Email Marketing

Single opt-in involves a one-step process where a user provides their email address and is immediately added to your mailing list without further confirmation.

For example, a customer enters their email on your website to receive updates and is instantly subscribed. This method is best suited for businesses looking to grow their email list quickly and for situations where immediate communication is essential, such as in ecommerce for sending transactional emails.

Single Email Opt-In Example

Email collection pop up with a single opt-in box

Source: &OtherStories

Double Opt-In Email Marketing

Double opt-in, incorporating the “double opt-in process” or “double opt-in method,” requires two steps: after initially providing their email address, the user must confirm their subscription, usually through a link sent to their email.

This extra step verifies the email address’s validity and the user’s genuine interest. For instance, after signing up for a newsletter on a website, the user receives an email asking them to confirm their subscription.

This method is ideal for ensuring a highly engaged audience and is particularly valuable when quality of contacts is more important than quantity, such as in niche markets or for premium content offerings.

Double Opt-In Example

Double opt-in example from the newsletter of the Polish Airlines Lot

Source: Lot.com

What Is Opt-Out Email Marketing?

Opt-out email refers to a system where your business automatically subscribes individuals to your email communications, and they have the choice to unsubscribe or “opt-out”.

In this model, the recipient’s consent is presumed until they actively choose to withdraw it.

For instance, after making a purchase, a customer might start receiving your newsletters and promotional emails. They remain on your mailing list until they click an unsubscribe link, usually found at the bottom of your emails.

This approach can rapidly build your email list, but it’s crucial to manage it responsibly to maintain trust and compliance with email marketing regulations.

Opting-in vs. Opting-out: What’s Right for Your Business?

Choosing between opting-in and opting-out strategies depends on your business goals and audience.

Opting-In for Engaged Audiences

Opting-in is effective when your business aims to build a highly engaged and interested audience. Users who actively choose to receive your emails are more likely to open and interact with your content.

This approach is ideal for nurturing long-term customer relationships and is beneficial for businesses focusing on quality engagement over quantity. It’s especially suitable for niche markets or premium services where targeted, interested audiences are more valuable.

Opting-Out for Broader Reach

Opting-out suits businesses aiming for a broader reach. It quickly builds a large email list, useful for widespread brand awareness campaigns or large-scale promotions. However, this method might result in lower engagement rates since recipients didn’t explicitly choose to receive your emails.

Opting-out is a good fit for businesses with mass-market appeal, where exposure to a wider audience is a priority, even if it includes less interested individuals.


Opting-in is best for quality engagement and customer loyalty, while opting-out can maximize reach and visibility. Your choice should align with your business’s specific marketing goals and audience type.

How To Ask For an Opt-in To Your Marketing Emails?

Your business can use various methods to ask customers and visitors for an opt-in. Here are some effective ways:

  • Opt-In Form on a Website: Embed a sign-up form on your website, ideally on the homepage or as part of the checkout process. This form can be a simple field for email addresses with a clear description of what subscribers will receive.

Opt-in form example from the homepage of Quicksprout.com

Source: Quicksprout

  • Email Collection Pop-Up: Implement a pop-up on your website that prompts visitors to subscribe. This can be triggered by specific actions like spending a certain amount of time on a page or when intending to exit the site.

Email collection pop up example from Revolve.com

Source: Revolve.com

  • During Account Creation or Checkout: Include an opt-in option during the account creation or checkout process. This is a seamless way to integrate email sign-ups as part of a routine process.

Account creation process at iHerb, including an opt-in box for newsletter sign up

The account creation process at iHerb includes an opt-in box for signing up for their emails

  • Through Social Media Channels: Use your business’s social media profiles to encourage followers to sign up for your emails. This can be done through posts or dedicated sign-up tabs.

Collecting emails through Instagram stories - example from Bali Body

Source: WisePops.com

  • At Physical Locations: If your business has a physical presence, use in-store signage or checkout prompts to encourage customers to sign up, either through a digital device or a physical sign-up sheet.
  • During Events and Trade Shows: Collect email addresses at events or trade shows where your business participates. This can be done through a sign-up sheet or digitally via tablets.
  • Via Customer Service Interactions: Train your customer service team to inform customers about the email list and how they can benefit from subscribing during their interactions. Incorporate chatbots as part of this strategy. For online interactions, AI chatbots can be set up to offer subscription options at the end of a customer service chat. These bots can provide a quick and easy sign-up process right within the chat window.

Email sign-up through customer support chatbot - example by Tidio

Source: Tidio.com

Opt-In Email Marketing Best Practices: 10 Proven Tips

Knowing the best practices in opt-in email marketing is invaluable, as these strategies have been proven to improve campaign performance and subscriber satisfaction.

1. Keep the Opt-In Form Simple

A simple opt-in form is key. Include only necessary fields like the email address and perhaps a name. Avoid asking for too much information, as this can discourage people from signing up. A clear and concise form makes it easier and faster for users to subscribe, increasing the likelihood of them joining your email list.

Simple sign-up form at Searchengineland.com

Source: Search Engine Land

2. Offer Multiple Sign-up Opportunities

Your business should provide various opportunities for customers to sign up for emails. This could include placing opt-in forms in different sections of your website, like the homepage, blog page, and during the checkout process. Also, consider integrating sign-up options in social media posts and at the end of blog articles.

Offering multiple points for sign-up caters to different customer interactions and increases the chances of them opting into your email list.

3. Tell People What to Expect

Inform users exactly what they’re signing up for. Whether it’s a newsletter, promotional offers, or both, clarity is key. Also, specify how frequently they’ll receive these emails.

This transparency helps set the right expectations and builds trust, as subscribers know what type of content they will receive and how often they’ll hear from you.

Sign-up form informing users users what they're signing up for - Marks&Spencer

Source: Marks&Spencer

4. Use Testimonials & Social Proofs in Your Opt-in Forms

Incorporate testimonials and social proof into your opt-in forms to build trust and encourage sign-ups. Showcasing positive feedback from current subscribers or highlighting the number of people already subscribed can reassure new users about the value of your emails.

This approach demonstrates to potential subscribers that others have found your content beneficial, making them more likely to join your email list.

Backlinko's newsletter sign-up form showcasing social proof

Source: Backlinko

5. Leverage Progressive Profiling

Progressive profiling is a technique where your business gradually collects information about your subscribers over time, instead of asking for it all at once. This is done through a series of interactions and forms, each requesting small amounts of additional information.

Implementing this approach helps in two main ways. Firstly, it prevents overwhelming new subscribers with too many questions upfront. Secondly, it allows your business to gather more detailed and relevant information about your audience as their relationship with your brand develops.

Profiling example by Search Engine Journal

Source: Search Engine Journal

6. Diversify Email Content

Diversifying the content in your email marketing means sending a mix of different types of emails, such as newsletters, updates, promotions, and educational content. The variety keeps your subscribers engaged and interested, as they receive more than just sales pitches. It also allows your business to cater to different subscriber preferences and needs.

7. Use Referral Programs

Encourage your current subscribers to refer friends or colleagues in exchange for incentives, like discounts, freebies, or exclusive content. This not only helps grow your email list organically but also brings in people who are likely to be genuinely interested in your products or services, as they were referred by someone they trust. This way, you can increase both your subscriber count and potential customer base.

Example of a Referral Program by Clinique

Source: Clinique

8. Let Subscribers Manage Their Subscription Preferences

This approach involves giving subscribers the option to choose the types of emails they want to receive and how often. For instance, subscribers could select to receive only newsletters or promotional offers, and decide whether they want updates weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

Providing this level of control respects the subscriber’s inbox and personal interests, leading to greater satisfaction and lower unsubscription rates.

Email Preferences Management by Runkeeper

Source: Runkeeper

9. Enable Easy Opt-out

Ensure that the option to unsubscribe is clearly visible and accessible in every email you send. This could be a simple, one-click link at the bottom of your emails that leads to an instant unsubscribe without requiring additional steps or confirmations.

By providing a hassle-free way for subscribers to opt-out, your business demonstrates respect for their preferences and maintains a positive relationship, even as they choose to leave your list.

Unsubscribe button example

Source: Wishpond

10. Ask for Feedback

Encourage your current subscribers to share their thoughts on what they like and what could be improved. This can be done through occasional surveys or feedback forms embedded in your emails.

Newsletter survey request from Search Engine Land

Source: Search Engine Land

Additionally, when a user chooses to unsubscribe, provide a simple and optional feedback form asking the reason for their departure. This information is crucial for understanding the preferences and pain points of your audience.

Final Word: Aim For Empowering Your Subscribers

Gaining consent for email marketing is vital for building a strong and legal email list. The essence of a successful opt-in email strategy lies in understanding and accommodating the preferences of your audience. From simple opt-in forms to easy opt-out links, and feedback opportunities, every step should cater to user choice. This approach ensures legal compliance and builds a list of engaged and interested subscribers.

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About Email Marketing

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an opt-in form?

An opt-in form is a tool used in email marketing to obtain permission from visitors or customers to add them to an email list. Typically found on websites, these forms usually ask for the user’s email address and sometimes additional information like a name. The purpose is to gather a list of people who are interested in receiving emails, newsletters, or promotional content from a business or organization.

What is required for email opt-in?

For email opt-in, a clear and voluntary action from the user is required, indicating their consent to receive emails. This typically involves the user filling out a form and submitting their email address. Additionally, it’s important to provide information about the type of content they will receive and how often, ensuring transparency and compliance with email marketing regulations.

Do people need to opt-in to marketing emails?

Yes, people need to opt-in to marketing emails. This consent is a legal requirement under laws like the GDPR and CAN-SPAM Act, ensuring that recipients have willingly agreed to receive emails. Opt-in helps protect individuals’ privacy and ensures that businesses send emails to an audience interested in their content, thus maintaining the effectiveness and integrity of email marketing.

What is the difference between spam and opt-in emails?

Spam emails are unsolicited messages sent in bulk without the recipient’s consent, often for promotional purposes. They are typically intrusive and may be irrelevant to the recipient. Opt-in emails, on the other hand, are sent to individuals who have explicitly agreed to receive them, usually by subscribing through a form, indicating interest in the sender’s content or services.

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