Who is Winning—and Losing—the Inbox Battle?

Zach Brooke
American Marketing Association
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Key Takeaways
​​What? Unroll.Me's SPAMMY awards highlight trends in marketing e-mails.

So what? One of the big takeways is which newsletters gained and lost a huge amount of subscribers.

Now what? Check the results against your own organization's e-mail performance and try to adopt the strategies of the most successful companies.

March 1, 2016

The SPAMMYs highlight trends in e-mail marketing, including unsubscribe rates, most popular subscriptions and the most popular days to send e-mails.

New data published by e-mail management app Unroll.Me in February sheds lights on who is winning and losing the battle for inbox space, as well as growing trends in the field. The data is presented as a mock award awards show dubbed the “SPAMMYs,” and brings to light some of the biggest trends in the world of e-mail marketing.

The company, which boasts more than 1 million users, claims to have unsubscribed from more than 100 million e-mails in 2015, as well as blocked four billion unwanted e-mails, and saved more than 297 billion seconds of time for members no longer needing to sift through crowded inboxes.

According to Unroll.Me’s numbers, the company with the highest unsubscribe rate for marketing e-mails was Web-browser site sharing extension StumbleUpon. Of Unroll.Me members with StumbleUpon subscriptions, 43% choose to opt out of further messages. StumbleUpon also topped last year’s list as well, with a whopping 51% unsubscribe rate. 

“With these numbers, they may need a complete e-mail makeover [and] create something unique that the audience cannot get easily somewhere else,” says Joe Pulizzi , founder of the Content Marketing Institute , in an -email. “The e-mails are most likely showing the person information they don't deem as useful. Possibly what StumbleUpon thinks is ‘hot’ or ‘relevant’ isn't either.”

Music and live events site Live Nation was second with an unsubscribe rate of 38%, followed by a five-way tie for third place between Goodreads, Foursquare, Shop Your Way Rewards, Twitter and Trulia, all with unsubscribe rates of 35%.

Once people opt out of marketing e-mails, it’s extremely hard to get them to return, Pulizzi says.

“It would be better to focus on serving the current subscribers that you have and making sure they don't leave. If they can increase that value incrementally, then there may be a chance to get old subscribers back.” 

The company that sent the most e-mails to users last year was Groupon, which delivered a deluge of 388 e-mails to users’ inboxes in 2015, at an average of more than one per day. LivingSocial took second place, falling just short of an e-mail a day with 363 e-mails delivered over the course of a year. Facebook was third, with 310 e-mails in 2015. No other company listed sent more than 200 e-mails.

Pulizzi says that the reasons that brand can or cannot get away with high-frequency e-mails is entirely dependent on the value they offer subscribers.

“There is no optimum number when it comes to e-mail velocity.  If the e-mails are relevant, valuable and consistently delivered, the communications are generally welcome,” Pulizzi says. 

Thanksgiving and Black Friday tied for first as the most popular holiday to e-mail subscribers. Unroll.Me members were blasted with an average of 32 different marketing e-mails each of those days, which are part of a larger weeklong retail and nonprofit marketing blitz. Users were also treated to a barrage of 30 e-mails on average on April Fools (April 1), Patriot Day (Sep. 11) and Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11).

Amazon was named the enviable winner of most popular e-mail subscription for the second year in a row, with 44% of all Unroll.Me users signed up for e-commerce (and now content) promotions. An eight-point drop off separates Amazon from second-place Facebook, which sends e-mails to 36% of Unroll.Me subscribers. Twitter, despite the mass defections listed nearly, is still popular enough to take third place with 30%. LinkedIn, which is committed to reducing the frequency with which it e-mails members, was fourth, with a subscription rate of 29%. Volume data also shows LinkedIn sent 36 fewer e-mails on average in 2015 compared to the previous year.

See below for an abbreviated list of the results:


StumbleUpon – 43% unsubscribe rate

Live Nation – 38% unsubscribe rate

Goodreads – 35% unsubscribe rate

Foursquare – 35% unsubscribe rate

Shop Your Way Rewards – 35% unsubscribe rate

Twitter – 35% unsubscribe rate

Trulia – 35% unsubscribe rate

Pottery Barn – 34% unsubscribe rate

Classmates.com – 34% unsubscribe rate

Flipboard – 34% unsubscribe rate


Groupon – 388 e-mails sent per user

LivingSocial – 363 e-mails sent per user

Facebook – 310 e-mails sent per user

Meetup – 199 e-mails sent per user

J. Crew – 175 e-mails sent per user

Twitter – 173 e-mails sent per user

Victoria’s Secret – 160 e-mails sent per user

Linkedin – 157 e-mails sent per user

Gilt – 155 e-mails sent per user

Kohls – 154 e-mails sent per user


Black Friday – average of 32 e-mails per user

Thanksgiving – average of 32 e-mails per user

April Fools – average of 30 e-mails per user

Patriot Day – average of 30 e-mails per user

Veteran’s Day – average of 30 e-mails per user

Earth Day – average of 29 e-mails per user

Good Friday – average of 29 e-mails per user

Cyber Monday – average of 29 e-mails per user

Cinco de Mayo – average of 29 e-mails per user

Valentine’s Day – average of 27 e-mails per user


Amazon – 44% of users are subscribed

Facebook – 36% of users are subscribed

Twitter – 30% of users are subscribed

LinkedIn – 29% of users are subscribed

Pinterest – 29% of users are subscribed

Instagram – 28% of users are subscribed

YouTube – 28% of users are subscribed

Uber – 26% of users are subscribed

Apple – 24% of users are subscribed

Google Plus – 23% of users are subscribed

Author Bio:

Zach Brooke
Zach Brooke is a staff writer at the American Marketing Association. He can be reached at zbrooke@ama.org.
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