What is Opt in: Definition and Meaning


The term “opt in” – or “opt-in”, is tossed about a lot in the world of web marketing.  “Opt in for more information.”  “Opt in marketing offers exciting opportunity.”  “Opt in for free shipping.”  But what does this really mean?

Are all of these terms referring to the same thing?  Doesn’t “opt in” just mean “saying yes?”  Well, to an extent, yes.  Let’s examine what the term means, how it applies, and some of the ways you can use the concept to get potential customers to “say yes.”

The Definition of Opt In

According to www.businessdictionary.com, Opt In means:

Express permission by a customer, or a recipient of a mail, email, or other direct message to allow a marketer to send a merchandise, information, or more messages.

This is the method generally used by most direct marketing firms, subscription or non-subscription periodicals, information suppliers, etc.  After the opt in, the marketers will keep on sending the material or messages until the recipient chooses to opt out.

In a sentence, to “opt in” means you give a marketer permission to send you additional information. 

You can “opt in” to newsletters, sales notifications, valuable coupons, event news, and more.  If it can be communicated from a business to their customers, there’s an opt in for it.

Types of Opt In

There are two main types:

1. The Single Opt In

2. The Double Opt In

In the single, you are prompted to provide an email address, and that’s it.  Going forth, you will receive marketing material from that site.

In the double version, you’ll enter your email, then receive a confirmation email that asks if you’re really very sure that you want to receive marketing material from the site.  Click yes, and the information will flow to your inbox.

The double opt in may seem a little over the top, but consider this:  customers who do click yes must really, really want information from that site.  Keep this in mind as we explore further.

The Benefits of the Opt In

For the business owner, the benefits are pretty obvious: you get to build your email list faster, and can immediately begin targeting customers with newsletters, deals, and more.

When a person expects your email, they’re more likely to open it, read it, and act upon it.  Furthermore, knowing where and when an individual opts in can be important in targeting communications to them.  For the business owner, that’s an important step in improving ROI through an email marketing campaign.  

But how does the customer benefit?  Easy: they get control.  In a world in which you might receive somewhere in the neighbourhood of several hundred emails a day, isn’t it nice to know that some of those emails might be friendly reminders from companies whose products you enjoy?  Perhaps a sale on a purchase that might just soothe some of your woes? 

Furthermore, opting in is low risk, because where there is an in, there is always an out.  So why not sign up to learn more?

The double opt in offers even greater peace of mind, because of the level of intent behind it.  If a customer is willing to complete two steps, chances are good that the email address is valid and frequently checked, and that the customer is unlikely to unsubscribe quickly.

Additionally, a double version is associated with better click through rates and conversions, as many business owners use the confirmation email as an opportunity to further market or introduce their product or services.

Examples of How an Opt In Can Work for You

We’ve discussed how to increase email marketing ROI in another article, but let’s touch upon the specific part where the customer chooses to receive that email marketing as an important marketing moment.

Many websites include just one squeeze page: right when you pull in to the site.  The customer clicks a link or types in your address, and the first thing they see, before they get the chance to read a line of text or even look at what you’re selling, is a pop up page asking them to provide their first name and email address.

Not a bad idea, but many of us can see where that might seem a little obnoxious.  How do you know what you want if you haven’t looked at it?  Unfortunately, a lot of sites stop there.

The customer patiently closes that squeeze page, reads on, explores a little… and then what?  What if they really do want to sign up to learn more?  Is it obvious on your site where they should go to opt in?

Consider making it simple for customers.  That doesn’t necessarily mean a pop up on every page, or every fifteen minutes.  Instead, consider a gentle reminder, perhaps a well-distinguished button on each page offering to let the reader opt in.

At the end of blog posts, include a link to allow the reader to sign up for more.  Create a link from social media outlets.  Writing some guest posts?  Add the opt in link!  The more opportunities potential customers have to add their email to your list, the more likely they are to do it.  

Even better, having multiple outlets can be tracked.  You can have direct access to when people opt in, where they come from, and what they were looking at before they took the plunge.  That, in turn, gives you the opportunity to provide extremely targeted emails.

How to implement the Opt In process: an Example

Say, for example, you run a pop up that offers 10% off the first order if the customer signs up NOW.  In this example, you have two options: you can present the customer with the discount at checkout, OR, you can create a double opt-in, in which the discount code is revealed once they confirm checkout.

Tracking that code then reveals how many individuals opted in via this offer, and their use of that code then gives you insight into their purchasing habits.

Alternately, if you include an opt in link at the end of a blog post, you’ll be able to track page performance to determine how many people are inspired by said post to opt in.

All of this is extremely useful information when determining things like when to send email, what content is most popular, and more.  You can even use this data to aid in split testing!

At its core, an “opt in” is an agreement from the customer that they would like to hear more from you.  But for you, the business owner, this one agreement has the potential to help your email marketing strategy – and business – bloom! 


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