Forced opt-ins - are they ethical?

by abo28
26 replies
Hello everybody!

Here's a "phenomenon" I noticed on the Net in the last time.

Some merchants that sell digital products force you to opt-in to their lists just after having ordered. In other words, you have to give them your email address in order to get the download link for the product.

This seems to be the way those people build their "list of buyers" (you know what is said - a list of buyers is more valuable than a list of subscribers). But is this correct? Is this ethical? Shouldn't they give me immediate access to the poroduct after payment?

And, if your answer to my question is "no, it's not correct", I dare follow-up with a closely related question: how should you build your "list of buyers"? Just add the customer's emails to your autoresponder, manually? Or use some software that automatically captures those emails? Which method you recommend (or use)?

Thank you for sharing your opinions on this.

Bogdan
#ethical #forced #optins
  • Profile picture of the author Jason Moffatt
    People get upset about this but I force my buyers to opt in.

    Here's why...

    So I can automatically remove them from the prospect list and they will no longer be bothered by my pitches to buy my stuff.

    Some don't like it, but I think it's the right thing to do so you don't continually pummel them with "buy my stuff" emails.

    Of course everyone has their opinion, but I like to keep life simple and if someone is crying about putting in a email address after a purchase then I'd probably just rather not even deal with that person as a customer since it's likely they'll be bitching about some other trivial thing as well.
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  • Profile picture of the author Anna Johnson
    Hi Bogdan,

    I think it's ethical to require someone to provide their email address in order to obtain a download link. Much as someone who orders a physical product must provide their physical address.

    It's not just for 'list-building' reasons; it's also for security reasons i.e. to ensure that only paid-up customers access the download link (depending on the method you use to secure your digital products).

    In any case, I don't see a lot of harm done. Once the customer clicks on the link and downloads the product, they're free to unsubscribe if they wish.

    Finally, it can be firmly in the customer's interests to be on a special 'customer list.' The marketer can then send the customer customer-only communications, special invitations, deals, discounts, etc.

    Anna
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  • Profile picture of the author Matt Bard
    This is the original "squeeze page". The opt-in squeezed between the initial action, in this case a purchase and the download page.

    Over time people just started calling opt-in pages squeeze pages and then referring to landing pages, which were doorway pages, that were initially home pages.

    Wow. Sorry for the history tangent.

    But yes I too agree that after a purchase it's not only ethical but important to getting the customer off of the general list as Jason talked about.
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    • Profile picture of the author scottparat
      I have to agree with everyone so far......at times I feel guilty for making them optin...... ya right

      The occaisonal surfer might get upset but after enough times they'll be conditioned to expect it. The unsubscribe link is no different than the on/off button on your radio or tv, don't like what you watch....turn it off (unsubscribe).

      There are many legitimate reasons for a buyer to stay on a list. Most successful marketers aren't going to blast them each day with offer after offer....and if they do, their list probably won't be very long. I actually, send upgrades and bonuses when appropriate. Most of my lists have only 1 message......probably why I need a personal stimulus package
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      • Profile picture of the author NetMan
        I believe it is not only unethical but annoying and unprofessional.

        All reasons evoked to do so are voided as proper processes with the right tools should be used. The tools exist, so there's no excuses.

        I collect customer's information at the time of purchase (order time), before they pay and get access to the product. When they get to the product they already have been added to my customers list and they only need to click the link to download, or log in to a members area to get the product. Not only they're NOT forced to opt-in after their purchase, but ethically of course they can always opt-out at anytime.

        Yours truly,

        Andre Foisy
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        • Profile picture of the author Kyle Tully
          Originally Posted by NetMan View Post

          I believe it is not only unethical but annoying and unprofessional.

          I collect customer's information at the time of purchase (order time), before they pay and get access to the product.
          Fair enough you think it's annoying and unprofessional, but how can you say it's unethical when you're doing the exact same thing behind the users back?

          My last WSO I made post purchase opt-in optional, and sure enough the few people who didn't opt-in missed out on important updates, bonuses, and complained about the lack of updates!

          If you've got the tech skills and your AR allows it, obviously it's better to automatically add them to your buyers list, but if you can't do that for whatever reason I don't see any issue making them sign up manually.
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          • Profile picture of the author NetMan
            Originally Posted by Kyle Tully View Post

            Fair enough you think it's annoying and unprofessional, but how can you say it's unethical when you're doing the exact same thing behind the users back?
            Huh? Kyle, I'm not doing anything in their back folk! I'm asking for their information at the moment they order that's it. Common business practice online. And yes, I have the skills and the tools to ask only once for their information without "forcing" them to opt-in to a list so they can get the product they've already paid and provided information for. They still opt-in and they can always opt-out at any time.

            Still if someone does NOT have the skills and/nor the tools to do things ethically, that's no excuse at all as these things, tools and skills, ARE available.

            Originally Posted by Kyle Tully View Post

            My last WSO I made post purchase opt-in optional, and sure enough the few people who didn't opt-in missed out on important updates, bonuses, and complained about the lack of updates!
            That is entirely correct :-)

            Originally Posted by Kyle Tully View Post

            If you've got the tech skills and your AR allows it, obviously it's better to automatically add them to your buyers list, but if you can't do that for whatever reason I don't see any issue making them sign up manually.
            Leaving the choice, as you state you do, IS, imho, the right way to do it if one doesn't want to buy the skills and tools to implement things correctly.

            Andre Foisy
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Moffatt
    Another reason that it's wise to force the opt in is because you may want to alert your customer base about any changes to the product, any bugs, or technical difficulties.

    Also, I like to set up bonuses sometimes that just automatically come a few days after a purchase too.
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  • Profile picture of the author mikemcmillan
    I know I read somewhere at Clickbank that they desire publishers to direct buyers directly to the download page. I'm not sure how "official" this is but many CB publishers do require an email and name to continue to the download. I can understand whey this is done, but yeah it's kind of iffy from the buyer's perspective. Anyway, I have got updates a couple of times from publishers whose product I have purchased.

    What irks me even more though is the drilling down of OTOs from some publishers. I know the one-time-offers make money, but I have yet to find many that are worth it. And--if I am about to lay out $97 for a product I expect it to come pretty damn near complete!

    Frequently when you click to order you see a OTO, let's say it's a recurring addition to the product for $67 a month. If you click on NO, you go to a second OTO where you can get the same thing for, say $7 for the first month and then the recurring billing for $67 kicks in after that. Sometimes it seems like a never-ending process.

    I sell on CB and don't do OTOs even though I know I would make more money by using them. I don't like customers feel like they somehow got less than the full whack for the price of the regular product. Just my feelings.
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Hooper
    You can also make this more beneficial to the buyer. As Jason mentioned, offer them a free bonus (maybe a related Ebook or report), also you can suggest the buyer will recieve free updates or upgrades to the product they have just purchased. This should go a fare way to eliminate any uncertanty they may have about optting in.
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  • Profile picture of the author ArthurRose
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    • Profile picture of the author naruq
      It is not unethical to request a person's e-mail address if they purchase a digital product. Customers/clients can always opt-out. In addition, if you sell a physical product you need the customers address so you can ship the product to them.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kim Standerline
      No they can't refuse to subscribe because they can't get their product if they don't. (Leaves a bad taste in my mouth)

      Originally Posted by ArthurRose View Post

      Yes, they are. After all, people are coming to your page. You aren't forcing them to come. They can choose not to subscribe if they do not want to.
      The way I do it usually with my squeeze page is to offer a whopping big bonus and give them the option to subscribe or not, The download link is on the same page. I find most people do join BTW

      Kim
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  • Profile picture of the author Pat Ordenes
    Also agree with Jason.
    You actually almost NEED to do this, so that you send your customers the correct information. They are after all your customers, once they buy from you...

    Imagine owning a small grocery store and having mrs jones come in every week. You wouldnt want to ask her if she wanted milk, if she was lactose intolerant... Instead, you offer alternatives.

    People forget sometimes that our online ventures are much like our offline, but we just have to be creative in order to attain and maintain OUR information up to date.
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      There are some disconnects here.

      If I buy from Jason, through a promotion on Jason's list, I have no problem signing up and getting moved to a different list. Why would I? He's already got permission to send me offers, right?

      If I buy from Joe through a promotion on Jason's list, and have to also subscribe to Joe's weekly/daily/whatever list to get what I already paid for, that is wrong. Unless it's stated in the sales piece, in which case I'm going to make that decision before I buy.

      I tend to be a very low maintenance customer.

      If things run properly with the download, you'll usually never hear from me at all, until the next time I buy. If something is broken, I'll politely let you know, and I'm pretty relaxed about how long it takes to fix it. The number of refunds I've asked for online - in 14 years - is lower than the average number of orders I place in a single week. (A lot lower.)

      If I need help with something and I get it, or if a product is really exceptional, I tell people. Sometimes lots of them.

      If you think that my desire for clear conditions up front makes me not worth having as a customer, that's cool. There are lots of other people who will be happy to take my money.

      If I want other offers, I'll ask to be on the list. Almost every time, if it's optional.

      Here's the problem: Too many people use the "forced opt-in" as a way to fake permission to send tons of offers. It's cover against spam complaints. That's why Clickbank and PayPal, at the very least, forbid it. It's a regularly abused practice.

      The way many people use it is deceptive. And yeah, I think that's unethical.

      There are acceptable ways to use a customer list that don't require any additional opt-in. They do not, however, involve multiple emails every week plugging tons of other stuff. But that's probably a different thread.


      Paul
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    • Profile picture of the author ShayB
      I don't see the problem, personally. If I am buying from someone, I usually expect to be a list. I also can see the need for updates, etc.

      Unsubscribing (if you need/want to) is such a simple process. One click and you are done.

      On the flip side, I have purchased from someone with a NON-required opt-in, intending to subscribe "later" and never got around to subscribing. Now I can't for the life of me remember the name of the person I bought it from. It's my own fault for not subscribing then, but I lose out becuase I really wanted to be on the list. A forced opt-in prevents that issue from occurring.

      IMHO, a forced opt-in is like a salesman who hands you a business card after your purchase. You are free to keep it or not, but it certainly makes it easier to keep in touch down the road. If the salesman never offers a card, then you have no way of keeping in touch (even if you want to).

      JMHO
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      Timo,
      .... and you can use always the unsubscribe link
      That is exactly what spammers said, for years. And people here defended them, for years. Look where that thinking has gotten us.


      Paul
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  • Profile picture of the author Matt Bard
    Paul,

    I see what you're saying about buying from one person and opting in to another, an affiliate and agree with you.

    When talking about someone buying my product from my page then I don't see the problem with the squeeze opt-in. I would go a bit more and say that I believe that I should give some information to the customer as to why I am requesting their opt-in.

    So my stand would be in the case of an affiliate sending someone off to buy another vendor's product then no. I don't believe it's ok to force the opt-in.

    As the product owner at my product site then yes. I don't see the problem with that.
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      Matt,

      You don't need to force an opt-in to send them product-related information. Just do it. Or, if you must have them enter the info, make it optional.

      If you're forcing an opt-in to anything that is not product related info (say, a newsletter subscription), and that wasn't disclosed prior to the sale, you're pushing it. If you get reported for that, it will be treated as spam by everyone I know who handles those kinds of calls.

      The objection is to adding conditions or requirements AFTER the sale has been made.

      It does not matter one bit whether the merchant thinks those conditions are "normal," or "to be expected." The person on the other end may not, and it's their mailbox.

      The thing I think is funny about this is the number of people who object to simply providing the customer a choice, and/or giving proper disclosure up front.

      That's REALLY what this question boils down to, isn't it?


      Paul
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      • Profile picture of the author Matt Bard
        Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post

        You don't need to force an opt-in to send them product-related information. Just do it. Or, if you must have them enter the info, make it optional.
        If someone not on my list found my page and bought my product I never felt that it was ok to now assume that they would like to be on my customer mailing list.

        If you're forcing an opt-in to anything that is not product related info (say, a newsletter subscription), and that wasn't disclosed prior to the sale, you're pushing it. If you get reported for that, it will be treated as spam by everyone I know who handles those kinds of calls.
        Agree.

        The thing I think is funny about this is the number of people who object to simply providing the customer a choice, and/or giving proper disclosure up front.
        They are more likely to give their email after buying your product so this is better marketing. But I will concede that it should be optional.

        So, upon further review, I think it's ethical to squeeze. or hard sell them on the idea of joining my list as long as it's optional and not forced in order to receive product.
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  • Profile picture of the author Andy LaPointe
    I believe we all are walking a fine line regarding the perception of Internet Marketing to the public and it is our responsibility to make sure Internet Marketing doesn't get any sort of bad reputation, etc.

    As the economy keeps going down many will be turning to the Internet for cheaper products, free shipping and starting online businesses. Many people will be exposed to IM techniques that never were before.

    In regards to the post, as long as the customers knows and understands why they are being asked - forced - to give thier email after purchase but to prior to the download for the purpose of blasting future options, I don't believe it is good. However, if it explained that the reason is to keep the customer updated new releases, etc. I believe it is okay. I agree with Matthew.

    It is all in the way it is presented.
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  • Profile picture of the author Trieu
    asking for an optin for a free report is ok, but forcing an optin after a sale is really annoying. The likelyhood is that they will unsubscribe from your list since they never ask for your followups in the first place
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  • Profile picture of the author Anna Johnson
    If you're forcing an opt-in to anything that is not product related info (say, a newsletter subscription), and that wasn't disclosed prior to the sale, you're pushing it.
    Paul, I agree with you here. But I didn't think that's what we were talking about. I thought we were talking about buying and then requiring someone to enter their name/email to receive the download link.

    I'm aware that this particular process can be avoided. When people buy something from me, for example, they enter their name/email during the order process and are automatically added to my customer list.

    But there may be circumstances where someone is using a shopping cart that is not integrated with an autoresponder in which case the marketer needs the buyer to purchase and then enter in their name/email to get the product sent to them.

    This may not be avoidable if the marketer has this kind of set-up and wants to send product updates, special customer deals, etc (which benefit the customer).

    Having said all this, if we are actually talking about requiring people to opt-in to some other, unrelated list in order to get the product they have already ordered and paid for, then that IS unethical.
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  • Profile picture of the author MarQueteer
    It isn't ethical in my opinion. Convince them, don't force them. Loyal customers and readers are the key, people who feel ripped off or forced won't buy again.
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  • Profile picture of the author Louis Raven
    I don't use forced opt-in, yet. But having a targeted buyers list is a must.

    I think it's OK to force the opt-in if you seriously are only going to offer upgrades and bug fixes etc, but making someone opt-in to your 2 eBook promotions a week just to get their download is really annoying and unethical. In my views.

    By forced do you mean they have to opt-in before they get the or you just manually add them to the list?

    Louis
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  • Profile picture of the author Tsnyder
    I'm surprised that some of you think it's okay to hold
    my purchase hostage until I pay you the ransom of my
    email address.

    You should already have gotten it in the ordering process.
    To tell me I must give it to you in order to access something
    I've already paid for is ridiculous.

    You may think it's necessary for all the rationalized reasons
    posted but I think that's a load of... ahhh... never mind...

    Tsnyder
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