While using call to actions, banners and pop-ups are options you can employ (depending on the situation), there is another practice that is gaining popularity especially among younger companies that use a more casual tone when communicating with their customers: confirmshaming. In a sense confirmshaming can be seen as a spawn of the exit-intent pop-up.
Since pop-ups that are triggered by users’ intent to exit will likely face a similar fate as banner ads–being more easily ignored by users as they become more accustomed to the way marketers employ them–strategies to capture users’ email addresses continue to evolve.
The Evolution of pop-upsCompanies have used pop-ups to capture users’ email addresses and grow their email lists for a long time. The first step in the evolution of these marketing pop-ups was triggering them upon certain user actions: the exit-intent pop-up is triggered by the cursor entering certain areas of the screen (e.g. the “x” to close a window or a change in velocity when moving the cursor towards the top of the browser window).
As pop-ups became more common, users started to ignore them and exit them without even considering the copy or offer made by the company in exchange for the customer’s email address. This resulted in “manipulinks” as Nielsen and Norman name them in one of their blog posts. Manipulinks are opt-out links that are styled in a way that makes them considerably less noticeable then the opt-in option or even links that are manipulatively labelled.
Confirmshaming is the the next step in this evolution and even more dubious: it’s the act of making your users opt in to something they don’t want by making them feel guilty if they don’t opt in. It’s generally used to capture email addresses and to change the mind of users who want to cancel an subscription–confirmshaming is generally found in pop-ups and exit intent modals on websites.
Usually confirmshaming is connected to socially desirable behavior such as making healthy choices, or things that the customers most likely want such as saving money. Another strategy is to create FOMO in the users by making them feel like they are missing out on an especially valuable offer. In the most extreme cases confirmshaming even sounds like a threat. That way companies make (potential) customers feel like they miss out on something important, make stupid decisions or voluntarily use customers when all they actually want to do is not disclose their email address.
It’s true that email lists are one of the most valuable resources in marketing and companies with bigger mailing lists are usually considered more valuable. Still: while UX practices like nudging can be used in an ethically acceptable way, confirmshaming certainly crosses the line between UX that benefits not only the user but also the company and plain dark UX patterns.
Why you shouldn’t shame your usersMost of the time pop-ups that aim to gather email addresses are intrusive and annoying enough–without making you feel bad about your choices–since they tend to cover most of the website and its content. If you absolutely have to use exit-intent pop-ups at least provide users with real value upon entering their address and give them the power to choose freely what they want to do.
By using confirmshaming you risk offending and as a consequence losing your customers. In the short run you might gather some additional email adresses by making opting out of your mailing campaigns as complicated as possible. However you will most certainly offend a certain number of users and turn them away permanently.
Also consider this: if people give you their email address without really wanting to do so, they probably won’t even open the emails you send them. If users are not interested in receiving your content, don’t send them emails anyway. Use neutral language and simple yes or no answers instead of shaming users or using their uncertainty.
Generally you shouldn’t deliberately make your users uncomfortable by acting like they made a mistake. Don’t intentionally create an unpleasant user experience. Before considering confirmshaming, make your website’s design and microcopy so compelling that you don’t have to grab your leaving customers by the sleeve and shame them into not leaving. Don’t label opt-out links with statements that you wouldn’t use with a stranger or potential customer in a real-life face-to-face situation.
The general idea behind confirmshaming is probably that most people try to avoid feeling guilty or stupid and will therefore simply opt in. However most of your users will see right through this scheme. What you really accomplish by using confirmshaming is offending potential and existing customers while building an email list consisting exclusively of less internet-savvy users. Instead of doing this you should make your users feel respected, understood, taken care of and respect their choice to decline your offer or opt out.