Size matters: Opt-in vs. opt-out

opt in opt out

Size matters: Opt-in vs. opt-out

Opt in opt out, that is the question. If the size of your database is important, you’ll probably want to cling to the opt out permission statement – but the pro opt in legislation and consumer protection tide may soon sweep away this option.Some brands and organisations are campaigning against legal changes, but pragmatic marketers are already taking steps to minimise the threatened data shrinkage.

Opt in opt out – Which generate far more consents

Opt-out is the passive option; if respondents fail to tick a box to stop further marketing contact, they remain on the database. But with opt-in they have to actively find and tick a box to give consent (the mechanism increasingly favoured by regulators and for codes of practice). If they don’t tick, they must be removed from the marketing/ fundraising database. Impatient consumers tend to skim-read statements to pick out key facts. With opt-out many consumers will consent by default; they assume the act of ticking is a commitment and so avoid doing so. Some will simply misunderstand. This means a percentage of the consents acquired via opt-out are caused by impatience and confusion.

An Uncomfortable Truth

The fastmap Consent Test Matrix has revealed an uncomfortable truth. Respondents consider combination statements to be both less clear and less honest. The table below compares the way respondents perceived combination statements (opt in opt out) and opt in only ones. Although average consent for combination statements is generally double that of opt-in statements (42% vs. 20%), opt-in respondents will have consented to a statement they perceive to be clear and more honest. This makes them better prospects than those who opted-in by accident. All consenters are not created equal.

Action Plan 

There are key planning considerations for those aiming to counteract the growing likelihood of database shrinkage.

  • Objectively measure data quality. How will you compare opt in opt out consenters? It’s the quality vs. quantity conundrum. You must compare apples with apples.
  • Communication channel review. Should channel selection be adapted to maximise collection of the new higher quality opt-inners? Some of the more expensive media may become cost-effective when costed in this way.
  • Shrinkage estimate. Are your best-guess scenarios incorporated into your planning spreadsheet? How much will your database shrink and across which channels?

The above table gives a clue to resolving the rather important conundrum of shrinkage. Your database will probably reduce by more than half if opt-in becomes the legal or ethical requirement. But more optimistically, it also illustrates the potential improvement possible between the lowest and highest consent average for a particular brand. For opt-in statements this is 55%.

If the marketing industry is coerced into adopting an opt in statement, you could choose to regard this as a challenge to lift your opt-in consent rate by more than 50%.

Budget-aware clients are making contingency plans for the threatened mandatory opt in, because they need to control the shrinkage of their data asset by carefully testing and adjusting the other two other influencing pillars of consent; channel choice and effective language.

For more data from the Consent Text Matrix or to read about the 2nd and 3rd Pillars of Consent go to or contact one of the fastmap team on 0207 2420702 or at

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