How many times have you bought something from a retailer online only to find yourself facing a sudden onslaught of emails from the company? Too many, I'm sure.
Yes, online retailers need their customers' email addresses to confirm their purchases. But it's the more customer-centric companies that actually 1) note that the email will be used for confirmation purposes only, and then 2) ask if you'd like to opt in to their mailing list(s). Many retailers simply opt in customers when they make a purchase. Thanks, but ask me first. Otherwise, you may be wasting precious resources on someone who will never become a regular customer.
Retailers aren't the only ones with poor opt-in etiquette. I've donated to numerous charitable organizations on behalf of friends or colleagues participating in a race or other activity, only to find myself suddenly on their email subscription list.
The thing is, I may be buying a gift and not want to be on your list for video games or musical instruments or yoga gear. And if that's the case, I certainly don't want to be on your catalog mailing list (talk about wasted marketing dollars!). Similarly, I may be giving to an organization that's important to a friend or colleague, and I'm happy to donate to support them and their favorite causes, but I have favorite charities of my own that I've opted in to hear from on a regular basis.
So, please, don't opt me in without asking. And don't do it to other one-time customers or supporters either. If you do, you'll just wind up with an inflated list of uninterested prospects that will negatively impact the results of your marketing programs. Better to have a smaller list of truly engaged customers than a larger one that includes many who delete your communications without reading past the subject or from line--or who throw out your catalogs as soon as they see your logo.
After all, a purchase is simply that: a purchase. It's not an opt-in. Customers need to choose to check a box for that.