Survey Finds Spam Not Consumer's Biggest Complaint
The survey's 483 adult respondents identified speed, not spam, as their greatest source of online agita, by a slim 19 percent to 17 percent margin. "ISPs should be paying a lot more attention to the shift to broadband," cautioned Bigfoot chief marketing officer Michael Della Penna. Lagging behind at 11 percent was cost/price, meaning that a future price war - seen as inevitable by some analysts - could spur a host of defections from one service to the next.
Another interesting finding related to the use of anti-spam tools, both those provided by ISPs and those either purchased or downloaded separately. Thirty-five percent said they have not considered using these features, though 36 percent use the ones supplied by their ISPs. Contrary to previous research, it doesn't seem as if consumers are rushing out to buy or download anti-spam tools: while 11 percent of respondents have already downloaded free software and 8 percent have purchased similar devices, 6 percent plan to do so in the next 12 months. "I'm not sure the demand is there for those products," Della Penna affirmed. Indeed, the way most consumers rid themselves of unwanted or unsolicited e-mail is by deleting or ignoring them: depending on the type of communication, as many as 82 percent of missives are eliminated this way.
Also noteworthy were respondents' remarks about their ISPs, which have apparently engendered substantially less loyalty among consumers than previously thought. More than 11 percent of those surveyed had changed e-mail service providers within the last six months, while 16 percent said they might during the next six months. What struck Della Penna as most interesting about these figures were their potential significance in the unlikely event that a nationwide do-not-spam list goes into effect. "The medium is still emerging," he explains. "People are moving [from one ISP to the next] for speed or price, which would make the administration of a do-not-email list particularly difficult."
Consumers also expressed interest in a handful of new features not yet offered by ISPs. Eighty-eight percent said they'd like to see their ISP provide a distinct opt-out button (as opposed to "report spam") that would quickly remove them from e-mail lists. "There's a ton of confusion with this," Della Penna noted. "Seventy percent or so of users think that 'report spam' means 'unsubscribe.'" In a finding that seems promising for revenue-hungry ISPs, 36 percent of respondents said they would pay for a service that guaranteed delivery of essential electronic communications, such as billing notices.
As for the study's lessons for online media planners and buyers, Della Penna says they must work alongside marketers and ISPs to create what he called an "E-Z Pass system for the good guys." The three parties "need to work together to protect this medium, and to build solutions and accommodations that are outside traditional thinking," he added. At the same time, Della Penna noted that many of the marketers whose e-mails would be illegal under rigid anti-spam statutes are among the biggest online advertisers, intimating that ISPs could see ad dollars vaporize unless they play nice with the other parties in the media food chain.
Della Penna singled out AOL for its willingness to white-list marketers that have traditionally played by the rules. Such companies, having proven their responsibility when it comes to issues like including valid opt-out links in marketing missives, apparently aren't subject to the same level of anti-spam filtering as less battle-tested entities. "There's a willingness [at AOL] to understand the issues," he said. "To build a technology solution to the spam problem is not as straightforward as people think it is. AOL gets it."
The Bigfoot Interactive OmniTel survey was conducted by NOP Research. The firm polled 1,020 consumers with home Internet access between October 24 and 26.