E-Mail Marketers Face Holiday Backlash
For the report, Return Path surveyed 1,814 adults in the United States and Canada during the last week of December. Almost half of the respondents--44 percent--said they were surprised at the sheer volume of e-mail to hit their in-boxes after registering, while 22 percent said the amount of e-mail was about what they anticipated, and an additional 28 percent said they had no definite expectations about volume when they registered.
The vast majority of respondents--83 percent--noticed more e-mails between Halloween and Christmas; when Return Path conducted a similar survey in 2004, just 73 percent of respondents noticed an uptick during the holidays. What's more, 17 percent of respondents said the surge in e-mails during the 2005 holiday season was "overwhelming," compared to 10 percent one year ago.
How did consumers respond to the extra e-mail? Sixty-eight deleted them, while 34 percent reported the messages as spam--a troubling development for e-mail marketers because Internet service providers sometimes classify marketers as spammers based on consumer complaints.
"Consumers use that 'S' word very easily," said Stephanie Miller, vice president of strategic services at Return Path. "Their definition of spam is completely different from a marketer's definition of spam," she said, adding that consumers consider anything that doesn't interest them to be spam; legally, e-mail isn't spam if a consumer has opted-in to receive messages.
But, even if consumers mistakenly flag e-mail as spam, doing so causes Internet service providers to consider the sender a spammer, and start blocking the sender's messages, Miller said. What should marketers do? Miller said the best course is to clearly state how often e-mails will arrive--monthly, weekly, or daily--during the sign-up process.
The news wasn't all bad for e-mail marketers. About 50 percent of respondents said they took advantage of offers that arrived via e-mail, up from 44 percent the year before. Discounts and free shipping offers also appeared to sway some consumers into opening e-mails. Twenty-five percent of respondents said markdown promises persuaded them to open messages--up from 18 percent last year; free shipping lured 20 percent of respondents to open e-mails, compared to 15 percent one year ago.
"There's still a great opportunity to connect with consumers over e-mail, but only if the e-mail's relevant," Miller said.