ISPs Need To Overhaul Spam Reporting System: Survey
Jointly conducted by Chicago-based Q Interactive and Warren, R.I.-based MarketingSherpa, the survey's goal was to reveal consumers' perceptions of what they consider to be spam, why they report emails as spam and what they think happens when the "report spam" button is clicked.
An overwhelming number of consumers misuse and misunderstand the definition of spam, ultimately hurting legitimate marketers--but also consumers themselves who are seeking the messages they want, but instead are automatically being unsubscribed, said Arend Henderson, Q Interactive's chief analytics officer.
There is confusion among consumers regarding what they believe will happen as a result of clicking the "report spam" button. Over half of respondents (56%) reported it will "filter all email from that sender"--while 21% believe it will notify the sender that the recipient did not find that specific email useful, so the sender will "do a better job of mailing me" in the future. About 47% believe they will be unsubscribed from the list by clicking "report spam."
"The people I found to be really interesting were those who thought (by hitting the spam button) they were notifying the sender that they didn't find that particular email useful," Henderson said. "The marketer then has to reply to this potentially very engaged email consumer by never ever messaging them again. Who knows how valuable those people are, because most responsible marketers never email to them again."
When it comes to utilizing the "report spam" button, nearly half of respondents (48%) provided a reason other than "did not sign up for email" for why they reported an email as spam. In fact, underscoring consumers' varying definitions of spam, respondents cited a variety of non-permission-based reasons for hitting the spam button, including "the email was not of interest to me" (41%); "I receive too much email from the sender" (25%); and "I receive too much email from all senders" (20%).
The survey found that a large number of consumers (43%) forgo advertiser-supplied unsubscribe links in email and simply use the ISP's "report spam" button to unsubscribe from an advertiser's list--regardless of whether or not the email fits the consumer's definition of spam.
Of those surveyed, 56% reported: "Marketing messages or newsletters that are "just not interesting to me" from known senders as "spam" and 21% knowingly report email that is not spam as spam. Furthermore, 43% believe using the "Report spam" button will unsubscribe them from a list, and 21% believe clicking the "Report Spam" button will notify the sender they did not find that specific e-mail useful, so the sender will do a "better job of mailing me" in the future. About 50% of respondents consider "too frequent emails from companies I know" to be spam, and 31% cite "emails that were once useful but aren't relevant anymore" (Respondents could select more than one answer for multiple questions in the survey.)
To address this problem, Q Interactive calls for ISPs, marketers, advertisers and publishers to come together with industry associations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau to agree on a solution that is beneficial to consumers and all interested parties. The firms are calling on ISPs to replace the "report spam" button with buttons that more clearly indicate consumers' intentions, such as an "unsubscribe" button and an "undesired" button. ISPs should categorize email senders based on their practices to identify and reward senders who follow best practices in transparency and permission, Henderson told Online Media Daily.
In the meantime, marketers need to do a better job of educating consumers as to what they will receive if they sign up for an email list and what the mechanism is for unsubscribing. They also need to continuously look at the frequency of their email blasts and the relevancy, Henderson said.