A new study, to be unveiled next week at The 85th Annual Direct Marketing Association conference, indicates that email addresses are changing at the rate of 31% annually, driven by ISP switching, job changes and consumer efforts to avoid SPAM. The email survey, conducted by independent, third-party research firm NFO WorldGroup, concluded that, consequently, the majority of consumers lose touch with personal and professional contacts and with preferred websites. “The rate of email address turnover continues unabated from the pace we first identified in September 2000,” said Matt Blumberg, chief executive officer of Return Path, which commissioned the study. “And in addition to the impact on consumer relationships identified, there is a real and significant subsequent financial impact on reputable businesses that rely on email to communicate with their customers.” The survey, conducted in August 2002, updates a similar study by Return Path and NFO WorldGroup from September 2000, which identified a 32% annual rate of email address churn. The results are based on responses from 1,015 consumers from NFO WorldGroup’s online panel of U.S. email users over the age of 18. The panel is representative of U.S. online households. “The volume and frequency of email address changes over the past two years suggests that consumers have simply come to accept the hassles that accompany such action,” said Earl Quenzel, vice president sales and marketing, Global Name Registry, which offers a lifetime email address that simply redirects incoming mail to a current email account. “Businesses like Global Name Registry and Return Path are responding with solutions that offer consumers the flexibility to change an email address while minimizing lost relationships.” More Email Addresses Haven’t Slowed the Pace of Email Turnover The survey revealed that consumers, on average, now own 3.1 email addresses (up from 2.6 in the 2000 study). But in spite of obtaining additional accounts, the rate of email address changes remained steady. Overall, 49% of the survey respondents indicated they had changed an email address – either work or personal – at some point in the past. Of the 43% of respondents who had changed their personal email address, half of them cited an ISP switch as the main reason for the change. Respondents also mentioned efforts to avoid SPAM (16%), a change of residence (12%), and the desire for a more attractive email address (8%) as reasons they changed their personal email address. Work email addresses most often changed due to new jobs (41%). Other reasons for an email address change in the workplace included an ISP change (18%), a change of residence (8%), and a name change resulting from a marriage or divorce (6%). Half of Web Relationships are Lost Due to Email Address Changes The survey data shows that email address changes lead to lost relationships, both personal and commercial. In fact, more than 50% of participants indicated that they had lost touch with personal contacts and websites as a result of an email address change. Consumers indicated that contact with valued websites and e-newsletters represented the relationships most frequently lost. And the survey revealed that young adults (53%) are significantly more likely to lose these contacts than older individuals (42%). Notifying contacts of an email address change is no small task, according to the survey. While the average consumer registers their email address with more than 12 websites, email address changers only notified about six websites of the change, in addition to any personal or professional contacts. And 22% of those who changed an email address did not notify any website about the change.