Study: Permission-Based Email Drives Multi-Channel Purchasing

  • by October 21, 2002
DoubleClick today announced the results of its third annual Consumer Email Study, which shows email to be a major driver of multi-channel purchasing. The study shows that when used effectively, permission-based email has a dramatic affect on both online and offline purchasing.

"This year's survey results contain great news for legitimate marketers. When executed effectively, and with respect for consumer preferences, email has a dramatic impact on purchasing behavior, not only online but also in stores, catalogs and through call centers," said Court Cunningham, Senior Vice President, DoubleClick. "The results highlight the importance of measuring the impact of marketing activities over time and across multiple channels. They also underscore what we've seen with our own quarterly trending data: email marketing is an incredibly effective retention and upselling tool."

Impact of Email on Commerce

The 2002 study shows that, as a result of receiving permission-based email, 68% of consumers have purchased online, 59% have purchased in retail stores, 39% have purchased through catalogs, 34% through call centers and 20% through postal mail. According to the study, 78% of online shoppers have made a purchase after clicking on an email. Of this year's online shoppers, one-third (33%) have clicked through an email and purchased immediately, while another third (35%) have clicked through and purchased later online, and another 9% have clicked through and purchased later offline.

This year's study has shown that permission based email is an incredibly powerful communication tool for marketers and publishers. Consumers respond to emails not only in the online world, but increasingly, offline too.

Because consumers often click through an email but purchase at a later time online or offline, this activity may go unaccounted for unless the marketer is analyzing email performance over time and across all of these channels. Two thirds (66%) of online shoppers plan to use email to purchase during the holiday season, while 48% plan to use email to assist in purchasing for birthdays. Eighty-six percent of online shoppers have purchased from the same merchant more than once (consistent with 2001 results), and almost half (46%) have used a coupon or code when shopping online during the past year.

The study also shows that customization of email can be a further driver of a consumer's decision to make a purchase. Sixty-two percent of consumers 'always' or 'sometimes' request customized content in their permission-based email, with the vast majority (91%) preferring content based on interests that they have specified. Of those customers that request customization, a third (35%) are more likely to make a purchase as a result.

Unsolicited Mail

The volume of email that consumers receive has grown 60% over the past year. On average, respondents now get 254 emails in their inbox each week as compared to 159 in 2001. Unsolicited promotional email (SPAM) is the number one consumer concern regarding email usage (90%) and only 5% read these messages to determine their interest in them, down from 18% in 2001. Consumer's second largest concern, while significantly lower (28%), is the frequency that they receive permission-based emails.

Half (49%) of all respondents report using a feature of their email program that automatically sorts their email into a "bulk" or separate email folder. Mail that is sorted into bulk folders often remains unopened. Three quarters (76%) of respondents that use a bulk folder rarely or never read emails in this folder.

The increasing volume of emails consumers receive is the biggest impediment to its effectiveness as a marketing vehicle. Permission-based email marketers need to carefully test for optimal frequency and differentiate their email from unsolicited communications to prevent them from ending up in bulk mail folders.

Email Preferences

Perhaps reflecting consumers distaste for unsolicited email, the study found that the 'from' line is the most important factor motivating consumers to open emails (60%). Thirty five percent cited the 'subject' line. This reflects the power of permission-based email in branding and enhancing customer loyalty. Within the subject line, discounts and news are what appeals most to consumers. While a discount was the most compelling motivational factor for making an immediate purchase after clicking on an email (70%), merchant recognition was significant (60%) underscoring the impact of branding on consumer sales.

Email was cited as consumer's preferred method of communication from merchants (75%), followed by postal mail (20%), with 0% preferring telemarketing. Email is also replacing the telephone for customer service. Seventy-eight percent of consumers have communicated by email with customer service representatives during the past year. Of these, 57% prefer communicating with customer service by email, versus 38% that prefer customer service communication via the phone.

The 2002 Consumer Email Study is the third in an annual series sponsored by DoubleClick and conducted by Beyond Interactive and Greenfield Online. One thousand consumers that use email at least once per week (statistically representative of 94% of the US online population) were polled in September 2002. There was an equal segmentation of men and women and the average age was 44.3.

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