Is permission e-mail marketing still viable?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on May 25, 2002

Marketers using permission e-mail programmes face significant challenges in preserving e-mail as a viable customer communications channel, according to a new report 'Permission E-mail Marketing: The View from the Inbox' from US-based e-mail solutions agency Quris.

Consumers don't like spam
The study reveals that, in particular, the increasing volume of unsolicited commercial e-mail (also known as 'spam') will make it much harder for marketers to differentiate, gain and maintain relationships of trust with customers. The 25-page report, based on survey responses from 1,256 e-mail users in the US, presents a comprehensive analysis of consumer attitudes regarding permission, personalisation and privacy in e-mail marketing programmes.

Key findings
The survey does, however, reveal that permission e-mail can be an effective channel for marketers to build long-term and valuable relationships with customers - if done correctly. Respondents who have the longest permission e-mail relationships with companies generally buy more online, respond more frequently to e-mailed offers, and value permission relationships significantly more than the average user. Other key findings of the study include:

  • Permission e-mail impacts brand perceptions. The majority of respondents (56%) say they feel that the quality of permission e-mail relationships was important - positively or negatively - to their overall impressions about companies and their products.
  • Permission e-mail subscribers with the highest standard of privacy are among the best customers. The 30% that demanded the highest level of privacy (based on four privacy-related questions) are more inclined to think that permission e-mail sometimes affects their purchase decisions, are more inclined to open those messages, and are more likely to value customisable e-mail.
  • E-mail saturation is growing. Some 70% of respondents said they are receiving more e-mail this year than last year. Spam was cited as a cause by 74% of those who said their e-mail volume grew. Permission e-mail was cited by only 28% of respondents as a cause of e-mail volume growth. Two-thirds of respondents felt they are getting too much e-mail overall.
  • Consumers value predictability in messaging. In questions throughout the survey, respondents consistently gave high marks to features of permission programmes that established routines and long-term relationship building. The most popular messages are those that are programmatic in nature, including scheduled corporate newsletters, account status alerts and transaction confirmations. Unpredictable types of marketing programs, such as unscheduled company announcements and other one-off campaigns, were distinctly unpopular with respondents. Sites that clearly define the communications to be sent are more easily able to establish trust relationships.

"Keeping customers engaged and growing the relationship over the long term is the highest priority for marketers," states John Funk, CEO of Quris. "This study demonstrates that e-mail can do that, when it's done right. The combination of consumers' high expectations and the growing problem of e-mail glut is a big challenge to overcome."

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