The bad news for companies using e-mail as a relationship channel is that 31% of e-mail addresses are changed every year, causing 53% of those consumers to lose touch with personal and professional contacts, as well as preferred web sites, according to NFO WorldGroup.
Most businesses make an effort to ensure that customers aren't lost when they move house, yet online businesses are losing huge numbers of online relationships because of simple e-mail address changes. In its survey, commissioned by Return Path and Global Name Registry, NFO found that an average of 50% of web site relationships are lost in this way.
According to the study, e-mail address turnover is driven by ISP (internet service provider) switching, job changes and consumer efforts to avoid 'spam' (unsolicited e-mail adverts). Loss of contact with valued web sites and e-newsletters occurs most often, and young adults are much more likely (53%) to lose such contacts than older individuals (42%).
Hitting the bottom line
"The rate of e-mail address turnover continues unabated from the pace we first identified in September 2000," said Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path. "In addition to the impact on consumer relationships, there is a real financial impact on reputable businesses that rely on e-mail to communicate with their customers."
Notifying contacts of an e-mail address change is no small task, according to the survey. The study reveals that, while average consumers had registered their e-mail address with more than twelve web sites, each had told an average of only six web sites about e-mail changes.
Worse still, 22% of those who had changed an e-mail address had not notified any web sites about the change. Not surprisingly, e-mail address changers also reported lost personal and professional relationships after switching e-mail addresses.
Staying in touch
"The volume and frequency of e-mail address changes suggests that consumers have simply resigned themselves to the hassles that accompany such actions," said Earl Quenzel, vice president of sales and marketing for Global Name Registry. "Along with businesses like Return Path, we are responding with solutions that offer consumers the flexibility to change an e-mail address while minimizing lost relationships."
Global Name Registry sells and operates the internet's new .NAME top-level domain names, which allow individuals to register their own name as a permanent e-mail address that can be used regardless of which ISP they are currently using. This strategy, aimed at reducing personal and professional relationship losses, provides consumers with the ability to change their ISP without changing their e-mail address.
Alternatively, Return Path helps businesses retain customers by updating e-mail lists with change-of-address information. More than one million consumer-registered e-mail address changes are submitted to the firm every month, from which it services the United States Postal Service's online moving portal.
The August 2002 survey updates a similar September 2000 study by Return Path and NFO WorldGroup, which identified a 32% annual rate of e-mail address churn. The results are based on responses from 1,015 consumers from NFO WorldGroup's online panel of US e-mail users (all over the age of 18).