DM News' Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: British E-Mail Marketing Grows Despite Challenges

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E-mail marketing continues to grow and develop in Britain despite the challenges caused by the proliferation of spam and the routine blocking of legitimate opt-in e-mail by Internet service providers.

The tactic is increasingly becoming a strategic tool in the marketing mix to both acquire and retain customers. This is driven by e-mail's unique ability to track behavior from receipt through to purchase and the regular triple-digit ROIs achieved by e-mail programs.

In July 2004, Britain's Direct Marketing Association launched the first edition of its E-Mail Best Practice Guidelines. This was essential to the marketplace working within the new legislative framework of the Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations, which provide a structure for the industry and strike a fair balance between individual consumer rights and commercial freedoms.

The National E-Mail Marketing Benchmarking Survey has been the second successful initiative. It launched this year and for the first time aggregated information from the leading e-mail service providers. The survey separated business-to-business from business-to-consumer activity and was the first research within the British e-mail landscape also to separate acquisition activity from retention.

The reports published so far have aided members' businesses by providing benchmarks for metrics such as open rates, click-through rates and hard and soft bounces. They also measure the volume of e-mail sent from quarter to quarter. We have seen e-mail volume rise while response rates have stayed steady.

The largest senders of e-mail within Britain are retail and travel/leisure for business to consumer and IT and financial services for business to business, according to the third-quarter 2004 benchmarking report from the British DMA.

In addition to metrics, the report also asked whether e-mail service providers' clients had faced phishing attacks. Fifteen percent said their clients had fallen victim to Internet crime in the preceding three months.

The benchmark report currently aggregates data from 75 percent of the outsourced e-mail marketplace, and data are collected quarterly.

Looking to the future, the British DMA has approached Internet service providers to create a dialogue. The British DMA understands the business environment created by spam and the ISPs' need to block illegitimate e-mails. We are concerned, however, about false positives. These are the e-mails requested by their recipients that are blocked in error by ISPs. We see the optimal solution as an environment where ISPs can block more spam, but block it more effectively by not blocking legitimate e-mails in error.

E-mail marketing is clearly an effective communication channel that is growing and changing rapidly. While we as e-mail marketers still face challenges, the industry will continue to thrive and prove its value as an essential part of the marketing mix.

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