Spam Soars, But Key Metrics Stay Stable

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Spam represented more than half of corporate e-mail traffic in May, a dramatic rise over April, according to e-mail security services provider MessageLabs.


However, recent data indicate that the widely reported increase in spam has not diminished e-mail's performance for "legitimate" marketers, according to marketing services and technology provider DoubleClick, New York.


MessageLabs, based in London, said that 55.1 percent of 133.9 million e-mails scanned in May were spam, an increase of 38.6 percent over April and 40.6 percent over the same period a year ago.


MessageLabs defined "spam" as "any unwanted or unsolicited e-mail" as defined by clients, a spokeswoman said.


"The volume of spam now facing computer users every day has far surpassed the point of being a nuisance and is causing significant productivity losses and IT costs at businesses across the world," Mark Sunner, chief technology officer of MessageLabs, said in a statement yesterday.


The report underscores e-mail administrators' anecdotal reports of astronomical increases in the amount of spam hitting their systems.


However, performance metrics such as open and click-through rates remained stable or increased in the first quarter of 2003 for "legitimate" marketers compared with the previous three quarters, according to the recently released "DoubleClick Q1 2003 Email Trend Report."


Average click-through rates were 8.9 percent in first-quarter 2003 versus 8 percent in fourth-quarter 2002, DoubleClick said. Also, open rates rose 7.7 percent to 39.2 percent in the first quarter of 2003, compared with 36.4 percent in fourth-quarter 2002, said DoubleClick, which claims to base its findings on about 2 billion e-mails sent by clients.


"The most encouraging news in the Q1 Email Trend Report is that the spam crisis is having less impact on the performance of legitimate marketers than many of us had feared," Eric Kirby, vice president of strategic services at DoubleClick, said in a statement. "However, the data also underscores the importance of the relationship that legitimate marketers have with their customers. Marketers can build upon these relationships by asking their customers about the type of content they would like to receive as well as how often they want to be contacted."


In other findings, DoubleClick said bounceback rates in the first quarter of 2003 declined 8 percent to 12.5 percent from 13.5 percent in the previous quarter. Also, 57 percent of companies reduced their e-mail volume in first-quarter 2003 versus fourth-quarter 2002.


Retailers' and catalogers' e-mails achieved 38.5 percent open rates and 7.6 percent click-through rates on average in first-quarter 2003, up slightly from 38 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively, the previous quarter.


Consumer product e-mails have the highest click-through rates at 14 percent, DoubleClick said, followed by consumer-audience publishers at 11.5 percent and consumer services at 8.6 percent.


Twenty-six percent of DoubleClick's clients' e-mails go out on Tuesdays, making it the most common day of the week for e-mails sent, DoubleClick reported.


As for conversion rates, for every thousand e-mails sent by DoubleClick clients in the retail and catalog category that track them, 2.35 purchases result. Average order sizes for the e-mails tracked were $110.18, and revenue per e-mail delivered was 28 cents, DoubleClick said.


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