E-mail marketing steadies with maturity: Forrester Research

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E-mail marketing is all grown up and going strong, according to a new study published by Forrester Research Inc.

The study, "Email Marketing Comes of Age," conducted by Cambridge, MA-based Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk, found that e-mail has reached almost universal penetration, with 97 percent of consumers and 94 percent of marketers using the channel.

"There has been a lot of concern that e-mail has lost its effectiveness because it has not grown rapidly, but the aggressive interest in e-mail has only normalized," Ms. VanBoskirk said. "It should not be a concern that it's lost its effectiveness, it is still very powerful. It's just that it's become like direct mail, which is still an effective marketing tool, but people aren't as excited about it."

The study also found that click through rates have remained stable at an average of 5 percent, since 2003. But this audience is steady according to the study. Consumers who buy products advertised in e-mails spend 138 percent more online than peers who don't buy through e-mail. In addition, 29 percent of all online consumers buy impulsively immediately following an offer, rather than waiting.

Interestingly, women are more likely to share e-mails, as three in five consumers who forward e-mails are women, according to the study. Also, young consumers, 18 to 34 years old, maintain a discrete address specifically for promotional e-mails.

Even though the study found that most consumers do not like to be bothered with e-mail marketing, 32 percent answered to questions about reading promotional e-mails, looking for promotions in e-mail opening and even forwarding these e-mails to friends.

As consumers continue to engage in e-mail, marketers are getting more sophisticated, according to Ms. VanBoskirk.

"The responsibility of marketers today is to think strategically about how to incorporate e-mail into an overall marketing program and how to reap the benefits of a good e-mail program," she said. "In 2007, expect to see more advanced use of e-mail, as the spectrum of capabilities around e-mail becomes more mainstream. I think we'll see more middle level marketing firms using more advanced e-mail programs."

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