E-mail solidifies hold in Britain

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LONDON - E-mail acquisition click-through rates in Britain have risen from 6 percent to 8 percent in a year, according to the Direct Marketing Association UK's "National E-mail Benchmarking Survey" conducted last month.

Overall, first-quarter 2006 has shown a 30 percent year-over-year increase in average mailing volumes, with volumes also having risen 13 percent from Q4 2005.

"Our UK business has grown by approximately 80 percent in the last year," said Andrew O. Shaughnessy, CEO at Newsweaver, London. "This growth has been fueled by two things: a growth in our customer base as new customers sign up for Newsweaver, and an increase in revenues from our existing clients as they become more sophisticated in how they use e-mail."

As the market grows, many U.S. e-mail firms are present.

"We've been expanding into the European market as a whole," said Matt Blumberg, CEO at Return Path, New York. "For American companies who are used to a U.S.-sized market, the UK is a good place to head the ship."

Return Path has no European office yet, but its executives often visit Britain, France and Germany to keep up on Internet service provider relations and whitelisting for its clients. For many of his clients, Mr. Blumberg said, the marketplace is global yet whitelisting must be done locally.

Some e-mail marketing firms like CheetahMail, New York, find that UK business is next to U.S. business.

"It draws ... parallels with the U.S. in terms of the importance on service, country expertise and support," CheetahMail president Matt Seeley said. "As companies begin to develop a more global approach to their customer communication strategies, we're seeing the push toward integration with e-mail providers that can support this global approach."

Andrew Robinson, managing director at Lyris UK, London, attributed the rise in popularity to marketers using it more intelligently, with targeted campaigns.

"Ensuring people are sent timely and relevant information that is of value to them can generate open rates of 30 percent and click-through rates of 10 percent," he said.

Many service providers in Britain are geared to the midmarket, said John Rizzi, CEO of e-Dialog, Lexington, MA, so his firm has embraced the potential of bigger clients like British Airways and Tesco. But even they like personalized service, and understanding cultural differences is key.

"Like any new business, it is important to get to know the people," Mr. Rizzi said. "The way to get it wrong is to see the cultural differences as trivial."

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