Consumers need more e-mail editing tools: ESPC study

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Despite the rise in spam and unsolicited mail, consumers are showing more trust in e-mail, according to a new study by the Email Sender and Provider Coalition. The study looked at behavior and views toward spam, unsubscribe features and anti-spam technology.

In conjunction with market research firm Ipsos Insight, the ESPC surveyed more than 2,200 US Internet sites and found that despite consumer sophistication around e-mail, 20 percent were using the spam button to report unsubscribe messages.

"Consumers are tyrannical editors of their inbox, and some are using the spam button because they know that this stops a message from arriving again," said Trevor Hughes, executive director at the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition, York, ME. "E-mail comes in many flavors from an e-mail that you may have signed up for but no longer want, to a phishing mail that is trying to use the consumer's information as fraud."

The study also found that 80 percent of respondents delete or report messages as spam without opening the actual message. Seventy three percent base this decision on the "from" field and 69 percent base the decision on the content of subject line.

"We've been saying it for a long time, but subject line and from address are crucial to getting a consumer to open your e-mail," said Dave Lewis, vice president of alliances and market development at StrongMail Systems, Redwood City, CA, and co-chair of the ESPC.

What does this mean for direct marketers and consumers?

Ninety percent of those surveyed indicated that they would appreciate having an unsubscribe button and 80 percent also want access to a report fraud button. In addition, more than half of respondents (53 percent) would be more likely to open and read an e-mail with a certification symbol.

According to Mr. Lewis, giving more tools to consumers could help with the challenges faced by ISPs and marketers with filters and false positives.

"The opportunity to engage the consumer directly is a way to clean up the e-mail ecosystem, because this is the one party who hasn't gotten involved yet," Mr. Lewis said. "When you've got consumers providing direct feedback, no one can deny that voice."

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