E-mail marketers must recognize changing consumer needs

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I spent two evenings without Internet or American Idol last week, thanks to the “catastrophic failure” of my Verizon FiOS equipment. Checking my Gmail at work, the two evenings added up to 140 non-spam messages. Of the daunting 116 com­mercial messages, 112 came as a result of my having opted in.

As I pondered my opter-inner's remorse, I glanced at last week's Forrester Research report, Break Free from Bad Email, which concluded that marketers, seduced by its relative cheapness, were overusing e-mail and neglecting to segment customer lists. My own inbox lent credence to that argument and, I confess to, in desperation, using the “report spam” button to punish mar­keters who either fail to unsubscribe me after multiple attempts, or who don't provide unsub instructions in the first place.

Not all opt-ins are created equal, and many people think they're being spammed when they don't remember giving permission. The ISPs are competing furiously to provide the best service for customers, and the “report spam” button is the easiest way to allow consumers to customize their experience. But many people define spam as mail that doesn't currently interest them, so this poses a real problem.

While marketers must carefully navigate the ISPs' scor­ing methods, it's also important to look at the e-mail channel through the eyes of the recipient. Consumers are currently aiming to cut back their spending, and e-mail marketers must understand that the rules of engagement have changed. Even those that segment and respond to triggers well must factor in an overall decline in discretionary purchases.

Now is not the time to turn consumers off; there is still busi­ness to be had. But by failing to revisit your consumers' needs on a highly regular basis, you not only have disgruntled custom­ers; you also damage your chances of reaching the happy ones.

Contact elly.trickett@dmnews.com

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