Overcoming inbox angst: How to build consumer trust

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Despite declines in reported identity theft and spam, increased media attention and a stream of unwanted e-mails have left people feeling increasingly fearful about e-mail security and privacy. Though companies advertise the security of their e-mail and actively combat threats to customers' security and privacy, Americans still harbor doubts about their inboxes. Companies that want to use e-mail for effective brand, product and service marketing need to break through these fears to convince people that e-mail communication remains safe, secure and desirable.

Mintel's research shows that Americans' online security concerns are growing at a significant rate. Our latest consumer survey revealed that nearly 65% of adults have more concerns about online security than they did five years ago.  Also, 53% said they're less likely to open any type of e-mail solicitation today as opposed to just one year ago.

As consumers worry about identity theft and online security, it's no surprise that they're protective of their privacy. The study revealed that 58% feel the amount of spam they receive is increasing. Many tie this to companies sharing their personal information, and 80% of Americans believe companies share personal information.

With people increasingly reluctant to disclose personal information online and through e-mail, direct marketers need to find new ways to re-establish trust and confidence online. Knowing the e-mail sender remains an important factor for consumers. A Mintel survey revealed that 50% of Americans rank knowing the sender as the most important factor in deciding whether or not they'll read a personal or business e-mail.

Marketers should take this cue and use e-mail primarily for current customer communication. Working with a partner who has a pre-established relationship with the e-mail recipient may increase trust and open rates. This strategy depends on practicing responsible affinity direct marketing. Work only with partners that abide by the CAN-SPAM law and honor unsubscribe requests.

Viral marketing is valuable way to reach new clientele. Refer- a-friend and forward-to-a-friend links can increase a campaign's success while easing consumers' security concerns. Companies should employ innovative tactics in their e-mails. Including recognizable features such as an account number, using a “SiteKey” for familiarity, sending only certified e-mail and sending educational e-mails help marketers convince recipients that their e-mails remain safe and secure.

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