Reaching E-Mail 'Inner Circle' Is Crucial, Quris Survey Said

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E-mail users regularly open and read e-mail from 10 to 20 companies or a maximum of 16 on average, according to a recent report.


And with Internet access staying around 62 percent of the population since 2000, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, companies aiming to establish regular e-mail contact with new customers increasingly must displace already trusted companies in prospects' inboxes to get their messages opened and read regularly, according to the report.


"This emerging circle of trusted companies from whom people are willing to keep reading e-mail presents a significant challenge for e-mail marketers," said the report on 1,691 completed responses to a survey funded by e-mail marketing services provider Quris Inc., Denver. "Marketers will have to (a) enter the inner circle by displacing existing e-mail relationships in what is effectively a zero-sum game and (b) focus on keeping the loyalty of existing e-mail customers to ensure [the marketers] stay within the increasingly competitive inner circle."


Not only are inboxes competitive, they increasingly are crowded with unwanted, or at least unexpected, e-mail.


Though the number of permission-based e-mails respondents said they received daily remained steady from a year ago at an average of 12, according to Quris, in the same year, the amount of spam that respondents reported getting daily doubled from an average of 15 to 30.


In other findings, the survey determined that people who maintain long e-mail relationships with companies are more likely to make online purchases.


When asked what was the longest period they had continued to read e-mail from the same company, 38 percent of respondents said they had done so for three years, according to Quris. Of this "most loyal" segment, 69 percent said they had purchased something directly as a result of a permission-based e-mail, compared with 52 percent of those who said that the longest e-mail relationship they maintained with a company was two years or less.


Also, 49 percent of the so-called most-loyal segment agreed with the statement that they would rather spend money with a company that does a good job of sending them e-mail than with a competitor, compared with 35 percent of those "less loyal" who agreed with the statement, the report said.


Respondents said they open and read about 65 percent of the permission e-mail they receive, but that when asked to re-evaluate the permission-based e-mail relationships they maintain, they would renew just 47 percent of those relationships.


"This is exactly the process a user goes through when either (a) subscribing to a whitelist-based spam-filtering service or (b) changing an e-mail address," the report said.


Respondents ranked 12 e-mail marketing models from most popular to least popular as follows:


* Transaction confirmations


* Account status updates


* Personalized e-mail from traditional "offline" companies


* Scheduled corporate newsletters


* Customizable information updates


* E-mail discussion lists


* E-mail entertainment subscriptions


* Time-based reminders


* Independent media newsletters


* E-mail education series


* Unscheduled promotions


* E-mail advertising clearinghouses


"Personalized and relevant e-mails feature in four of the five most popular models," the report said. "Regularity and predictability of content is the other model in the top five."


When asked to select the top three of 12 factors that drive e-mail loyalty, 36 percent selected particularly interesting content; 35 percent selected account status updates; 34 percent selected sweepstakes; 29 percent selected bargains; and 27 percent selected entertaining or amusing content.


When asked to select three of 10 reasons why they would be most likely to unsubscribe from a permission e-mail program, 68 percent selected too-frequent e-mail; 51 percent selected losing interest in the product, service or topic; 35 percent selected that the e-mails were generally boring; 34 percent selected that the e-mail offered no significant value; and 30 percent selected suspecting the company of sharing their e-mail addresses.


As a result, Quris suggests investing in personalization and editorial, developing policies to moderate frequency, segmenting and targeting users, and investing in converting current customers into e-mail subscribers.


"However, avoid automatically signing them up without asking (i.e., append), as they overwhelmingly dislike the practice (only 18 percent approve of it)," the report said.


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