Survey: ISP Switching, Spam Drive E-Mail Address Changes

E-mail addresses change at a rate of 31 percent annually, driven by ISP switching, job changes and consumer efforts to avoid spam, according to a study by Return Path Inc., a provider of e-mail change of address services, and Global Name Registry.

“The rate of e-mail address turnover continues unabated from the pace we first identified in September 2000,” said Matt Blumberg, chief executive officer of Return Path. “And in addition to the impact on consumer relationships identified, there is a real and significant subsequent financial impact on reputable businesses that rely on e-mail to communicate with their customers.”

The study, to be unveiled at the Direct Marketing Association's 85th Annual Conference & Exhibition on Oct. 21 at Moscone Center in San Francisco, concluded that, consequently, the majority of consumers lose touch with personal and professional contacts and with preferred Web sites.

The e-mail survey, conducted in August by independent, third-party research firm NFO WorldGroup, updates a similar study by Return Path and NFO WorldGroup from September 2000, which identified a 32 percent annual rate of e-mail address churn. The results are based on responses from 1,015 consumers from NFO WorldGroup's online panel of U.S. e-mail users older than 18. The panel is representative of U.S. online households.

“The volume and frequency of e-mail address changes over the past two years suggests that consumers have simply come to accept the hassles that accompany such action,” said Earl Quenzel, vice president, sales and marketing, Global Name Registry, which offers a lifetime e-mail address that simply redirects incoming mail to a current e-mail account. “Businesses like Global Name Registry and Return Path are responding with solutions that offer consumers the flexibility to change an e-mail address while minimizing lost relationships.”

The survey found that consumers on average own 3.1 e-mail addresses, up from 2.6 in the 2000 study. But despite obtaining additional accounts, the rate of e-mail address changes remained steady. Overall, 49 percent of respondents indicated they had changed an e-mail address — either work or personal — at some point in the past.

Of the 43 percent who had changed their personal e-mail address, half cited an ISP switch as the main reason. Respondents also mentioned efforts to avoid spam (16 percent), a change of residence (12 percent) and the desire for a more attractive e-mail address (8 percent).

Work e-mail addresses most often changed due to new jobs (41 percent). Other reasons included an ISP change (18 percent), a change of residence (8 percent) and a name change resulting from a marriage or divorce (6 percent).

The survey data show that e-mail address changes lead to lost relationships, both personal and commercial. More than half of participants indicated that they lost touch with personal contacts and Web sites as a result of an e-mail address change.

Consumers indicated that contact with valued Web sites and e-newsletters represented the relationships most frequently lost. The survey revealed that young adults (53 percent) are more likely to lose these contacts than older individuals (42 percent).

Notifying contacts of an e-mail address change is no small task, according to the survey. While the average consumer registers their e-mail address with more than 12 Web sites, e-mail address changers only notified about six Web sites of the change, in addition to any personal or professional contacts. And 22 percent of those who changed an e-mail address did not notify any Web site.

The survey also found that while e-mail address changers indicated that they lost online relationships, many respondents who had not changed an e-mail address cited the hassle of updating contacts, including friends, colleagues, Web sites and online newsletters, as their primary reason (14 percent).

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