Email Marketers Must Come to their Census

Since 1801 the UK has set aside one day every decade for the Census – a nationwide count of all the people and households in the country to create a snapshot of the population. The decennial Census has been sent out to every household in the UK in the last few weeks, and forms must be completed and returned by post, or filled out online, by Sunday (March 27). This got me thinking what we’d find if we were to carry out an email Census at the same time.

The Census will likely find the UK population has continued to grow at a rapid pace. At the start of 2001 there were 59.1 million people living in the UK, and that figure has since risen to nearly 62 million people. But if there were to be an email census at the same time we would find email usage has increased far more dramatically.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show in April 2001 only 71 per cent of UK adults used the internet to access email, making it the second most popular internet use behind finding information on goods and services (73 per cent). Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter had not even launched.

In the last decade email has taken over the internet. The most recent research from the ONS, released in August 2010, found email is now used by 90 per cent of UK adults who access the internet, more than double the amount of adults who use the internet to access social networking sites (43 per cent). Social networking also lags behind finding information about goods and services (75 per cent), looking for travel and accommodation services (63 per cent), online banking (54 per cent), consuming news (51 per cent) and listening to radio or watching TV (45 per cent) in its usage.

The rise of email has been accompanied by a monumental boom in spam. Stats from the Radicati Group and Pingdom show that around 294 billion emails are now sent every day worldwide. This works out at 2.8 million emails sent every second and the unfathomable figure of 90 trillion emails sent per year. Shockingly, 81 to 95 per cent of these emails are spam (depending on who’s estimate you believe). This is supported by the ONS figures, which show 77 per cent of UK adult internet users say they have been “affected” by spam.

Email marketers’ job description has completely changed since 2001, and they should adapt if they are to be successful. They now have a big job on their hands over the next ten years to keep consumers engaged and to limit the number of complaints and unsubscribe requests they receive.

One of the problems with the ‘noughties’ was marketers began using email messages as loud speakers, as a way to communicate en masse. The next ten years must be spent reversing that trend and instead targeting individuals through personal and relevant email messages. Failure to do so could have disastrous consequences for inbox placement, response and revenue.

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