Subscribers Speak: Email Connections are Still Welcome, but Increasingly Fragile

It’s like the old axiom about how people talk about lawyers. People love their own lawyer, but hate lawyers in general. It seems that subscribers may feel the same way about email marketing these days.

Subscribers report a general love of email as a channel and say they find value in many email messages. Yet, respondents in our fourth annual Holiday Email Survey also report that overall, email marketing connections are fatigued, and many are just plain weak.

Talk about a missed opportunity! reports record email contribution to ecommerce during the 2007 holidays. The majority (92%) of respondents in our survey claim that email had at least some impact on their purchase behavior this holiday season and nearly a third (29.1%) said they took advantage of email offers. When email connects, it really connects. Yet, still so much email marketing is tired, old batch-and-blast.

For the fourth year, subscribers told us that relevance is in their eyes, not the eyes of the marketer. More than half (56.4%) of respondents say they receive high volumes of “junk” from marketers – defined as “email from companies I know but that is just not interesting to me.” “Junk” is second only to “spam” (“email I never asked to receive”) which 65.7% of respondents say they receive in high volumes. One-third say that marketers email them more frequently than promised. Most of this email is simply deleted unread, but subscribers do not hesitate to complain about unwanted messages (reporting the email as spam).

Look back at your own Q4 email program. What did you do to engage with subscribers, and create a more compelling experience that breaks through the clutter? The only way to improve revenue from this channel is to create great email experiences over and over again. That means “great” from the subscriber perspective — relevant, timely and at the proper frequency.

Value – like beauty – is always subjective. Surely all marketer’s email programs will have bad hair days, but there is chance for deeper beauty yet. There are some proven strategies to improve the value of email programs:

Many respondents say they determine the value of each email message by using the subject line (58.6%). Spending more time to create compelling subject lines and test them effectively could make a difference for many marketers.

The subject line and from line, as well as a consistent schedule of mailing may help boost response. Most respondents simply delete messages they don’t recognize (52.3%) or that they feel come too frequently (29.1%). Knowing and trusting the sender is key to that “open or delete” decision.

It was encouraging to see that slightly less than a third (30%) of subscribers say they only open messages from brands they know. This is likely from the increased education about phishing and spoofing and spam tactics. However, another 14.4% said that regardless of brand, they only open the email if they requested the particular message type. With most subscribers claiming they get more email than they expected at sign up, marketers must be cautious when sharing internal files or adding new message streams to existing subscriptions.

Marketers have benefited from consumers’ love of email. But even email tolerant subscribers don’t consistently read email unless it offers real value – and most consumers have figured out how to block or ignore future emails they don’t want.

Download the survey to learn more best practices and see how these results synchs with both your Q4 results and your 2008 plans. Please email me to chat about how to apply the learnings this year to your program. You may also join me on Thursday, January 31st for Holiday Findings 2008: What is the View from the Other Side of the Send Button webinar for more consumer insights strategies. Sign up today.

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