Study: Consumers Get Spam Savvy

  |  October 13, 2003   |  Comments

UPDATE: DoubleClick finds consumers have become adept at sorting wanted e-mail from unwanted spam.

Consumers are dealing with the deluge of spam by using bulk-mail folders and deleting email from unknown senders, according to a new study.

The DoubleClick consumer survey found consumers are taking a number of preventative steps. One of the most popular steps is setting up a bulk-mail folder. More than 52 percent reported using such folders, up from 49 percent last year. They are also deleting more email, with 65 percent saying they delete spam, a 5 percent increase from a year ago. Just 4 percent said they read suspected spam to see if it might interest them.

The findings square with other research that's found consumers manage the spam problem as an everyday nuisance. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents to the DoubleClick survey tagged spam as the No. 1 problem with their email experience. However, their enthusiasm for commercial email has not waned. Over 90 percent reported receiving some kind of permission-based email, with over half saying they received offers from online or traditional retailers via email.

The importance attached to email has led consumers to take a mostly low-tech approach to dealing with spam. Just 16 percent said they downloaded spam filters and 36 percent said they used spam-reporting buttons provided by Internet service providers and email programs.

Instead of relying on technological fixes, consumers are using common sense. Over 63 percent said they scrutinize the "from" line in emails to determine if it is legitimate email. The method squares with consumer definitions of spam: 95.5 percent said spam is email that uses deception and 93 percent said it was email from unknown senders.

"The relationship you build with a customer -- who it's from -- is very important," said Scott Knoll, vice president and general manager of market solutions at DoubleClick.

Interestingly, men and women's views of spam differed slightly. Men had a much broader definition of spam, with 65 percent saying "an email from a company that I have done business with but comes too often" was spam. Only 56 percent of women said the same. Sixty-one percent of men cited "an email that may have been permission based but comes too frequently" as spam, while only 55 percent of women did so.

Permission based email that comes too often was second only to spam among concerns respondents had about their inboxes. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said "frequency of permission based email" was a concern. People's attention to the issue has heightened significantly since 2002, when only 28 percent cited frequency as a concern.

"Even permission based email can be offensive if it's received too often," said Knoll, who recommended that marketers let customers tell them how often they'd like to receive email communications.

Beyond Interactive conducted the DoubleClick survey, using the NFO//net source panel to poll 1,000 consumers who use email at least once a week.

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