E-Mail Marketing ‘In’ for the Holidays

With all the attention being paid to the mail, it should come as no surprise that proponents of email marketing say it’s the way to go for the upcoming holiday season. But the latest research on the subject shows marketers can indeed benefit if they’re careful.

The 2001 Consumer E-Mail Study from DoubleClick found that email could be a very successful part of the marketer’s toolbox this holiday season because consumers seem to be getting more comfortable with retailers using email to maintain relationships. According to DoubleClick, 82 percent of consumers have made a purchase in the past year as a result of clicking on a permission-based email, compared to 61 percent in a study DoubleClick conducted in 2000. More than one-third (37 percent) of shoppers clicked through an email and purchased immediately, up from 20 percent in 2000.

DoubleClick’s data also found that 70 percent of consumers plan to use email to help them with their shopping during the upcoming holiday season. While this sounds like good news, it also presents some challenges for marketers who want to capitalize on email to attract and retain customers. For starters, there’s the issue of clutter — the downside of increased trust and interest in email. According to DoubleClick’s study, Internet users currently receive twice as much permission-based email on a weekly basis compared to what they were receiving in 2000, averaging 36 per week this year compared to 18 in 2000.

Forty percent of respondents credit email communications as a primary reason for loyalty to online merchants, compared with 30 percent from the 2000 study. Furthermore, email is now the most popular means of learning about new products, services and promotions, with 64 percent of respondents using email in this way, compared to 58 percent last year.

As always, consumers are worried about their personal information. The main concern for providing personal information online, for 88 percent of respondents, is the misuse of personal information concerning spam and credit card usage.

Marketers also have to make sure they provide consumers with relevant information. The DoubleClick survey found that consumers would like to receive emails on a weekly basis on a wide variety of topics, including special offers from online merchants, which 77 percent of respondents receive or are interested in receiving; special offers from local retailers and restaurants (65 percent); household tips/recipes/crafts (57 percent); travel information (55 percent); and entertainment (49 percent).

“Clearly, marketers should make note of consumer’s diverse interests and frequency requests for email when reaching out to their customers this coming holiday period,” said Court Cunningham, vice president and general manager of DARTmail Technology Solutions at DoubleClick.

Interestingly enough, the study, which is based on 1,015 respondents, was conducted by NFO WorldGroup between Aug. 24 and Aug. 27, 2001, before anthrax was a concern in the postal mail system.

According to a report from Jupiter Media Metrix, total spending on email marketing will increase to $9.4 billion in 2006, with the largest portion of that total coming from retention-based email campaigns. The report went on to predict that the focus of email marketing will turn away from encouraging initial purchases and move toward developing a long-term relationship with consumers. Marketers will then gain the ability to use behavioral and purchase data they get over time to accurately target their messages.

Jupiter also predicts 206 billion spam messages in 2006, and predicts that consumers will receive more spam than any other type of email (more than 1,400 per person). But marketers who ensure their messages are relevant and targeted have nothing to worry about, the report found.

Research conducted in Europe by Forrester Research found that European consumers are ready and willing to participate in email marketing — but they also have high expectations of the quality and quantity of content they receive.

European consumers willing to give permission for email marketing are a demanding and sophisticated bunch, the research found. Fifty-six percent of consumers participating in email marketing are between 16 and 34 years old and they tend not to have children. Forty-four percent of them have a university degree and 46 percent have been online for more than two years. On average, they spend nine hours per week online, and email is the key regular activity for 95 percent of them. Forty-one percent of them consider email a great way to find out about new products, 36 percent read most of the promotional emails they receive, and 9 percent find the information they received so valuable that they decide to forward the emails to a friend.

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