E-Mail Marketing Works — Or Hurts

E-mail marketing is a double-edged sword, according to a study released Wednesday by email marketing vendor Quris.

In its survey of 1,684 consumers, 57 percent said they had purchased something from oa business after receiving its email. The bad news for marketers is that email seems to be almost equally effective in driving customers away: Nearly half of those surveyed said they had ceased buying from a company because of its email practices.

In the study, 80 percent of respondents said they had stopped reading emails from a company they’d signed up with, while 45 percent said there was at least one company they’d stopped doing business with altogether. The most commonly cited complaint about permission-based email marketing was that it was too frequent. Unfortunately, those “punishers” who cut off companies they’d opted to receive communication from, were actually better customers than those who have never stopped doing business with a company because of its poor email practices. They shop more and spend more online, and they make more purchases as a result of email.

The finding jibes with a DoubleClick study released earlier this month that found too-frequent permission-based email was a big concern for respondents. 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.

The trick, then, is figuring out which behavior an email is likely to encourage. Quris said that marketers should measure email relationship engagement over time, and not simply track response rates to individual campaigns. For example, they should look at each customer’s history of opening, clicking and purchasing to measure that customer’s engagement. They can then segment and target customers based on key behavioral variables, such as frequency of mailings, topical relevancy, content quality and privacy, to maximize customer engagement.

“Online, managing customer relationships often requires a deep understanding of the consumer’s behavioral patterns to pick up on the nuances of whether a consumer is disengaged or dissatisfied,” said John Funk, CEO of Quris. “And, if you miss those nuances, this research shows that it can lead to the loss of a customer, not just an unsubscribe from the offending email.”

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