Reports Find Good News for E-mail

Two separate studies on the effectiveness of e-mail communications have found that recipients generally find e-mail from businesses useful, but that a higher level of targeting is still needed.

The first, conducted by Harris Interactive for digital marketing firm Acxiom Digital, has found that three in four online adults value e-mail from companies they frequently patronize.

The Acxiom study found 30 percent of those people went on to purchase a good or service after receiving an e-mail. It also found 94 percent of online adults have received an e-mail solicitation from a company.

Separately, on-demand e-mail and marketing provider company Responsys has released its first annual study on e-mail personalization through surveying marketing executives. The firm found relevant e-mail campaigns increased net profits 18 times more than broadcast mailings.

According to Responsys’s survey, “The State of Personalization,” 44 percent of marketers already personalize some aspect of e-mail campaigns and 89 percent plan to increase their use of personalization in future efforts. At the same time however, the results show that 40 percent of personalization efforts are restricted to the salutation, and only 10 percent individualize all aspects of their e-mail campaigns, including salutation, images, timing and promotion.

The Acxiom report also found that tailoring a message to match its recipient is essential. It states that 61 percent of those surveyed identified timing of the e-mail as an important factor in their desire to respond. It also states that 60 percent reported that compelling offers and discounts were an important factor, and 55 percent reported that e-mail targeted to their specific interests, lifestyle or preference was important to them.

Kevin Johnson, president of Acxiom Digital, stresses that companies need to explore advanced marketing techniques that match e-mail to increasingly e-mail savvy online adults who can differentiate between spam and targeted marketing.

“We have clients who are earning literally hundreds of millions of dollars off their e-mail programs. For every 5 cents they spend on an e-mail, they are earning a buck and a half back in revenue,” he said. “In the coming year, cutting edge clients are back to talk about integration and how important e-mail is, and how to make it better integrated with their online and offline strategy. The advanced marketers are going to leave the spray and pray e-mailers in the dust.”

He also said that the use of RSS feeds, podcasts and other cutting edge communications technology may be necessary for the “chic” factor when marketing directly to a tech savvy audience, but not to let such approaches distract focus from technology that is “here and is valuable,” he said. “Some of the other more buzz laden media like RSS and podcasts aren’t worth a fraction of what e-mail is.”

The pervasiveness of e-mail and the high number of conversions demonstrate the importance of businesses maintaining e-mail campaigns, said Johnson.

“The Harris poll demonstrates what we’ve known for the past five years. There’s a tendency to forget the core value of e-mail,” Johnson said. “You’re going to have to invest more to earn more in 2007 and 2008. Your returns are going to increase, but the bars have been raised. You can’t just afford to let e-mail chug along. It’s about how to increase the personalization and timing, and how it integrates with other channels.”

The Acxiom survey was conducted at the end of September of this year among 2,541 adults.

The Responsys survey was conducted in October 2006 in conjunction with The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and surveyed approximately 300 US marketing executives.

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