Study: E-mail Efforts Can Impact Brand

Conventional wisdom places a company’s email communications within the realm of direct marketing, but the channel also has an important effect on how consumers view the sender’s brand, according to findings by Executive Summary Consulting and Quris.

In research funded by Quris, a Denver, Colo.-based email marketing provider, Greenfield Online surveyed about 1,250 frequent email users and found that 56 percent felt the quality of permission-based email communications influences their opinion of the sender.

The survey also found that 67 percent of the respondents said they had a favorable impression of companies they believed conducted well-run email programs. Additionally, 58 percent said they usually open messages from those senders, and 54 percent said they prefer those companies to rivals.

“Direct response people have very little respect for the brand argument, but we found a close correlation,” said Executive Summary principal Rick Bruner. “People are more likely to click if they hold the brand value of email in high regard.”

“First-time trial — sure, that’s the direct marketing realm of things, but when you get further down to establishing preference, loyalty, and evangelism … that’s something that gets farther away from what you’re able to do with traditional direct marketing techniques,” he added. “It’s further down on that spectrum of interactions that make up the brand experience, where we think that email is most effective in terms of driving repeat business.”

On the other hand, running a shoddy email marketing or CRM program could spur a backlash. The hurdles are even higher for well-known brands, since the study found that two-thirds of the respondents have higher expectations for email programs run by bigger brands.

“Clearly, the world of direct marketing is very effective and has its place,” Bruner said. “But to believe that every business transaction is motivated by an impulsive call to action is not the way that we act as consumers all the time.”

Keeping consumers satisfied with their email communications has an additional benefit, according to the study. The findings indicate that consumers who are long-time recipients of permission email programs tend to shop online more frequently, to click on emails often, and to say that the mailings impact their perceptions of the sender’s brand.

Respondents in the survey also said they most highly value customer service emails, confirmations, and customized newsletters. Respondents’ least-favorite mailings included one-off promotional campaigns, contests, and mail from rented third-party lists.

“People really value personal email services,” Bruner added. “In ‘batch and blast’ campaigns, yes, we opt in to these kinds of programs, but unless there’s real value to subscribers … consumers aren’t going to open.”

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