Study: Visual Authenticity Icons Double E-Mail Opens

E-mail users in a recent study were twice as likely to open a message marked with a visual icon indicating its authenticity as compared to an unmarked message. The research from Iconix, an email identification company, supports the firm’s own solution, but also lends credence to approaches by others, including AOL and Yahoo.

Iconix came to its conclusions by observing 15,000 users of its Iconix Truemark service, which requires that users download and install a program, between December 2005 and June 2006.

Though showing a visual icon more than doubled open rates on average, the company found the icons had an especially significant affect on emails from online auction companies, boosting the open rate by 404 percent. This may be due to the fact auction players such as eBay are especially frequent targets for phishers.

The next few categories that saw a dramatic increase include e-cards (192 percent); travel services (189 percent); social networks (115 percent); and dating sites (107 percent). Other types of companies that are often phishing targets, financial institutions and online payment services, saw 70 percent and 68 percent increases, respectively.

The least impacted were online retail, at a 40 percent increase, and news/information services, with a 26 percent increase.

“End-users take safety more seriously when it involves personal interaction and the exchange of personal information, as opposed to receiving a daily news service,” Jeff Wilbur, vice president of marketing for ICONIX, explained in a statement.

Besides Iconix, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft are experimenting with ways to authenticate email and indicate to the end user that the message can be trusted. Iconix’s solution, first introduced last year, requires that users download and install software, but it works across a number of Web-based email clients.

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