Consumers Hate Spam, But Still Love Email (Sometimes)

Posted by Stephanie Miller on

Email is so important to subscribers that the rising volume of spam really doesn’t bother them so much. Really.

This according to a May report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project — simply named, “Spam” — 37% of email users said spam had increased in their personal email accounts, up from 28% of email users who said that two years ago. And 29% of work email users said spam had increased in their work email accounts, up from 21% two years ago. Yet fewer people say spam is “a big problem” for them.

This is very consistent with consumer research from Return Path — in fact, consumers are pretty good at managing their inboxes using sophisticated tools and practices. They know what they like – and they are quick to delete or complain about email they don’t like.

So while the rising tide of spam has not become a significant deterrent to the use of email, as is often speculated, it certainly does continue to degrade the integrity of email overall — and make it harder for legitimate, permission marketers to reach the inbox. According to the study, some 55 percent of email users say they have lost trust in email because of spam.

We all battle this out every day as we try to create relevant and compelling messages and preserve the revenue growth of this channel. This study also points to the importance of keeping permission fresh. It’s not enough to have a permission grant that is two years old, if that subscriber has long since stopped reading and responding to your messages. While you may not need to demand another opt-in click, be sure to run regular re-activation campaigns (we recommend every 90 days at least, but perhaps more frequently depending on your business) to encourage subscribers to visit your preference center. Letting subscribers select the type of information and promotions (and frequency) that is most relevant to them will not only help you sell them more, but will also help keep them engaged longer. Plus, it’s just good customer service to inquire why they don’t find your current email valuable enough to open and click.

At the end of the day, the only thing that trumps inbox overflow is relevancy. When there is more spam and junk in the inbox than interesting email (and remember, “interesting” is defined by the subscriber, not the sender), then we all lose.


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