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DoubleClick: E-Mail Aided E-Commerce Holidays

The growth of e-commerce this past holiday season was helped by e-mail marketing messages, according to a new report from DoubleClick .

The marketing technology company's fourth-quarter e-mail trends report highlights the role that e-mail marketing programs played in driving a successful holiday season for retailers and catalogers. The report, based on data gleaned from about 2 billion e-mails sent via DoubleClick's DARTmail system, found that open rates and click-through rates both increased for e-commerce e-mail campaigns in the quarter.

"While overall spending was down this holiday season, results from retailers and catalogers revealed that the online channel had had a relatively good season," said Eric Kirby, vice president of strategic services at DoubleClick. "What the Q4 trend report shows, for the first time, is the role that e-mail played in contributing to the successful online holiday season."

E-commerce showed strong growth this holiday season, which was marked by generally weak sales due to the sluggish economy and uncertainty caused by the looming war with Iraq. Despite these jitters, BizRate reported 40 percent growth in e-commerce during the fourth quarter to top $17.4 billion.

While open rates overall decreased 2.5 percent from the previous quarter, retailer and catalogers saw rates increase 12 percent to 38 percent. Likewise, overall click-through rates declined 6 percent from the third quarter, but retail and catalog-related e-mail rates increased 3 percent to 7.1 percent.

In other categories, travel continued to enjoy the highest open rates at 41 percent, but the industry also saw the largest decline in the quarter, as consumers cut back on travel for economic reasons and fears of terrorism.

Overall, the e-mail industry held its own, with bounce rates down slightly at 10.5 percent and click-through rates also down a bit at 8 percent.

Of bounced e-mails, 53 percent were caused by full in-boxes or server outages, while 47 percent were from bad or non-existent addresses. DoubleClick has highlighted this as a major concern for marketers, as consumers' e-mail boxes are deluged with spam.

Like last quarter, HTML e-mail continued to trump its text cousin. Click-through rates for HTML e-mails, at 11.2 percent, were nearly twice that of text. Text e-mail click-through rates continued to decline, falling from 7.1 percent in the second quarter to 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter, while HTML's kept rising. Not surprisingly, e-mail marketers have turned from text e-mail messages, which made up just 19 percent of marketing messages in the fourth quarter.