DMA: Marketers Meeting Web Opt-Out Guidelines

Early results from the Direct Marketing Association’s annual study of online
marketing indicates that most marketers meet its privacy guidelines —
though a spate of troubling findings lurk as well.

The State of the E-Commerce Industry Report 2001-2002, conducted by the
DMA and its Association of Interactive Marketing subsidiary, and slated for
release next month, suggests that almost all — 96 percent — of the
survey’s 700 respondents provide ways for consumers to opt-out of e-mail
campaigns.

Sixty percent of the respondents — which include both DMA members and
unaffiliated on- and offline marketers — also indicated that they don’t
rent third-party e-mail lists, while 74 percent said they never send
untargeted, mass e-mail campaigns to prospective customers.

The findings come just a month after DMA leadership introduced guidelines
designed to curb growing consumer distaste for commercial e-mail. In part,
the rules seek to encourage marketers to honor opt-out requests; to use
accurate subject lines; to clearly reveal their identity and contact
information; and to safeguard consumer data through regular list cleaning.

The rules apply only to DMA members — a fact that some have criticized
since hard-core spammers typically operate outside of the realm of
legitimate business organizations. Nevertheless, the New York-based trade
association said the study’s findings were positive.

“An e-mail campaign with the proper privacy and permission etiquette will
drive traffic to a store or Web site, add to a company’s bottom line, and
increase goodwill among customers,” said DMA President and Chief Executive
H. Robert Wientzen. “The continued growth of electronic commerce depends on
consumer trust. It is imperative that e-mail marketers take action by
placing greater emphasis on privacy and help build consumer confidence and
loyalty.”

Yet in spite of the DMA’s optimistic findings, the study also indicated
some serious flaws in the way that online and cross-channel marketers are
implementing their e-mail efforts.

For one thing, the survey found that 26 percent of online marketers send
e-mails to consumers that have never indicated that they might be a suitable
user of the company’s products or services — even by means such as visiting
or registering at a related Web site. Thus, these firms could be accused of
spamming, or at the very least, with contributing to growing consumer
annoyance with unwanted, unsolicited commercial e-mail.

Additionally, smaller companies are more likely to have a housefile with
e-mail addresses, with 65.5 percent saying they did. But only 44.9 percent
and 46.9 percent of medium and large companies, respectively, said they were
doing the same. That fact bodes poorly for efforts by online marketing
services players to encourage large firms to undertake cross-channel
marketing initiatives. Additionally, multi-channel direct campaigns are
widely believed to be more effective than offline-only efforts — suggesting
that the largest marketers are missing a significant opportunity.

Consumer marketers fare especially poorly in connecting offline campaigns
to online efforts. While 63.8 percent of business-to-business marketers
said they had a housefile containing e-mail addresses, only 37.8 percent of
consumer marketers reported having one.

Furthermore, only 35 percent of online or cross-channel marketers said
they perform merge/purge to compare their housefiles with rented third-party
lists — suggesting that there’s a good chance for duplicate mailings, or
even of mailing to opted-out consumers.

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