Studies: Holiday Joy for E-Mail Marketers

Online and offline brands might do well to keep e-mail marketing in mind during the holiday season, as the belief that the channel drives an immediate and quantifiable return on investment gets a boost from several new studies.

A survey of more than 1,000 Web users, conducted by New York-based DoubleClick and pollster NFO WorldGroup, found that the majority — 70 percent — plan to use e-mail in their holiday shopping. That fact suggests a major opportunity for marketers, since the same study also found that a whopping 88 percent of those polled have made a purchase as a result of permission-based e-mail.

Eighty-two percent of respondents in the DoubleClick study said they’ve clicked on an opt-in e-mail during the past year and ultimately, made a purchase because of that e-mail. That figure is 21 percent higher than e-mail marketer FloNetworks (since acquired by DoubleClick) recorded a year earlier.

Additionally, 37 percent of shoppers clicked through and made a purchase immediately, up from 20 percent last year, according to the findings.

Should marketers ensure that their messages are relevant and adhere to consumer preferences, they might be paving the way for continued industry growth. Jupiter Media Metrix concluded in a recent study that e-mail marketing spending could reach $9.4 billion in 2006, up from $1 billion in 2001. Spending on CRM e-mail campaigns will grow from $580 million in 2001 to $4.7 billion in 2006, it said.

Evidently, e-mail marketing’s apparent success owes a lot to the timeliness and relevancy of its messaging. According to Jupiter, 34 percent of consumers — the largest group of respondents — said they’d prefer to receive weekly, time-sensitive e-mail updates on special discounts and promotions.

Similarly, DoubleClick/NFO reported that a majority (77 percent) of its respondents either currently receive or would be amenable to receiving special offer e-mails from online merchants. About 65 percent said they’d feel the same for offline retailers or restaurants.

Consumer relationships continue to be a major factor in making the sale, with 86 percent of respondents saying they purchased from the same merchant more than once — up 3 percent from last year, according to NFO.

Yet despite the promising news, the boogiemen of overexposure and abuse continue to threaten e-mail marketing’s immediate prospects, the studies found. According to DoubleClick, Internet users currently receive twice as much weekly opt-in e-mail, compared to what they were receiving in 2000, averaging 36 e-mails per week this year, compared to 18 last year.

Similarly, Jupiter predicts that users will receive about 1,465 e-mail messages this year, about 40 percent of which are spam. That number of total e-mails received is expected to continue booming through 2006, when consumers are expected to receive 4,116 e-mails on average — 1,479 of which will be spam.

DoubleClick said fears regarding spam and information misuse contributed to 88 percent of respondents saying they had reservations about providing personal information and credit cards online.

One way that Jupiter recommends getting around such worries is by using a double opt-in method of confirming consumers want to receive e-mail marketing.

“To customers, there’s a fine line between spam e-mail and acquisition e-mail,” read the Jupiter report, penned by lead analyst Jared Blank and others. “Though list managers have noted that some customers said it is annoying to receive the double opt-in message (believing that the single opt-in should be sufficient), Jupiter feels that consumer privacy is best served using the double opt-in method.”

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