Two articles recently have focussed on a survey performed by Q Interactive, which was published in Marketing Sherpa's Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2008. You can read the articles here and here. A couple of the key points they found were:
- Fifty-six percent of consumers consider marketing messages from known senders to be spam if the message is "just not interesting to me" and 50% consider "too frequent emails from companies I know" to be spam
- 31% of respondents said that they consider "emails that were once useful but aren't relevant anymore,” to be spam.
- 21% believe the 'report spam' button will notify the sender that the recipient did not find that specific email useful so the sender will "do a better job of mailing me" in the future.
- The survey also found that 43% of respondents do not use unsubscribe links in email and simply use the ISP's "report spam" button to unsubscribe from an advertiser's list.
The results of this survey confirm what most email marketers already know - consumers need to be educated as to what actually constitutes spam. However, there's more to it than that. The articles suggest that what is needed is for ISP's to offer more options to replace the 'report spam' button, such as 'unsubscribe' or 'undesired' button, so that the consumer can be more precise in conveying why they don't want to receive it anymore. Hotmail has already made a step towards this with their 'list-unsubscribe' tool, which many ESP's implemented late last year. These changes with the 'report spam' tools in turn, should also assist with educating the consumers as to what actually is spam.
Of course, this isn't ignoring one of the most crucial aspects of email marketing - which is marketers remembering why they are sending the emails, and therefore sending targeted and relevant emails to the consumer. This month's DMA Email Marketing Council's newsletter, Infobox, contains a great article by Jeanniey Mullens, EEC regarding this subject as well as an article by Stephanie Miller, Return Path which also touches on customer expectations. You can subscribe to receive Infobox here.
Hopefully, if the above suggestions are implemented by marketers, ISP's and consumers, then this should reduce the wrongful and inaccurate reporting of emails as being spam. If this type of inaccurate reporting by the consumer were to continue, then down the road they're bound to start complaining, as the false positives increase and the offers and emails they're eagerly waiting for don't arrive...little realising that much of the problem has been caused by themselves.
The education process needs to begin now. Marketers can begin clarifying their subscriber's expectations, ISP's can begin clarifying what their complaint procedures actually do and start to put in place more accurate spam reporting tools and consumers can learn and become aware of how hitting the 'report spam' button haphazardly, can and will impact them in the long run.