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Online Consumers Vastly Prefer Email for Direct Marketing Messages

by MarketingCharts staff
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The preference for email appears to be global, at least when the channel is stacked up against SMS: data from survey results released in March 2012 by Ipsos indicates that three-quarters of consumers worldwide prefer receiving offers via email rather than text.

And according to ExactTarget, email’s dominance as a preferred channel for direct marketing messages appears to be on the rise, growing 7% from 72% of respondents in 2008, while preference for direct mail promotions has plummeted from 26% to 9% in the same period.

This finding conflicts somewhat with survey results released in December 2011 by Epsilon Targeting, which found that almost 3 in 5 American consumers report that they enjoy getting postal mail from brands about new products, compared to just 43% who say they enjoy getting emails from brands on new products.

Email Tops for Personal Communications, Too

Email is not just a preferred marketing channel, either, finds ExactTarget. In fact, when consumers were asked which channels they used most frequently for personal written communications, a plurality chose email (45%), ahead of text messages (36%), and posting messages on Facebook (12%). Indeed, 91% of respondents said they use email at least daily, compared to 57% who responded that way about Facebook and text messages.

Even so, the proportion choosing email as their most frequent personal written communication device has dropped almost one-third from 66% in 2008. In that time span, the popularity of text messages has more than doubled from 16% to 36%, while social networks have more than quadrupled in popularity, from 3% to 13%.

Confirmation, Alert Messages Most Acceptable

Data from the “2012 Channel Preference Survey” indicates that when combining all direct marketing channels, confirmation, “Thank You,” or purchase receipt for transaction messages are most accepted by consumers, with an average rating of 4.5 on a 5-point scale (with 5 being completely acceptable, and 1 being completely unacceptable). Financial alerts from banks and financial institutions are next, at 3.2, followed by travel alerts, at 3.1. Promotional messages from companies whom respondents have granted permission to send ongoing information are further down the list, at an average rating of 2.9.

When receiving these messages via email, though, consumers appear to find them much more acceptable. For example, they rate promotional messages an average of 4 through this channel, compared to the overall average of 2.9 across all channels. Similarly, customer service messages are more acceptable on email than through the overall average (3.6 vs. 2.7), as are polls, surveys, or questionnaires related to a company’s products or services (also 3.6 vs. 2.7).

Other Findings:

  • When asked what channels they are using to share content with their friends and family, most respondents chose sending an email (63%), ahead of posting it on Facebook (33%) and calling them on the phone (29%).
  • Teenagers (15-17) are much more likely than even slightly older respondents (18-24) to prefer receiving marketing messages via Twitter (4% vs. 1%) and to share via Twitter (17% vs. 5%).

About the Data: A total of 1,481 online consumers completed the ExactTarget survey between January 27, 2012, and February 1, 2012. For data concerning consumers 15-17 years of age, an invitation was first sent to parents with teen-aged children living in the home, requesting permission for their child’s participation in the survey.

The Ipsos results are based on a survey of 12,500 respondents worldwide.