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North Americans and Europeans are much more likely to use email as their primary form of communication than those in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, where instant messaging is more popular, according to a global email study from Epsilon.

The Global Consumer Email study found that respondents in 13 countries use various communication tools and respond to permission-based email (PBE) in different ways based on their country of origin.

Though the largest percentage of emails received are reported to be spam,? email remains a mainstay communication and is being used on an increasing number of devices, Epsilon found that North American (87%) and European (74%) respondents are more likely than their peers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region (58%) to use email as their primary online communications tool.

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In APAC, instant messaging use is notably high, with 28% using it as their main form of communication.

Texting/SMS and social networking use remains consistently low across all regions.

Email Replaces Other Channels

Email is also replacing other channels of communication, especially from certain types of organizations, the study found. More than one-third of respondents have replaced traditional channels in favor of email for communications from banks (40%), promotional postal mail (38%) and telemarketing (34%). There also is a desire for email to continue to displace offline coupons (14%) and telemarketing (28%).

Moreover, permission-based emails (PBEs) are more likely to elicit actions from APAC respondents, including clicking on a website, signing up for more information, watching a video clip, clicking on an advertised link or purchasing online or off-line.

APAC also leads in reported usage of a PDA or smartphone for email with 32%, significantly more than North America (9%) and Europe (7%),? Epsilon said.

Need for Multi-Channel Strategies

The survey found that consumers continue to take a variety of offline actions as a result of email communications, including visiting a store (49%) and purchasing by phone (25%) or catalog (25%) which reinforces the need for marketers to implement a multi-channel strategy, Epsilon said.

Six out of 10 (59%) APAC consumers report making an offline purchase as a result of email communications, followed by North America (53%) and EMEA (37%).

“This research demonstrates that the email channel does not exist in isolation from other online and offline channels,” said Andrew Frawley, president, Email and Digital Solutions at Epsilon. “Organizations must integrate these email best practices with communications in other channels to deliver the highest ROI programs.”

‘Subject’ vs. ‘From Lines’

Another notable difference by region lies in what compels consumers to open a permission-based email. While half of APAC respondents feel that subject lines are the most compelling feature, more than two-thirds of North American and European respondents say it is the “from” line. Additionally, discount offers, free product offers, familiar brand names and personalization of subject lines increase the likelihood of opening among all respondents.

This, Epsilon said, reinforces the need for individual targeting, timely/trigger delivery and relevant content.

Additional study findings:

  • Spam is the most common type of email received by respondents in all regions.? Other types of emails include retail offers, work-related emails, emails related to personal interests, emails from friends and family, business newsletters and account statements.

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  • Respondents say security concerns and a lack of attractive offers/promotions are the primary reasons they do not interact with the emails they receive.
  • North American respondents are the most likely to unsubscribe to emails; Irrelevant content and frequency are cited as the two most likely reasons for un-subscription;
  • About eight in 10 North American respondents have added PBE addresses to safe sender lists. Overall, more than half of respondents have added PBE addresses to safe sender lists.
  • Respondents are most concerned about viruses, identity theft, phishing, and scams. Concerns about phishing and pharming have increased significantly from 2005 to 2009 for US respondents.
  • While most consumers manage one primary inbox for the programs they subscribe to, mobile phones and PDAs are gaining popularity for time-sensitive alerts such as news, weather and finance/stock information.
  • The highest percentages of respondents in all regions say they prefer to receive emails in HTML format, while those in APAC are most likely to say they have no preference:

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“These findings reinforce the need for marketers to speak to consumers in a two-way dialogue, with respect for their stated preferences and recognition of past interactions,” said Kevin Mabley, SVP of Strategic Services at Epsilon. “Further, what works in Japan may not apply in Canada, thus knowledge of local marketplace trends is crucial and testing each strategy and program will provide confirmation of what’s working.”

About the study: The study, which was conducted by ROI Research, is based on an April 2009 survey of over 4,000 consumers in 13 countries, including the US, Canada, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Malaysia, Japan, the UK, France, Germany and Spain. The study builds on similar research conducted in the US from 2002-2005 and the Asia-Pacific region in 2008.

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