It appears that marketers must walk a tightrope when it comes to email: they need to use it as consumers’ preferred communications channel, but they also need to be careful not to abuse it by sending too many messages. According to results from a Lyris-sponsored Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) [pdf] study of consumers in the US and UK, an overwhelming 80% said that one of their top 2 frustrations about companies’ use of online communications was too many unwanted email messages. But, when asked how they prefer to be introduced to a new consumer product (other than through mass-market advertising), respondents pointed to email first.
Specifically, given a list of ways in which to initially learn about consumer products and asked to select their top 3, consumers chose email (37%) first, followed by printed catalogs (35%), personal referrals (33%), and referrals by a trusted website (30%).
Email was one of the 3 least preferred options for only 11% of respondents, with the telephone (64%) easily capturing that dubious distinction. Interestingly, 3rd-party social media sites and/or blogs (as opposed to company ones) were most preferred by only 18% while least preferred by 38%, second only to the phone call.
When it comes to the final assessment at the time of purchase, personal referrals (36%) and referrals by a trusted website (33%) take the lead from email (30%) as the most preferred sources of communication, with the phone call (59%) and 3rd party social sites (34%) again topping the least-preferred rankings, with mobile devices (text messages, etc.) next in line.
Finally, email clearly takes the lead in consumers’ channel preference post-purchase (52%), with the same rankings holding for the least preferred methods.
The results illustrate that email remains atop the various communication channels at various stages of the purchase cycle. And yet, consumers want to have their proverbial cake and eat it too: when asked to select their top 3 annoyances about online marketing channels when they are trying to learn about consumer products, 56% of consumers chose the option detailing that the volume of marketing email they receive is too much for them to read. That was the second leading frustration behind “expert” product reviews that are influenced by advertisers (59%).
About the Data: The survey was conducted in March 2013 among 409 consumers.