September 26, 2013, 12:06 PM

Marketers are taking a friendlier approach in e-mail campaign

They’re sending more welcome messages and making it easier to sign up for e-mails.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

More welcome messages, fewer immediate deals and a more simplified sign-up process are some of the biggest changes marketers have made to their e-mail marketing campaigns over the past five years, according to a new study from e-mail services provider Return Path.

One of the biggest differences that have emerged since 2008 is in the amount of welcome messages marketers have sent. In 2013, 80% of brands sent consumers who signed up for e-mail a welcome message, compared to 40% in 2008.  However, despite a friendly hello message, fewer brands (39%) this year included a deal or offer in their welcome message than in 2008 (65%).

Brands also seem to be attempting to make the sign-up process easier and faster, the report says. 33% of brands this year only require a subscriber’s e-mail address to sign up for an e-mail marketing program, compared to 13% in 2008.

To conduct its study of how e-mail campaigns have changed in the last several years, Return Path in February 2008 subscribed to 61 e-mail marketing programs from retailers, consumer brands, and travel companies. In August 2008, after monitoring the messages, Return Path unsubscribed from 45 of the programs to chart the procedures and communications during the process. In June 2013 it then subscribed to 76 programs, including as many of the original programs as possible and a number of others in the retail, consumer brand, and travel industries. After monitoring messages from each of those programs, the company unsubscribed in August 2013 to compare the experience to the original study.

While unsubscribing from a brand’s e-mail marketing program was relatively straightforward in 2008, and most brands ceased communication quickly, the process is even simpler and faster now, Return Path found. Nearly every mailer stopped sending messages within the Can-Spam Act’s 10-day window, but unlike 2008, virtually none sent a final plea for continued subscription. Instead many now offer unsubscribe alternatives like changing the frequency of e-mail received or changing message types through preference centers. Furthermore, 22% of marketers this year asked consumers who had unsubscribed for feedback about why they asked to no longer receive e-mail, something only two marketers did in 2008. The Can-Spam law, which was enacted in 2004, regulates the use of commercial e-mail with such rules as requiring marketers to provide recipients with an easy way to opt out of e-mails.

Brands included in both the 2008 and 2013 analysis include Best Buy Co., No. 11 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide,  Target Corp. No. 18 and Crate & Barrel, No. 68.

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