February 6, 2003, 12:00 AM

Online merchants often off the mark with e-mail marketing, eMarketer says

35% of online merchants send e-mail marketing messages to consumers without having secured their permission. eMarketer reports.


There`s nothing like e-mail for efficient and targeted large-scale marketing to consumers, but there`s also nothing like e-mail marketing to get merchants in trouble with their targeted customers, researchers eMarketer Inc. says in its recently released Privacy in the Information Age report.

EMarketer notes that consumers prefer e-mail marketing practices that give them clear control over subscribing to e-mail programs and that provide an explicit policy on not sharing e-mail addresses with other marketers. More than 75% of consumers prefer permission-based e-mail as a method of contact with online merchants, it adds. It also notes that among best-in-class e-marketers (those recognized as being successful in marketing their products) the largest percentage, 72%, send e-mail only to consumers who have granted permission to send it.

But eMarketer also points out that 35% of online merchants send e-mail marketing messages to consumers without having secured their permission. It notes that 25% of these e-mails go to consumers with an option for them to opt-out and that 10% simply go without permission and without an opt-out button.

"That large slice of companies that ignore privacy concerns is a shame, since far above any other channel, permission-based e-mail is how U.S. consumers want to be contacted by online merchants," eMarketer says in the report.

Even with permission-based e-mail marketing, however, there are problems regarding the clarity, context and frequency of messages, eMarketer says. Some marketers annoy consumers by mixing opt-in and opt-out policies. And though 45% of best-in-class marketers have policies designed to assure that the context of e-mail is relevant to recipients, only 33% of companies in general do the same.

EMarketer bases these findings on its analysis of research by Quris/Executive Summary Consulting, IMT Strategies, Association for Interactive Marketing, and DoubleClick.


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