May 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Consumers send a message: They want more control of their e-mail inboxes

88% of consumers want more say in the content and frequency of e-mails they receive, and 80% prefer doing business with companies that only e-mail those who opt in, according to a survey by Ipsos for online reputation management firm Habeas.

Consumers like e-mail, but they want more control over what they receive and are more concerned than ever about the potential for fraud, according to a survey by Ipsos for online reputation management firm Habeas Inc.

67% prefer e-mail over other communications channels and 65% expect that will still be the case in five years. Even among those 18 to 34, the demographic most comfortable with text messaging via mobile phones, 65% say they will want to use e-mail to communicate with businesses five years from now. 19% said they expect video conferencing will be an important communications channel, 17% instant messaging, 17% text messaging and 12% web-based meetings.

But 69% expressed concern about being victimized by e-mail fraud scams, up from 62% last year, and as many as 35% do know what to look for to determine if an e-mail is a threat. 43% are worried about spam and the virus threat to mobile devices, up from 36% last year, a sign of the growing use of mobile e-mail and Internet-enabled phones, Habeas says.

More than 88% of respondents say they would like more control over the content and frequency of e-mails they receive from businesses, and more than 80% prefer doing business with companies that only e-mail those who opt in. Three of four respondents prefer organizations with strong privacy policies, and only 12% say they have made a purchase from a business they did not know.

Consumers expressed a strong preference for companies that respect their privacy, with 80% saying they are not comfortable with businesses sharing their e-mail addresses. And more than 80% feel sharing customer e-mail addresses with others negatively affects a company’s reputation.

"Far from being eclipsed by Web 2.0 and other emerging communications methods, consumer expectations suggest that email will be the workhorse channel around which future online communications will revolve," says Des Cahill, CEO of Habeas. "Organizations that build trust with consumers by implementing forward-looking online reputation management strategies will differentiate themselves and gain a long-term competitive advantage by establishing themselves as a trusted online brand."

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