February 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

Consumers help ensure delivery of relevant e-mail, survey shows

Marketers frequently ask that they be added to consumers’ e-mail address books to ensure future e-mail is delivered, and consumers increasingly are complying. 53% of e-mail users surveyed say they have added at least one company to their address book.

While many consumers are weary of receiving irrelevant e-mail, a new survey by database marketing company Merkle shows consumers value e-mail that’s of interest to them, and will take steps to make sure it arrives in their inbox.

53% of consumers who have opted in to receive commercial e-mail say they have added at least one company to their address book. And consumers in this group add to their address book 25% of the companies sending them permission-based e-mail, according to the “View from the Inbox 2009” report, the seventh annual Merkle study of consumer attitudes and e-mail usage. The average e-mail subscriber now regularly opens e-mail from 10 companies, up from nine in last year’s study.

The study also shows consumers are spending a bigger share of their e-mail time with commercial e-mails they’ve chosen to receive-26% of their e-mail time in this year’s study versus 21% last year. And only 9% of this year’s respondents say they spend no time with permission-based e-mail compared with 12% last year.

The key to getting consumers to open commercial e-mail remains sending messages they value, and not overdoing it. The main reason consumers opt out of receiving permission-based e-mail is perceived irrelevance, cited by 75% of respondents, followed by sending too frequently, cited by 73%. 44% of respondents say they receive too much promotional e-mail, and recipients say they delete 55% of such e-mail without opening it.

The proliferation of e-mail has made consumers more wary about signing up to receive it. 52% of respondents say they are less willing to opt in than they were a few years ago. “Now more than ever, marketers need to ‘sell’ the value of their e-mail program to prospects and follow through with quality, targeted content versus a barrage of promotional e-mails,” says the report, written by Lori Connolly, director of research and analytics in the Interactive Solutions Group at Merkle.

11% of consumers say they check e-mail on a mobile device, up from 10% last year. But these consumers use those mobile phones and hand-held computers to check 16% of their e-mail. “This adoption will impact how quickly marketers optimize that content for mobile devices,” the report says.

The report is based on a survey of 2,505 U.S. adults who use e-mail at least once a week. It was conducted in August and September by Harris Interactive.

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