January 18, 2011, 2:43 PM

A new world of e-mail address confusion

Facebook Messages will make life harder for marketers, a report predicts.

Lead Photo

Confusion about e-mail addresses promises to increase with a new feature from Facebook that melds text messages, instant messaging and e-mail, according to a new report from The Relevancy Group. Facebook Inc. in November announced the slow rollout of the service, called Facebook Messages.

A consumer who uses Facebook messages as his primary e-mail account would change their address to an @facebook.com address. Consumers’ changing their e-mail addresses is not a new phenomenon. In fact, last year 30% of consumers created or switched their e-mail address, Relevancy says.

But the group’s report, entitled “The Social Inbox: The Impact of Facebook Messages on Email Marketing,” found that 46% of consumers say they plan to sign up for a Facebook e-mail address. Moreover, 9% say they will use the Facebook address as their primary e-mail account. Those numbers are even more skewed for consumers 46 and younger. Relevancy based its finding on 1,001 survey respondents.

Because the because the number of e-mail accounts is set to rise, that means e-mail marketers will have to monitor who is actually responding to their messages to avoid sending marketing e-mail to dormant accounts, says David Daniels, The Relevancy Group’s CEO. Even before the Facebook Messages rollout, 32% of marketers cited e-mail churn as their largest challenge.

“It will be a challenge to continue to engage with your audience,” he says.

That means retailers will have to use a variety of metrics to identify which audience segments are regularly opening e-mail and clicking on the offers, and which may be showing signs of churn. Marketers also should use make sure that every consumer-facing part of the organization, such as bricks-and-mortar store locations and call centers, are collecting and confirming subscribers’ e-mail addresses.

Facebook Messages will provide consumers with two main messaging folders, and the main folder—the one consumers are most likely to check—will only contain communications from Facebook friends or friends of friends. All other messages, including retailers’ e-mail marketing messages, will be grouped in an Other folder, unless the consumer designates a retailer as a friend by clicking she Likes the merchant. That means retailers will have to find ways to motivate consumers to click that they Like the retailers’ brands, says Daniels.

“It’s important that retailers give consumers a reason to Like the brand, such as Facebook-exclusive discounts, that is a call to action,” he says.  

Consumers’ shift to Facebook Messages could also reduce the amount of time consumers spend checking their e-mail accounts—even if they continue to maintain a different primary account, the report adds. Even if consumers use their Facebook e-mail address solely for personal communications, that likely means they will spend more time checking that account and less time checking their secondary account, which may lower response rates to retailers’ e-mail marketing campaigns. 

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