E-mailers Starving for Customer Data

Dec 06, 2006 8:16 PM  By

(Magilla Marketing) Ten years after embracing permission-based list building—albeit, often at gunpoint— mainstream marketers are still starving for data on their e-mail customer files, according to a new survey.

Thirty-four percent of 422 e-mail marketers surveyed by JupiterResearch on behalf of e-mail service provider Silverpop said a lack of customer data is the number-one challenge they face in their e-mail marketing programs.

Ironically, the permission aspect of e-mail marketing is probably a significant part of the reason customer data on e-mail addresses are so scarce.

“The point of opt-in is a delicate time in the relationship between the sender and recipient. It’s easy to scare off a potential subscriber with a long laundry list of questions about their habits and personal information,” says Elaine O’Gorman, vice president of strategy for Silverpop. “Most sophisticated marketers test their opt-in forms religiously to maximize this balance, and we’ve seen opt-in rates literally double by, for instance, eliminating a single question in a form.”

O’Gorman says marketers are increasingly turning to alternative data-collection methods after getting people to opt in to e-mail programs. “We’re seeing a lot more use of surveys and polls, for instance, to help fill in sparsely populated data fields,” she says.

O’Gorman adds that the complaint she hears most often from marketers about their e-mail programs is that they’re unable to match their e-mail data with other data sources from within their own companies—often due to a lack of management-information systems resources needed for such a project or lack of a common element in the data.

She also says that except for companies with an extremely strong background in traditional marketing, most companies do not use third-party data sources to augment their e-mail addresses. “There seems to be a feeling that e-mail data is different in some way from direct mail data, whether it’s because direct mail tends in many cases to be household-based or because e-mail marketers simply aren’t familiar or comfortable with the data matching services out there,” she notes.