Consumers Increasingly Hitting “This Is Spam” Button

Jan 18, 2006 8:16 PM  By

Rather than unsubscribing from the lists of e-mailers from whom they no longer want to hear, consumers say they have dramatically increased their use of the “this is spam” button, according to a recent survey by Return Path.

Almost 34% of consumers in a postholiday survey said they dealt with increased volume in their inboxes by reporting e-mail they no longer want as spam to their Internet service providers. This is up from 23.4% the previous year, according to the New York-based e-mail deliverability consultancy.

“This is not good news for marketers,” says Stephanie Miller, Return Path’s vice president, strategic services. “It’s really easy to report somebody as junk or spam, so the bar is higher for marketers to be really relevant.”

Being reported as spam increases the likelihood that a company’s e-mail will be filtered, whether it is permission-based or not. According to Miller, seven complaints per 1,000 e-mails can get a sender blocked from AOL’s servers. “That’s less than 1% and you can get blocked,” she says.

Miller says that obviously relevancy varies from person to person but that “marketers need to use the data they have in order to make better decisions about what to send and when to send it.”

She also warns against abusing permission: “If you’re sending an expectation that you’re going to send a weekly e-mail, and then suddenly during the holidays you start sending a daily e-mail, you’re very likely going to get reported as a spammer.”

In other findings, consumers’ past experience with the sender is by far the number-one influencer over whether they’ll open an e-mail, according to Return Path. More than 60% of the consumers surveyed said that knowing and trusting the sender was a key factor in determining if they would open an e-mail. Also, 48% of those surveyed said they opened electronic communications from companies that had previously sent e-mail they thought was valuable.

Just over half of those surveyed said they took advantage of e-mail offers during the holidays.