March 24, 2015

Email Marketing Research Chart: Why subscribers flag email as spam


Customers have the upper hand over email marketers.

After all, with the single push of a button — flagging your email as spam — they affect your ability to send email to potential customers who want to receive it. Stop to think about how revolutionary this is. Customers can't control who sees your print advertising or direct mail, but they can influence if other customers see your email marketing.

Read on to discover why 472 surveyed email subscribers mark email as spam in this MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week.

by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

From March 2-4, 2015, TechnologyAdvice Research asked 472 U.S. adults:

Q: For what reasons have you marked a business' emails as spam?

View Chart Online



Click here to see a printable version of this chart


These 472 respondents are a subset of the survey's total of 1,358 U.S. adults who had indicated they regularly or sometimes read marketing emails.





Almost half mark email as spam because they are emailed too often

Sending frequency is a difficult thing to get just right. According to recent MarketingSherpa research, 86% of U.S. adults would like to receive promo emails at least monthly, but 15% would like to receive promotional emails every day.

What this data indicates is that there is no one right answer to how often you should send emails to your audience. You need to test to find the right frequency for your list.

"If marketers are adhering to inbound principles, then sending frequency is a matter of testing," advised Zach Watson, Content Manager, TechnologyAdvice. "The standard is often once or twice a week, but that may be too much for some lists — and too little for others. Testing and observation are required."

In doing so, you may find that there are segments of your audience that want your email at different frequencies. The point being, that while there isn't one correct email frequency for every brand's email list, there likely isn't even only one correct frequency for your specific brand's entire email list either.

"The truth is, there is no 'right amount' of email to send. Frequency always depends on your audience and your message. Do you have something new or fresh to say or just a new way to sell the same thing?" James Koons, Chief Privacy Officer, Listrak said.

"I always say the only real way to know what's right for your organization is to test sending more frequent emails to a test segment of your list. A spike in unsubscribes can be a good indicator that your audience thinks you're sending too much," Koons added.

In addition to testing, you could segment by looking at engagement data with your emails and increasing or decreasing the amount of emails that specific segments of subscribers receive based on how frequently they interact with your email.

Far easier, simply ask customers how frequently they want to receive your email when they subscribe, or create a preference center where subscribers can change email frequency at any time.





Almost a third of people flagged email as spam because they didn't purposefully subscribe

Some brands subscribe people to their email automatically when they enter a sweepstakes, download a whitepaper, purchase a product or conduct some other activity that requires an email address.

"I see this a lot with what some refer to as the 'force subscribe' — automatic subscription after an online purchase," Koons said. "The typical example here is a consumer makes a one-time gift purchase (think middle-aged man buying clothing for their teenage daughter). They then are 'force subscribed' and start receiving ads for sweatpants with the word 'juicy' across the backside."

It is fair to ask for a subscription to your email list or newsletter when you're providing a premium incentive — like content, a discount or a sweepstakes entry. Just make sure people know they are subscribing to your list.

Some brands use italicized mice type at the bottom of the signup form. In addition to the possibility that this doesn't comply with some nations' regulations, customers don't always know they are subscribing.

A better practice is to have an opt-in checkbox. If potential customers must subscribe to your email list to complete the form, just make sure an error message pops up if they fail to check the box.

Similarly, if you have a pop-over box requesting email sign-up that prevents customers from accessing your website, make sure they can easily close the box without subscribing, if they so choose.

If it's an email you capture as part of a purchase, put the customer in control.

"I make a first time purchase, [and] I get a welcome email — hopefully part of their welcome series. In that welcome email, I am asked to go to a preference center and let the company know what I like and/or asked to confirm my opting in to their email marketing. I can either opt-out, opt-down or provide enough information so that I actually get relevant emails from them," Koons said. "Consumers love choice, so put them in control here."





Almost 20% marked email as spam for another reason

In the survey, 18.6% of customers responded "none of the above."

My guess is that many of these customers couldn't find a clear way to unsubscribe from the email. According to MarketingSherpa research, only 62% of organizations provide an easy unsubscribe process.

If it is easier to click "spam" than it is to unsubscribe from your emails, many people will flag your emails as spam. Similarly, if subscribers need to remember a username and password to log into an account to get the privilege of unsubscribing, you are increasing the likelihood disgruntled subscribers will mark your email as spam.

Most customers make split-second decisions in email and will choose the path of least resistance.





You might also like

Subscribe to MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week — Receive the latest data and insights to help you serve customers better

Email Research Chart: How often customers want to receive promotional emails

Five Keys to Crafting Effective Marketing Emails (by Zach Watson of TechnologyAdvice)

Marketing Research Chart: What marketers are doing … and what they should be doing

Email Marketing: Business voice system provider increases lead response rate by 100%

Average Email Marketing List Size Growing by 40% Per Year: Four Steps to Optimize Response

Email Deliverability: 9 lessons about Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation












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