Spam: What Consumers Really Think

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1 From First Click to Lifetime Customer WHITE PAPER Spam: What Consumers Really Think Survey Finds Growing Anger; Advice for Avoiding Recipients Wrath

2 SPAM: WHAT CONSUMERS REALLY THINK Survey finds growing anger; advice for avoiding recipients wrath Your reputation as a sender is dinged every time a customer clicks the report spam button the link certain software programs provide users to complain when they receive unwanted . If you get too many complaints, Internet service providers are likely to block messages emanating from your sending IP address. And not just to those who complained, but to everyone on your list. Why Subscribers Click the Report Spam Button An interesting question engagement marketers might consider is how much recipients know about what actually happens when they click the spam button in their client. Do they report your messages as spam because they re angry? Because they don t trust you and your unsubscribe link? And do they realize that by hitting the spam button, they can cause others who want to receive your s to not be able to receive them? To find out why recipients report messages as spam and how much they know about what happens when they do, Silverpop commissioned an online survey of consumers. More than 400 consumers age 18 to 55 participated in Silverpop s Spam Survey, indicating what they think about spam and expressing considerable angst about receiving it. All questions allowed for multiple responses. When reaching the global inbox, marketers need to recognize that most other countries that have enacted -related laws do make it illegal to send commercial to someone who has not expressly consented to receive your communications. For example, the European Parliament passed a directive in 2002 stating that, It is justified to require that prior explicit consent of the recipients is obtained before such communications are addressed to them. 1 It s critical to know and understand the geographic profile of your customer base before formulating your opt-in strategy. Additionally, even if you re sending unsolicited to recipients in countries without legislation to prohibit it, most ISPs specifically ban the sending of unsolicited bulk . By sending , you implicitly are agreeing to their terms of service. In relation to , what does the term "spam" mean? Spam in the eye of the consumer I didn't subscribe to receive 52% In Silverpop s survey, 83 percent of respondents said they think spam is a serious problem. And they re pretty unhappy about it. Yet how recipients define spam differs dramatically from how many marketers do. In the Silverpop Spam Survey, while 52 percent of recipients said spam is they didn t subscribe to receive, 40 percent report messages as spam simply because they don t want to receive them anymore. And a highly irritable 35 percent of online users consider spam to be from any commercial entity rather than from an individual they personally know. Any commercial entity. Many legitimate marketers don t look at spam in quite that way. While it s true that you shouldn t people without their permission, in the United States it s not actually illegal to do so. Despite its name, the U.S. CAN- SPAM Act of 2003 does not actually outlaw unsolicited commercial . Rather, it attempts to regulate commercial by prohibiting subterfuge, such as using misleading subject lines or disguising a message s origins. I don't want to receive from any commercial entity 35% 40% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Despite more rigorous spam filters used by ISPs, corporations and individuals, spam volumes continue to increase, with spam now accounting for 90 percent to 95 percent of all sent. 2 Recipients certainly feel the effects of increased spam, and they re not happy about it. Consumers don t see spam leveling off Silverpop found that 27 percent of consumers said they re receiving a lot more spam this year than last, and the same percentage of respondents believe they re getting somewhat more spam, while 30 percent think they re getting about the same amount as they ve always received. Only 12 percent of consumers said they re getting somewhat less spam SILVPOP ( ) 2009 Copyright Silverpop. All rights reserved. The Silverpop logo is a registered trademark of Silverpop Systems Inc. 2

3 The growing amount of spam hitting inboxes and junk folders has had a serious impact on consumer behavior. Silverpop s Spam Survey found that 77 percent of consumers limit the number of s they opt in to receive even from companies they trust for fear of receiving more spam. Twenty-five percent have created multiple accounts, and 17 percent use throw-away addresses for contests or free downloads. Apparently some of those unaffected by spam don t bother reporting messages they don t want by hitting the spam button, because 22 percent of consumers say they ve never reported as spam. But do the math. That leaves 78 percent of consumers who have hit the spam button on their client. Clearly, there are more recipients irritated about spam than those that are simply ignoring and deleting it. Use throw-away addresses Have multiple accounts Limit registering for s What do you do to avoid receiving spam? 1 25% Why consumers hit the spam button In the survey, respondents were asked why they reported an as spam, and they could indicate multiple reasons. A clear majority (76 percent) said the messages they reported as spam were simply those they felt they had never registered to receive. They may very well have actually subscribed to receive the companies s, but don t remember doing so. Mistrust is another reason for reporting spam. Three out of 10 respondents to Silverpop s survey said they hit the spam button rather than the unsubscribe link because they think using the unsubscribe option will lead to getting more spam. The survey also found that 7 percent of recipients report s as spam simply because they receive too many messages from the company. While that seems like a small percentage, it doesn t take many spam complaints to get you blocked at many ISPs. Recipients care only about their inboxes not anyone else s Generally, a surprisingly high number of recipients don t understand the true impact of hitting the spam button. Nearly seven out of 10 consumers (68 percent) think that hitting the spam button means that, while the company may continue to send the s, their ISP will block them. Eight out of 10 consumers didn t know that hitting the spam button could result in all of that sender s s being blocked by ISPs, meaning that other people who want to receive s from that company wouldn t be able to. And when they were told that could indeed happen, most just didn t care. Nearly seven out of 10 respondents (67 percent) said that they would continue marking unwanted s as spam despite knowing that hitting the spam button could block senders s from reaching people who really want to receive them. 7 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% A lot less Somewhat less About the same Somewhat more A lot more Tactics to Reduce Spam Complaints While the difficulties of reaching the inbox grow ever more complex due to consumer apathy and concerns over spam, here are six simple tactics marketers can take to help improve deliverability and avoid being targeted as a spammer. 1. Don t delay sending messages after opt-in To avoid falling into the trap of recipients forgetting that they opted in to receive your messages, engagement marketers need to send subscribers a welcome message soon after they opt in. Once someone opts in to your program, send a message to reinforce your new relationship and remind them of the value they will receive for joining your program. According to a 2008 Silverpop analysis of America s top retailers, 35 percent failed to send any message at all within 30 days after registration no confirmation message, no welcome message, no product information or sales notice. 3 Not sending messages shortly after a subscriber opts in only serves to confuse a recipient. If someone has to wait more than a month to receive the first message from a sender, chances are higher that they ll have forgotten they even registered with the company, and they will hit the spam button to keep such messages from reaching their inbox in the future. Company sends too many s Subscribed but no longer interested Mistrust unsubscribe link Didn't subscribe to receive them 5% Are you receiving more or less spam this year compared to last? 12% Why do you report as spam? 30% % 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 76% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% To refresh people s memories and reinforce your relationship, include a statement in the footer area of your message such as, This mailing was sent to you because you asked for new product announcements from Company X. This will help remind the customer what he or she signed up for, and from whom SILVPOP ( ) 2009 Copyright Silverpop. All rights reserved. The Silverpop logo is a registered trademark of Silverpop Systems Inc. 3

4 2. Only send what they asked for Make sure your messages are relevant, and send only what subscribers have asked for. One way to ensure relevance is to offer preferences at opt-in so that subscribers can select the types of messages they are interested in. If subscribers opt in to receive your Best Practices newsletter, don t start suddenly sending them your pure product promotion s, unless they also clearly request them. Never assume subscribers will want to receive different content just because they already subscribe to your messages, or because you think they will like the new content once they see it. Sending content or promotions that are outside of what most subscribers would expect is likely to drive your spam complaint rate higher. Did you know that by hitting the spam button, you could cause from that company to not be delivered to others who registered for and want to receive its messages? My provider will block their messages from my inbox Company is notified to take me off their list to other subscribers may get blocked Company reported for breaking the law What do you think happens when you report an as spam by hitting the "This is spam" button in your program? 18% 18% 5. Make sure subscribers recognize your messages Research has shown that subscribers first look at the From line of an and then the subject line. Use a recognizable name, such as your brand or company name, in the From field. And resist the urge to use overly clever or tricky subject lines that could confuse or annoy recipients. 68% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 1 83% Yes No Also, keep your messages consistent with your overall brand image. If recipients suddenly begin to see s in their inbox with a drastically unfamiliar look and feel, they may quickly delete them or report them as spam without even realizing they re from your company. 6. Practice good list hygiene 3. Provide a clear and easy-to-use opt-out mechanism Always offer a clear way for an customer to unsubscribe from future messages. While you may not want subscribers to leave your program, if you make it difficult for them to do so, they may just hit the spam button instead. If your spam complaint rates are high, consider including an unsubscribe link at the top of your message in addition to the footer. 4. Don t send too often or too infrequently Maxing out your subscribers tolerance for your messages is never a good strategy. You run the risk of annoying people to the point where they hit the spam button and walk away from you forever. Increased frequency may raise spam complaint rates above ISP inbox thresholds, getting your messages blocked or filtered and reducing your overall delivery rate. It can cost you customers and direct revenue. But on the flip side, under-mailing can hurt, too. is an immediate medium. Not only will subscribers forget about you if you wait too long to send that all-important first message after opt-in, they will lose interest if there are long gaps between messages. In addition, if you wait months between mailings, your 5 percent monthly bounce rate may suddenly skyrocket to 20 percent or more with several months worth of dead and dormant addresses, making you look like a spammer to the ISPs even without recipients complaints. List quality can affect whether an ISP accepts or rejects your messages. Make sure you remove hard bounces addresses returned as permanently undeliverable and spam complaints from your list after every send, and promptly handle unsubscribe requests. Knowing that hitting the spam button blocks the senders s from reaching people from who really want to receive them, would you continue to hit the spam button anyway? 6 33% Yes No Also consider clearing your list of deadwood addresses that have shown no activity over a certain length of time. How frequently you send and what you re sending determines how often you should scrub your list of inactive addresses. Unresponsive recipients can harm deliverability because ISPs will often use old, abandoned addresses as honey pots or spam traps. They presume that since the address is clearly no longer being used to opt in to any programs, then the only people sending to it must be spammers SILVPOP ( ) 2009 Copyright Silverpop. All rights reserved. The Silverpop logo is a registered trademark of Silverpop Systems Inc. 4

5 To get around the problem of blocking senders with good reputations, Forrester Research predicts that future filtering systems may not only track the volume of spam complaints, but what type of user blocks certain senders in order to block ers only from the segment of users who don t want to hear from them but not others. 2 Conclusion In the end, it is important for you to understand that ultimate power over your engagement marketing efforts actually rest with your customers. Treat them right, and you will be rewarded. Fail to send them the s they expect to receive, or delay in sending messages after they opt in, and prepare to suffer their wrath. The designation of spam versus legitimate is becoming a community project, as reputation and the hundreds of millions of users all contribute to the determination of what constitutes good and bad . Regardless of whether a sender has permission or a sterling reputation at the ISP, in the end, it all boils down to whether a customer perceives a message to be worthwhile. If not, he or she may very well vote with the spam button. FOOTNOTES: 1. EU Directive /58/EC, The Secret to Delivery, July 2008, Forrester Research 3. Study Reveals Tactics of America s Top Retailers, Silverpop, June Marketing Benchmark Guide 2008, MarketingSherpa, Dec MarketingSherpa and Pivotal Veracity monitored the s of 100 top publishers, retailers and business-to-business companies for 90 days at major ISPs and discovered that 49 percent of companies were affected by false positives permission-based mistakenly labeled as spam. Despite the strides taken in adopting reputation and authentication systems by both inbox providers and ers, false positives continue to be a very real problem for permission-based senders. 4 To find out more about Silverpop s Engage solution and how it can benefit your company, please contact us toll-free at 1-866/SILVPOP ( ) or us at Visit us at SILVPOP ( ) 2009 Copyright Silverpop. All rights reserved. The Silverpop logo is a registered trademark of Silverpop Systems Inc. 5

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