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85% of email marketers collect personal data they don’t use

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A new report from Return Path has found that 85% of companies that collect personal data on subscribers fail to use the information to make their marketing messages and offers more relevant to individuals.

The report also uncovered what the authors call “either a remarkable culture of complacency within the UK email marketing industry or a worrying level of deliverability failures of emails to subscribers.” Return Path’s researchers failed to receive a single email from 39% of the organisations they registered with during the five week study period.

“In the real world, customers who are ignored or invisible to staff on the shop floor will either lose interest or take their business elsewhere,” says the company. “It’s no different online. It’s crucial to capitalise on consumer interest immediately.”

Of those organisations that did send a marketing-related email within the timeframe of the study, only 14% personalised the message in any way.

“The Information Commissioner says that email marketers should only gather personal data if they’re going to use it,” explains Richard Gibson, Return Path’s channel relationship manager. “Information gathered should be ‘adequate, relevant and not excessive’. By fulfilling their obligation to use the personal information they’ve garnered, email marketers can send targeted messages and special offers to individual customers that will be more welcome and more likely to get a response.”

“Using data in this way engenders greater customer engagement, reduces unsubscriptions and generates more sales. Crucially, it also improves email deliverability by preserving a sender’s email reputation — the more personalised the message, the less likely it is to be marked as spam, and the greater the chance that subsequent messages get opened.”

The report also found that almost two out of every five companies made it difficult for customers to subscribe to their email marketing programme, requiring them to fill out lengthy online forms or to create their own subscriber account with user name and password. Many placed the subscription area ‘below the fold’, making it hard to find.

“And, in another departure from best practice, the 45% of companies that managed to get their welcome messages delivered to the inbox uniformly overlooked the opportunity to show their subscribers their appreciation by including a special offer — which also helps to drive conversions, say the authors.

“Following best practice is crucial for establishing and maintaining a good ‘sender reputation’ which ensures that emails from an organisation consistently make it to the inbox and, once delivered successfully, are opened and read,” says Return Path’s Guy Shelton.

“The steps that organisations need to improve their sender reputation are quick and simple to take. Yet our researchers found that many companies are failing to adhere to email best practice that would help them build strong subscriber relationships, experience better deliverability, increase conversions and improve return on investment (ROI).”

Readers can download the full report from the Return Path website.

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