Key Takeaway: Brands Should Stick With Email, Embrace the Unsubscribe Button

Brands are constantly seeking to interact with their audiences and look for an edge in using email to draw more clicks, get more eyeballs and create more user engagement. In thinking about the best ways to go about this, we thought, why not go straight to the source and just ask consumers themselves?

Through Google Consumer Surveys, we polled a consumer audience to find out how they themselves prefer to hear from brands, and what perceptions they have when a communication doesn’t go as expected. We’ve outlined the key findings and takeaways below:

 

Which form of communication do you prefer brands use to share special offers/deals/coupons with you?

I don’t want to receive any notifications. 50.08%
Email 25.08%
Text 9.03%
Snail Mail 7.14%
Social Media 5.29%
Push Notification 3.38%

 

Half of respondents preferred no marketing communications at all, which, while not surprising, reinforces the fact that companies should not only be aware of the channels in which they’re marketing, but the extent to which they’re alerting users at all. Of those that indicated a notification preference, the majority (50+ percent) preferred email (yes, email is not dead). Companies should thus consider this when both setting their marketing budgets and preparing their actual marketing campaigns. For all the hype that social marketing has gotten in recent years, just above five percent of respondents actually prefer seeing ads or deals in their social channel over anywhere else.

Perhaps the biggest email lesson to be learned here is this: email marketers should embrace the unsubscribe button and celebrate every time someone clicks it. If half of consumers don’t even want to see deals or offers come through, then marketers likewise should not want to see those names on their target lists. When someone unsubscribes, you’re not losing out on a lead but are instead creating a more refined list of recipients that actually care and are more willing to engage. At the same time, the onus should always be on marketers to deliver relevant content in the first place. By striving to get the correct messages to the correct audiences, they set themselves up for greater success and less consumer frustration.

 

How do you prefer to initiate communication with brands for non-emergency customer service issues?

Email 31.79%
Phone 29.43%
Other 22.46%
Online Chat 9.41%
Social Media 6.92%

 

Companies tend to prioritize marketing and sales for their email practices, but they should take care not to overlook customer service as well. Consumers will always want options to connect with a company when there are any issues, but email is the top choice (32 percent) for them to initiate contact when they need to get in touch. When they reach out, they have an expectation that they’ll hear back in a reasonable time, so having the right response process set up is critical. Aside from ensuring that you have a dedicated email address for customer service, it’s important that your email systems are integrated with those of your service department so they get an automatic reply of acknowledgement, followed then by a more personal note.

At the same time, 29 percent still prefer the human element via a phone call, but email can play a factor here as well. Companies are increasingly introducing call-back features for their customer support, so that instead of waiting on hold, they place the burden on the company to call when a representative is available. If wait times get longer than normal, companies can create a process to deliver an automated email with an estimated call back time which can be valuable to the customer experience.

 

Have you ever completed a transaction online (reservation, purchase, etc.) and not received the confirmation of receipt?

No 51.78%
Yes 28.01%
Not applicable 20.21%

 

If you don’t receive a confirmation receipt after an online purchase, how does that impact what you think of a brand?

Poor, I will not do business with them again 51.74%
Indifferent, no impact on my perception 26.98%
Minimal impact, I will do business with them 21.28%

 

Thankfully, the majority of respondents (52 percent) have always gotten a digital receipt or other transaction confirmation when expected, but it is surprising (and somewhat worrisome) that nearly 30 percent have experienced never getting that confirmation. As a consumer myself, I can relate to the feeling of uneasiness of making an online purchase but not seeing an email come through immediately. Some brands are great at this – you make the purchase and the receipt comes through your inbox within seconds. Others can take a minute, several minutes or longer. Today’s digital consumer expects online purchases to be instantaneous, so when the confirmation itself is delayed (or never arrives) it immediately stands out. For this reason, it is no surprise that 52 percent of respondents indicate their perception of a brand can be significantly impacted due to never receiving this simplest of transactions. Considering nearly 30 percent of consumers have faced this issue before, it’s something that every brand should be diligent in avoiding – after all, it’s their reputation that’s at stake.

 

The Takeaway

Consumers are nowhere near giving up on email for how they interact with brands – it’s what they want and what they expect the majority of time. But today, they have higher expectations for personalized, relevant content and instant results. As companies evolve their customer-facing processes of marketing, customer service, sales and user engagement, it’s important for them to integrate email in a way that matches or exceeds those expectations, or they’ll risk falling behind.

 

Methodology

This survey was conducted through Google Consumer Surveys from September 11-14, 2014 and polled 500 US adult internet users.

 

 

Email News: Fresh Not Stale

We’re kicking off a new feature on the blog: a “news of note” compendium of recent articles from around the Web on transactional email. The title I’m using is a little arbitrary (especially the “email” part) as I imagine we will include items on notifications, alerts and other kinds of automated messages that fall under the transactional umbrella, which could also include texts and push notifications. Also, I left out any reference to publishing schedule (weekly, monthly) for the simple reason that articles and posts on transactional messaging tend to be fewer and farther between than news on subjects like email marketing, spam, or messaging security. If we can make it into a regular feature, great. But for starters we’ll keep it casual.

Fresh, Not Stale
Our favorite article this week is this interesting discussion on devthought around how to solve the problem of receiving and managing transactional notifications in multiple places. We’ve all experienced this – someone direct messages you on Twitter, or you get a new connection request on LinkedIn. A transactional email arrives in your inbox, but that message is also in your Tweetdeck app or waiting for you when you logon at LinkedIn. You might have responded to it online already, but the message is still in your inbox. LearnBoost’s CTO Guillermo Rauch has some ideas on how to address the issue of getting the same piece of information in several different spots.

MailChimp Launches Mandrill for WordPress
RIP Mandrill…we are doing everything we can to show developer love for your customers <3.  MailChimp has provided transactional email capabilities for about a year now through its Mandrill product, and now they’ve expanded their offerings with an API plugin for the WordPress platform. The wpMandrill plugin is free, and once installed and configured, it overrides the standard emailing function WordPress uses. So essentially your can rout all of your WordPress emails through Mandrill, giving you deliverability, tracking and reporting capabilities. For small companies using WordPress as an e-commerce site, this means you’ll have the ability to send a full array of transactional email, alerts and notifications, including invoices, receipts, shipping notifications, comment updates, account password reminders and more.

Where’s Transactional Messaging Going in 2013?
In an annual predictions post, The Latest SMTP News tells us that the volume of transactional messages will grow in 2013. Pretty safe bet there and not exactly news, but the rest of the post makes some interesting points, among them: “88% of people check emails on their mobiles on a daily basis.” The point being that given how many B2C email interactions happen on smartphones today, companies need to rethink what they’re doing with their email content, and their overall email strategies.

 

Back in February Amazon Web Services caused some ripples in the messaging community when they announced the beta release of Simple Email Service (Amazon SES), which was proclaimed as a cheap bulk email-sending service for businesses and developers. (more…)