“Perception is reality. Consumers define ‘spam’ as anything they don’t find interesting. That includes permission
e-mail from companies they do business with,” writes Return Path in its 2006 whitepaper, E-mail Again Key to Holiday Purchases. This is an important point for e-mail marketers to remember: Permission is not absolute. In fact the whitepaper, which is based on a study of consumers’ holiday 2005 inbox volume and habits, reports that 55 percent of respondents say most of the e-mail they get is “junk” from companies they do business with. “This suggests a gap in permission,” Return Path asserts.
This gap gets bigger as inbox volume increases. As the chart below shows, consumers responded to the influx of e-mails they perceived as irrelevant during the end-of-year holidays—though this also can apply to other times of the year when volume is high, such as around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day—by deleting e-mails (bad), unsubscribing (worse), and reporting the sender as a spammer (even worse). This drives home the point that while e-mail relevancy always is key, it’s critical during times when your message faces the most inbox competition.
—Tracy A. Gill