More and more email users are using the report spam buttons to unsubscribe from emails, so is another option needed on email programmes to improve deliverability?

A survey found last week that 56% of email users consider uninteresting or irrelevant email messages as spam, and concluded that the report spam button is ‘broken’. 

The survey results are nothing new – other surveys of email users have come to the same conclusion, while the spam issue has been discussed on this blog plenty of times.

This survey, by Q Interactive and MarketingSherpa suggests that ISPs need to do more to fix the problem.

It suggests that ISPs, working with marketers, should:

“Replace the broken ‘report spam’ button with buttons that more clearly indicate consumers’ intentions such as an ‘unsubscribe’ button and an ’undesired’ button.”

However, ISPs may not necessarily share this view. One filter developer at an ISP, quoted on the Word to the Wise blog, had this to say:

“Our job is to keep the user’s inbox in the state they want it. The more they tell us what they do and don’t want, the clearer picture we get about who is sending unwanted mail.”

“Just because a marketer doesn’t like that we consider our users’ opinions to be more important than theirs is not really a problem either as far as I’m concerned. I’m here to serve my users, not them.”

So, instead of complaining to ISPs, perhaps email marketers should be taking steps to ensure that recipients are not tempted to use the report spam button.

Here are some issues for marketers to consider:

  • Unsubscribing

    If customers don’t want an email, making them jump through hoops to unsubscribe will force them to report it as spam.

    Making the process of opting put of emails as short as possible, and making the unsubscribe link nice and easy to find will prevent a lot of spam reports.

    See this article for more tips on the unsubscribe process.

  • Frequency of emailsSending too many emails, or sending them too often will also have people hitting the spam button, so finding the right frequency is important.

    Monitoring open and click rates and adjusting frequencies according to responses is one way, while customers should also be asked about this when they subscribe.

  • Targeting

    Targeted emails are likely to be more relevant to recipients and hence less likely to be dismissed as spam.

    In addition, targeted emails will deliver higher open rates, so getting information from customer when they sign up is worth the effort.

    Just five brands studied in a recent survey of UK retailers’ email marketing strategies were using targeted emails, so there is room for improvement here.

The increasing number of email users reporting legitimate emails as spam is certainly a worry for email marketers, but it will have the benefit of forcing them to raise their game and make emails more targeted and relevant for customers.

Related research:

Email Marketing Platforms Buyer’s Guide 2007

Email Marketing Roundtable Briefing – October 2007

Related stories:

Email delivery rates continue to fall – DMA

How often should you email your customers?