77 Percent Of Us Want To Get Marketing Messages Via Email & There’s No Close Second Place, Study Says

If you’re involved in marketing, you’d better be using email to send promotional messages to your customers. It doesn’t matter how old they are, consumers overwhelmingly prefer to receive marketing via email and there’s no close second place channel.

The data come from ExactTarget’s 2012 Channel Preference Survey — the 14th report in the company’s Subscribers, Fans and Followers series.

ExactTarget asked almost 1,500 US online consumers (age 15 and up) about how they prefer to get permission-based marketing messages and a whopping 77 percent said email — a number that dwarfs all other options in the survey. Direct mail was second at nine percent and text messaging was third at five percent.


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Social media barely registered, a sign that even as consumers like and follow brands, that’s not how or where they want to be marketed to. Only four percent of respondents said Facebook is their preferred way to get promotional messages and only one percent said Twitter.

ExactTarget ran a similar survey back in 2008. E-mail was also the preferred channel then, but it’s even more preferred now; the current 77 percent is better than the 72 percent who preferred e-mail in 2008.

The survey also asked more detailed questions about specific types of marketing messages and how consumers like to get them; in each case, e-mail was again the preferred channel:

  • Financial alerts: 52 percent prefer to get via e-mail
  • Travel alerts: 43 percent prefer e-mail
  • General customer service communication: 76 percent prefer e-mail
  • Order confirmations/receipts: 77 percent prefer e-mail
  • Online ticket delivery: 60 percent prefer e-mail

E-mail doesn’t only beat all comers as the preferred channel for getting marketing messages. According to the ExactTarget survey, it also drives more consumer purchasing than any other channel. Sixty-six percent said they’ve made a purchase based on getting a promotional e-mail, just barely edging out direct mail.


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Despite the overwhelmingly positive attitude toward e-mail marketing in this survey, there are some challenges for e-mail marketers.

For starters, the younger the individual, the less likely s/he is to prefer to get marketing messages via e-mail. Respondents between 15 and 34 years old all preferred e-mail at a lower rate than the overall 77 percent average; this audience was more willing to get marketed to via text message and social media than older consumers, a topic we’ve discussed before.

Secondly — and this is from other research — e-mail deliverability fell for the first time in the second half of 2011. This new report mentions that some marketers are also seeing lower e-mail response rates, but ExactTarget says not a failure of e-mail marketing overall as much as a failure of the specific e-mails that are being sent to consumers.

This Channel Preference Survey is about the 5th or 6th report I’ve seen from the series, and I’d recommend them to any digital marketers. You can download this report for free, but an e-mail address is required.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Features & Analysis | Statistics: Email Marketing | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Wow! That is really strong data for email marketing. I do agree that it is very important, but I didn’t realize how far ahead it was in the eyes of the customer. I’m surprised social media isn’t a little higher, but maybe most consumers prefer to use social media to talk to their favorite brands, not be talked at.

  • http://twitter.com/BenchmarkEmail Benchmark Email

    I have to agree. I just wrote a whole blog yesterday, lamenting on the fact that I can never decide where I want to go for lunch and that I wished I’d received a well-crafted email campaign to make the decision for me. After working out of the same office for over two years, I’m growing tired of my options!

  • Anonymous

    Fascinating responses… yet I notice a very important missing piece of information.

    This study only measures what people *say* they want… consciously.
    This wasn’t a study of direct marketing efforts which tested all these
    channels for *responsiveness* — i.e., what leads people to actually
    taking any actions in response to the marketing. There is an enormous
    and very important a difference between what people say they want, and
    what they respond to.

    Some would say this is the difference
    between the conscious mind, and the unconscious mind… and a lot of
    people do NOT know themselves or their own behavior very well (and yet,
    most of those people would say they do know themselves, even though we’d
    see clear differences between words and actions).

  • http://www.justinromack.com/ Justin Romack

    I think that’s a fantastic point, Jonathan. Definitely a valuable piece of the puzzle. I would say, piggybacking on that notion, the statistics shared here give brands that are just stepping into the digital arena a good place to start. We should always be testing – and keeping in the back of our minds that these, while probably fairly accurate, only represent a general consensus, and not necessarily that of my consumer base, though I would agree that email gets the job done for us.

  • 云 陈

    Each person is different, and the only one.

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