Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Do you read EDMs?

Electronic Direct Mail. Those pesky emails you receive every other day from that contact lens website you used that one time. You don’t read it, but you also don’t unsubscribe.

Last month before I moved to Sydney, I happened to glance at a friend’s empty inbox. “How could it be? It must be an internet anomaly!” I thought. I asked him where were his ‘opened but not dealt with messages’ and the endless unread mail from ‘newsletters you intend to catch up with one day’. He didn’t have any. He systematically unsubscribes from any emails he doesn’t want to receive.

Now I thought about this…mail I don’t want to receive… Sure, I delete 99% of EDMs I receive without even glancing at the subject title. But the idea of missing out on the potential of one day, missing out on an inkling of information may be of interest to me, really freaked me out. I’d never thought about ‘unsubscribing’ until now.

So what are people like me doing to people who are working hard at trying to market though EDMs?

In our Evaluate Market Performance paper, we talked about the power of amassing a list of email contacts. Email, considered to be more reliable than addresses or phone numbers, is highly valuable as a way to get in touch. But are people like me ruining the point of having a big list of emails in your database?

At my pervious employment, creating daily EDMs was even a part of my job! Just like any other webpage, we were able to analyse how long a person opened the email, whether they then clicked on a link, whether they made a purchase, or browsed our website – or whether it was sent to trash without being opened.

Even so, their purpose is totally lost on me. I can’t speak for others, but the ‘delete’ button is just a bit too convenient. So this battle between the desire for a streamlined inbox and wanting all the information all the time will never be resolved for me.

What I do take away from this realisation is that perhaps it’s not about how big your database is, but rather a database full of people who are not going to simply delete you. Companies now are too focused on tactics that pressure any passing visitor to join their mailing list, and neglecting the fact that not every person on the Internet is their target audience. The electronic age means information is so quickly transferred, but it also is so quickly forgotten.

The benefit of having a very specific database means that your EDMs could become a two-way thing; a portal for communication. When you are dealing with a specific market, there is the opportunity to target that market in ways you would not be able to if you were casting your net wider.

I guess the blame isn’t solely on the companies. We are also the ones who go and sign ourselves up for this in the first place. We, the ‘deleters’ of EDMs, are equally at fault for not understanding and aligning our personal brands with those companies we actually care about.

I have no solid answers to this dilemma. I will keep subscribing, and keep deleting, in the hope that one day my inbox will magically be empty of it all.

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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