Consumers Hate Spam But Buy Anyway

Discussion
Feb 16, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It’s hard to find things we can agree on but, in the U.S. and elsewhere today, it’s hard to find anyone who will admit they liking getting spam in their email.

The usual complaints are that it wastes valuable time and includes offers from companies and characters of a questionable nature. According to a report on the Forbes Web
site, the average American adult online spends three minutes a day deleting spam from their in-box.

So, with something that is so universally reviled, why do we spend so much time buying stuff advertised in spam messages? A recent study by Rockbridge Associates, said four percent
of adults online have bought something after learning about it through a spam message.

Moderator’s Comment: Are you surprised by the high percentage of consumers who respond to spam offers? What do these numbers imply for online marketing
in general?

George Anderson – Moderator

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7 Comments on "Consumers Hate Spam But Buy Anyway"


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James Tenser
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
Well, as Mr. Fader makes clear, there’s spam and there’s spam. Some of us might like to ban all unrequested messaging in our inboxes. Others would like to receive only those offers that are relevant to our interests. My not-to-reliable “spam killer” software routinely kills off legitimate e-letters and messages from new friends or business acquaintances. It also fails to filter some obvious scams. The sad fact is, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. Spam is in the eye of the in-folder. I say it’s definitely spam if the sender hides or spoofs its identity or emailing source. It’s definitely spam if the sender deliberately misspells key words like V!^gr^ to defeat automated filtering. It’s spam if the content includes nothing but image files or pornography. But blended in among these frauds and cons are other gray area annoyances like offers for auto insurance, consumer electronics, business seminars and other more or less legitimate products and services. These are no more or less permissible, to my mind, than direct mail solicitations. We may loathe… Read more »
Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

The 4% stat refers to the number of people who have responded to a spam offer (presumably over their entire life-experience online); not to the success rate of the ads…which would mean the percentage of messages that result in sales…or click throughs, depending on what you’re measuring. The actual success rate for spam messages has got to be well below 0.1%. (A quick Google search on the subject shows estimates of between 0.01% and 0.1%.)

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 9 months ago

The article does not make clear how they are defining SPAM. If it includes e-mail from companies consumers have given permission to contact them, then these numbers are not, in the least, surprising. Amazon sends me regular e-mails promoting books they believe, based on past behavior, I am likely to buy. I gave them permission to do so. That I then buy books from them is no surprise.

However, people also buy from telemarketers, which is why they keep calling us. If only there were a law against anyone buying anything from anyone without prior permission to sell, many of us would be much happier.

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

One problem with this “4%” study is that few people know what SPAM really is. Many think that it is any kind of e-mail sales message, but there’s a big difference between getting a reminder from a legitimate vendor you’ve bought from in the past (not SPAM) versus a truly unsolicited sales pitch (real SPAM). I suspect that most of the 4% comes from the former (which is fine) than the latter. The response rate for real SPAM has got to be below 0.1%, but it’s still higher than it should be.

Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
15 years 9 months ago

One of the reasons it’s so hard to kill SPAM is that it works. Just like telemarketing or that blizzard of paper junk mail you receive. And since the costs for SPAM are infinitesimal, if there’s a 4% success rate (compared to 1-2% for direct mail), it’s no WONDER our inboxes are full.

The pendulum has swung wildly in the last few years on the topic of email. Email is the Holy Grail of marketing! Email is DEAD! It seems that the truth is that email is effective when it’s targeted. Very few people mind receiving emails from companies they know on products for which they are regular customers.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

This is scam awareness month in the UK, apparently created because in spite of constant publicity about companies who target people using email, snail mail and telephone calls (to landlines and cell phones) using real callers from anywhere in the world as well as recorded sales messages, millions of pounds are still being sent each year to buy patently and sometimes transparently and hysterically non-existent “prizes” and bargains. The innocence, naievete and sometimes sheer greed of those who fall for such approaches is what never ceases to amaze me. What’s a bit of spam compared to that?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago
Coupons in Free Standing Inserts (FSIs) — the full-color coupon inserts in Sunday newspapers — account for 80% of all coupons, and are redeemed at a pitiful, declining rate of 0.9%. Yet, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) marketers spend about $7 billion annually just to print and distribute these coupons (doesn’t include the costs of redemption and handling). If spammers can achieve this level of “redemption/response” success with far, far less investment, why not go for it? On the other hand, I have five very active email addresses. But only a few “spam” type emails arrive daily, and all are promptly directed to my “junkmail” mail boxes. It’s the filters from Comcast and Hotmail that do all the work. In fact, they are so rigid that I regularly check my junkmail to retrieve stuff I really wanted and was expecting. I may be jaded, but I have not personally experienced the level of spam that would require several minutes daily to delete them. Perhaps the type of mentality that responds to spam is also the sort… Read more »
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