UK pushes the e-envelope

Europeans are increasingly accepting of e-marketing, but the UK shows the most potential, with a wider user-demographic and a greater willingness to buy.

E-marketing first hit media schedules less than three years ago, but in that time it has matured and become an established medium both in the UK and across Europe. Last year 69 per cent of marketers used e-mail marketing, with as many as 38 per cent using a tenth of their direct marketing budgets on it, according to a recent pan-European survey by Claritas and Double-Click.

The survey also studied consumer attitudes to e-marketing and found that 77 per cent of European consumers have given permission to receive commercial e-mails.

Online activity levels are highest in Germany, with 95 per cent of online consumers using the internet more than once a week. This is closely followed by France at 94 per cent, Spain at 92 per cent, and the UK at 69 per cent.

France has the highest proportion of consumers who have given permission to receive e-mails – 86 per cent. Spain has the lowest at 62 per cent, and the UK falls just below average at 71 per cent. Permission marketing, which means obtaining a customer’s permission to be contacted as part of an advertising or marketing campaign, is currently under debate as the Department of Trade and Industry are considering additional regulations.

The idea of permission marketing is to cultivate a relationship with customers who have given the go-ahead for a company to send them information about a product, service, special offer or sale. In the UK, opt-in campaigns, which involve explicitly asking consumers whether they want to receive promotional e-mail in the first place, are already standard.

Recent speculation about new restrictions that will require companies to seek permission to promote any additional product or service other than that which the subscriber is expecting, is already throwing up more questions – how, for example, do companies decide what is new material?

Men have always been the bigger users of the internet but the gap between men’s and women’s usage is closing rapidly. In France women take the lead by up to 14 per cent.

When it comes to age, the research shows some startling differences across Europe. It is still true that the biggest proportion of consumers that have opted in still fall within the 18to 29-year-old age group, but the UK stands out with an almost equal proportion aged 18 years through to 39. Spain adheres more rigidly to the traditional picture, with twice as many “permissioned consumers” aged between 18 and 30 than those aged between 30 and 39 years.

The grey market, which tends to be an elusive one to the e-marketer, shows particular potential in the UK. Internet users aged 60 to 69 years old are still a minority group, but there are twice as many of them in the UK than there are in any other European country.

Of course, the acid test for many e-marketing programmes is sales, and when it comes to buying online, it is the UK that is most active. Fifty-three per cent of UK consumers say that they bought goods online in response to a commercial e-mail more than ten times last year. Germany comes in second place with 48 per cent and both France and Spain lag behind with 36 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

However, when it comes to expenditure, the opposite picture emerges and it is Spain where the average transaction value is at its highest at e77 (&£52), while spend in the UK conforms to the European average of e60 (&£41).

The report also identifies what actions consumers take on receipt of a permissioned e-mail, and there are some startling differences between countries. Click-throughs, often used as a primary response mechanism, are most successful in Spain, where 93 per cent of consumers took some kind of action on receiving a click-through marketing/advertising e-mail. In France and the UK that figure drops to 89 per cent and 87 per cent respectively. Germany has the lowest response rate – at 78 per cent.

The survey also sheds some light on the potential for viral marketing. This is highest in the UK and France where 26 per cent of consumers report that they have forwarded e-mails to a friend. By contrast, only 12 per cent of German consumers have shared e-mails.

Offline purchasing is also often open to consumers, and UK consumers significantly dominate this area, with 12 per cent choosing to take this option. Not only does this demonstrate significant opportunities for e-tailers to use permission based e-mail to drive both offand online sales but it also reiterates the importance of tracking crosschannel conversions.

Claritas believes there is much to be optimistic about in e-marketing, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the UK. Year-on-year increases in online consumer spending are the result of consumers increasingly recognising the value of online shopping and losing their fears about security. Add to that an online community in the UK which is demographically more representative of the entire population – and one that is already embracing the internet more holistically than its European counterparts – and it points to a buoyant market with a lot more scope for the future.

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