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Spam causing marketers migraines

Two separate studies reached one common conclusion: consumers and businesses are getting savvy when it comes to spam. The reports give marketers a real sense of what they're up against.

If you're marketing your products via e-mail, a study issued Tuesday by DoubleClick Inc. shows that customers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to dealing with spam.

It's not just consumers, either. Results from a separate survey published Tuesday by Trend Micro Inc. demonstrate that fighting spam has become a top priority for IT decision makers, both because of security risks and lost productivity.

No matter how you slice it, marketers have their work cut out for them.

The fourth annual study by New York-based DoubleClick showed that, of 1,000 people who use e-mail at least once per month, 65% are deleting spam without reading it -- an increase of 5% over last year. Only 4% are reading it to determine whether it might be of interest. The increased skepticism is coupled with an increased use of bulk folders. Of those polled, 36% use a report-spam function in their e-mail program; 16% have downloaded spam-filtering software; and 14% have created a second e-mail account to make online purchases.

Despite the current proliferation of spam, marketers may be encouraged by the fact that e-mail remains a popular communication channel. The survey found that 91% of consumers receive permission-based e-mail, and 59% prefer that method of contact from retailers offering new products services or promotions.

Respondents were most interested in receiving e-mails for grocery coupons (cited by 22%) and household tips, and recipes (14%). Additionally, two-thirds of respondents said they had made purchases -- either online, through catalogs or in retail stores -- as a result of permission-based e-mails from retailers. E-mail marketing has delayed effects as well, according to the study. While 27% clicked through and made a purchase during the same online session, 34% found more information and purchased online at a later date.

When it comes to actually opening marketing e-mail, 63% of respondents cite the "from line" as the most compelling reason to open permission-based e-mail. Subject lines with discount offers were the motivational factor for 57%. Forty-nine percent said compelling news and information was the factor, a drop of 9% from last year's study.

And while consumers are becoming more spam savvy, Tokyo-based Trend Micro Inc. released survey results that show unsolicited commercial e-mail is a top priority for IT decision makers.

In the survey of more than 200 technology professionals from organizations with more than 100 employees, nearly half listed spam as being among their top three spending priorities.

More than half the organizations experienced a 25% to 100% increase in spam volume during the past three months. Roughly one-third agree that viruses within their companies originate in spam.

Despite this emphasis on spam, nearly 30% of the organizations that participated in the Trend Micro survey did not have an enterprise-wide antispam solution in place. The top three factors in determining to deploy an antispam solution are high catch rates, a positive vendor reputation and low false positives, the report said.

David Perry, global director of education at Trend Micro, said large companies are beginning to catch on to the problems that spam creates. A company with 300 employees who each spend 15 minutes a day dealing with spam will see a $1 million loss in productivity over a year, Perry said.

"With spam proliferating the way it is and the way spam is affecting the enterprise, we're getting to this becoming a 'no questions asked' type of item in the business world," he said.


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