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E-mail still preferred for contacting customers

Social media -- like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs – are all the talk these days, and rightly so. But, if that’s led you to conclude that e-mail is yesterday’s news and no longer worth the time to use in your marketing plan, better think again.

The fact is, when it comes to reaching out for marketing purposes, email still reigns supreme among all age groups, according to eMarketer Daily (eMarketer.com). Citing research conducted by Merkle, a leading customer relationship marketing agency, a whopping 87 percent of Internet users checked their personal e-mail daily in 2010. Moreover, that number has gone virtually unchanged since 2007. Among Internet users with a separate e-mail account for commercial e-mail, 60 percent acknowledged checking daily, down only 1 percentage point since 2008, Merkle noted.

Going a step farther, Merkle also found 72 percent of social media users were significantly more likely than other Internet users to check their email from two to four or more times each day. Apparently mobile access is boosting e-mail users to check more often. Of those surveyed with Internet-enabled mobile phones, 55 percent acknowledged checking their personal e-mail using their phone, and nearly two-thirds of mobile e-mail users checked their account at least once a day.

So far I’ve been referring to commercial e-mail communications. However, it’s important to see the whole landscape. With the meteoric rise of social media, there is a lot of evidence that personal communications are, indeed, shifting away from e-mail. Most notably, messages from friends and family are taking up a smaller share of the time spent with e-mail, but the share spent with commercial e-mails is rising. The proportion of respondents spending at least 20 minutes per week with e-mail from friends and family fell from 71 percent in 2009 to 66 percent in 2010.

E-mail, then, remains a successful method of communicating and marketing to the vast majority of Internet users. Specifically, it was the top choice in the study across all age groups for receiving commercial communications. Most of those surveyed indicated they prefer the phone for personal communication, but e-mail was cited as the most important online channel for communicating with friends and family by every age group except 18 to 29-year-olds. That group cited e-mail and social networks at 50-50.

Bottom line: Maintaining customer contact, before and especially after the sale, is an essential part of any successful dealer’s marketing program. And, while using social media may be a growing part of an aggressive marketing effort, these studies show that e-mail is still the go-to vehicle for dealers desiring to promote special products, services and events to customers and prospects.

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