To most online consumers, receiving unwanted e-mail marketing messages is just part of being online - it is something they do not like but have learned to live with. But when the Electronic Communications and Transaction (ECT) Bill was tabled in Parliament earlier this year, many consumers started dreaming of returning to their once spam-free inboxes. They believed that government intervention would be effective in heading off this nuisance.
What a disappointment then, when people realised that the Bill contained a terminal flaw... it did not outlaw spam!
The government's lack of preventative action is now violating the rights of every e-mail user in the country. And unbeknownst to them, many businesses are footing the bill for this. The price? Loss of customers.
Perception matters as much as reality
Consumer privacy is without a doubt still the number one issue facing many online businesses today, and government's failure to can spam is especially causing reluctance among consumers to give out personal information.
Why? Because to many consumers, the spam clogging their inbox is proof positive that their personal information can easily fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately for businesses this mean that they stand to lose customers if they are unable to assure customers of their privacy - a particularly difficult task if consumers think they are getting spam that is in any way related to that specific company.
Ultimately, people want to feel confident in where their information is going. Privacy violations - or even perceived violations - will erode consumer confidence...not only in e-mail as a marketing medium, but also in the company and brand associated with the violation.
And although most businesses agree that the proliferation of spam is threatening the very existence of email marketing and the success of their businesses, not many are taking concrete steps to combat the problem.
The global rise of web use means that today there is 16 times as much spam on the Internet as there was just two years ago. And everyone is suffering from the deluge.
Customers suffer the frustration of dealing with an overload of unwanted email they are powerless to combat. Companies suffer because recipients view the email offer as junk mail. This has terrible consequences. It damages brand credibility, it leads to loss of trust, it results in poor response rates, and ultimately causes waves of unsubscribe requests.
With the government failing to put regulations in place, it seems that self-regulation is all that remains.
Companies must demand that proactive steps are taken to distinguish their valid offers from the overabundance of junk email their customers receive. By implementing self-regulation policies, they'll be well on their way to salvaging what is left of a once effective marketing medium - not to mention many peoples' livelihoods.
Ultimately, companies themselves should ensure that their privacy practices and policies continue to evolve, and improve. At the end of the day it doesn't matter how small the changes are that is made to these policies and practices, from the consumer's perspective they are all in the right direction. No one expects a revolution...only an evolution.
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