LONDON: Email marketers could be firing a lot of blanks as new research suggests that almost half of UK consumers have "ghost" email accounts that are active but no longer used because of the volume of marketing material they receive.

The DMA, a trade association for the one-to-one marketing industry, carried out a consumer survey for its Consumer Email Tracker 2016 report, which was sponsored by dotmailer, gaining 1,239 responses from the YouSay customer panel.

This revealed that 45% of respondents possessed such email accounts, which points to a UK-wide total of 19m.

Six in ten (62%) said they had simply abandoned an email address, or would consider doing so, if they felt they were receiving too many emails.

Older consumers are more reluctant to take such action, with just 27% having done so before, but younger people are much more decisive – more than half (58%) have ditched an email address for this reason.

Many marketers appear not to be addressing the issue of personalisation much beyond the insertion of an individual consumer's name in a communication, as 68% of respondents agreed with the statement "Most of the marketing emails I receive include no content or offers that are of interest to me".

Further, 84% of consumers said that less than half of their emails were "interesting or relevant"; three quarters of emails (74%) were deleted after one day in any inbox.

Skip Fidura, client services director at dotmailer and chair of the DMA's Responsible Marketing Committee, warned that "customers are launching a shot across our bow".

"In a bid to push out more content and play a numbers game, brands appear to be alienating their customers," he said.

But marketers who get it right are pushing at an open door, as the research showed an increase in consumers' willingness to click through and buy from an email: 65% of respondents were prepared to do so, compared to 58% in last year's study.

What they are mostly looking for are savings of some sort – whether money-off discounts (45%), percentage discounts (41%), free samples (35%) or free delivery (35%) – so the challenge is to deliver these options to a receptive person at an appropriate time.

And increasingly that will have to be done via smartphone, as this becomes the main device for accessing emails: open rates here increased from 25% to 40% over the past year.

Data sourced from DMA; additional content by Warc staff