LONDON: British consumers are much more likely to open emails from brands or respond to social media if the communication is personalised and relevant, new research has shown.

According to a poll of 2,000 UK adults by Webtrends, the social measurement firm, the average UK inbox contains 260 unopened emails and 56% of them are from brands that users have subscribed to.

Even though they had signed up to receive updates from brands, UK consumers are self-selecting about which ones they read and they only open emails that they find relevant, explained John Fleming, marketing director EMEA & APAC at Webtrends.

"This 'brand spam' is also driving Brits barmy," he said. "In fact, survey respondents said it's the most annoying thing a brand can do when it comes to communications, even worse than sending texts in the middle of the night. 84% of Brits say irrelevant brand spam drives them mad."

However, more encouragingly for brands, the survey revealed that of the 20% of respondents who never open brand emails, 60% say they would be more likely to open them if the subject line is personalised. And this figure rises to 82% among the 65% who sometimes or often open brand emails.

Furthermore, only 19% say they don't respond more positively when they receive personalised content from brands, Fleming continued, and that requires brands to be careful about how they communicate.

"It will be important that businesses communicate with people in a way that doesn't simply bombard them with annoying or unwanted messages, but instead proposes recommendations, offers and experiences tailored to their wants and likes," he said.

The importance of personalised communication is further reinforced by over half (51%) reporting that they are most likely to respond positively to brand communications that deliver real time information relevant to their interests.

A similar proportion (44%) feel the same about information or offers relating to previous purchases while 37% have the same view about location-based communication.

When asked specifically about social media, 40% say they respond positively to sponsored content that is relevant to their interests, and a fifth (21%) react well to content relevant to what they had been browsing recently.

Elsewhere, the survey found the subjects and organisations that UK consumers are most likely to open emails from include retail brands (55%), hobbies and interests (42%), travel (33%), financial services (27%), charities (12%), and media organisations (10%).

Data sourced from Webtrends; additional content by Warc staff