HENDERSON, KY — Remem-ber that age-old excuse when you didn’t have your homework ready? Welcome to Corporate America, whose dog is eating 75% of your e-mail requests.

These response rates reflect the mentality of the e-commerce community: “No matter how we treat people, they will still come back and buy because it’s convenient.”

America’s corporations are not even making a minimal effort to forge solid relationships with existing or future customers. After WizardMail’s year-long research project contacting, by e-mail, 1,000 e-commerce sites on four separate occasions, the staggering fact is, only 24% ever sent a response.

WizardMail’s test contained specific requests for each particular industry, either regarding the immediate or future purchase of their products or service.

Companies were judged on these three criteria:

1. Did they reply and answer our basic question?

2.If not, did they direct us to the proper channel?

3.Based on their responses, did they give us a “warm, fuzzy” feeling?

The 1,000 companies we selected included 200 Fortune 1000 companies, 300 random e-commerce websites, 400 industry-specific websites (i.e., casinos, custom printers, specialty gifts, book/tapes, software), and 100 home business and multilevel marketing companies. We selected businesses from every state and Canada.

There were no scientific criteria for the method of choosing each participant other than we contacted no companies we knew or had dealt with in the past five years. No one was notified of the test program, and all messages and responses were sent under different pseudonyms using free e-mail address sources.

WizardMail’s initial goal was to contact each company, up to four times if necessary, to receive an affirmation regarding the availability and price of a specific product or service. Our e-mail was sent to a specific individual or division if applicable; if not, we used the general e-mail box provided. Our follow-up was always sent to the same e-mail address.

The testing process started April 1, 1999, and ended April 28, 2000. All e-mails were verified for delivery and were designed specifically for the industry being contacted; for instance, “We are interested in purchasing 5,000 custom-printed business cards for our company. Would you please contact us regarding pricing and delivery. Thank You.”

As replies were received, they were measured against our three criteria; 71 companies responded more than once to our requests; only 14 responded three times.

The U.S. and Canadian e-commerce infrastructure is collectively throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising to drive customers to their websites.

If our test results are any indication of how clients are being treated on the Internet, we know why 95% of all e-commerce businesses fail.

The Results

The one-year e-mail test results are as follows (1,000 e-mails sent each time).

April 1999:

  • 752 No responses;
  • 68 No specific answer;
  • 80 Specific responses; and
  • 18 Warm and fuzzy.
  • July 1999:

  • 843 No responses;
  • 89 No specific answer;
  • 68 Specific responses; and
  • 21 Warm and fuzzy.
  • December 1999:

  • 779 No responses;
  • 142 No specific answer;
  • 79 Specific responses; and
  • 34 Warm and fuzzy.
  • April 2000:

  • 791 No responses;
  • 176 No specific answer;
  • 33 Specific responses; and
  • 9 Warm and fuzzy.
  • The conclusion should be obvious to everyone: We need to do better.

    The telephone follow-ups regarding the nonresponse to our e-mails were even more enlightening. Those responses ranged from, “I think that e-mail computer thing has been broken for a couple of weeks,” to that final, desperate question from an individual in Iowa: “Do you know anybody that is hiring right now?”

    Kemp, director of WizardMail Marketing Systems, can be reached at jim@wizardmail.net (e-mail).

    Publication date: 10/09/2000