New Study: Increased Frequency, Decreased Relevance of Brand Messages Led to Double-Digit Customer Opt-Outs in 2021

March 1, 2022

More than ever, businesses are utilizing omnichannel marketing strategies to reach customers, believing that reaching customers “where they are” will yield better outcomes. However, regardless of channel, while clickthrough and open rates have remained largely static, conversions have been declining year over year. But how reliable are these statistics? KPIs like clickthrough and conversion rates are dependent upon one core metric: Total enrollment, or the number of customers that remain opted-in to communications. If a company has 1,000,000 customers but only 100,000 are enrolled in communication, then a 20% conversion rate maps to just 20,000 customers, or 2% of the entire customer base. At Relay Network, we set out to assess the current state of customer enrollment with our newest survey.

In the study, we surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to better understand consumers’ attitudes toward brand messages and whether today’s customer engagement practices are provoking them to disengage from brands they once valued. The results can help guide how businesses shift their approach to creating long-lasting relationships with customers, particularly for the growing segment of customers becoming more actively disengaged.

The topline takeaways include:

Messages That Are Not Meaningful Drive Customers to the Edge of Opting Out

Our research found that an overabundance of irrelevant content is, in part, leading to more opt outs. While nearly half of the respondents (49%) revealed that brands communicate with them “just enough,” more than half (56%) claimed that the communications they’ve received were more annoying than the year prior – driving 54% of consumers to opt out of at least one brand communication during that time period.

Overwhelmingly, the leading contributors to “annoyance” were too many messages from brands (68%), followed by impersonal or irrelevant content (53%). In fact, only a little more than a third of respondents felt that most of their brand interactions and communications were wholly relevant and considerate of their needs. What’s more, in contrast to the omnichannel hype, consumers actually expressed a desire to be reached on fewer channels, with 49% wishing they’d receive fewer messages via email, 27% via SMS or text message, 24% via phone call, 18% via mobile app push notifications and 19% said all of the above.

The results show that consumers are clearly frustrated with the frequency and relevancy of brand communications, but the double-digit percentage of consumers who wish they’d receive fewer messages across all platforms signals a larger issue regarding the omnichannel approach most brands have now adopted.

Customers Want Content… if it’s Meaningful

Customers are far more receptive to brand communications that cater to who they are as an individual than blanket, irrelevant messages that don’t feel personal. The pattern seems to indicate that most brand-to-consumer communications place more importance on desired business outcomes and less on context and customer needs. To wit, the most popular response for how often a brand should communicate with them (41%) was: “only when there’s something that’s truly relevant to me.”

Focus on relevance and meaningfulness in marketing—and consolidating engagement into the least intrusive channels—is key to captivating and maintaining a strong bond with active and ambivalent customers.

Summary of Results

In 2022 and beyond, brands must develop relevant and meaningful customer experiences if they want to maintain a competitive advantage and breed lifetime loyalty. With an audience that’s on the cusp of being actively disengaged (only 20% of respondents plan to opt out less often this year than last year), now is the time for brands to shift their focus and target this growing segment of passive disengagers. Many among this group are on the edge of opting out, but there’s still a chance for brands to salvage their relationship with these customers – before they opt-out and become actively disengaged. Tweaking the formula to meet these customers when, where and how they want to be reached will enable both parties to reap mutually beneficial returns in spades.

Next Steps

For businesses to meaningfully engage with and create customers for life, they must focus on a marketing and messaging channel that fosters relationships. With Relay Network, our clients deliver the most meaningful customer engagement with the right experiences that drive the highest rate of business outcomes, via a 1:1 personal feed that their customers love.

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