UK consumers have developed a tough set of coping mechanisms to deal with a growing volume of irrelevant messages from retailers, according to research from the Aimia Institute which found that 69% of Britons are closing down accounts and subscriptions, and 'unfriending' companies as a result of poorly targeted communications. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The research shows how consumer attitudes have hardened over the past three years. In 2012 over a third (35%) of people were deleting or only reading the title of text messages and emails from companies 1. Today they are going one step further, with over half (58%) of individuals opting out of the majority of email communications completely.

This trend of cutting ties may well continue if businesses don't alter their approach, as three in four (74%) Britons say they receive too many emails from brands, and one fifth (19%) say they can't handle the current volume.

As a result of this over messaging, over half (57%) of consumers are already taking steps to actively avoid companies including:

  • Unfollowing brands on social channels (69%);
  • Closing accounts and subscriptions because individuals don't like the communications they are receiving (69%);
  • Blocking numbers (59%);
  • Opting out from the majority of company email communications (58%);
  • Deleting apps because of push notifications (55%).

These behaviours have given rise to a new type of digitally literate consumer, dubbed the ' Deletist Consumer'. Characterised by their unforgiving attitude to brands, they will pull the plug on receiving communications entirely if they receive irrelevant, impersonal marketing messages.

However, for brands deemed to get their communications right, over half (52%) of people willingly share their personal details to receive relevant offers. Sainsbury's, eBay and Nationwide were among those identified as getting their digital communications mix right for their customers.

"Retailers have never had so much data at their fingertips, nor have they had so many channels available to them to communicate with their customers. However, some brands fall into a trap of assuming permission to use these channels whenever and however they see fit," said Martin Hayward, SVP of Global Digital Strategy for Aimia. "As consumers opt to take control of the communications they receive, companies that send badly targeted messages risk losing many of their customer relationships completely."

The study found that only one in five people (20%) say they receive very relevant information from supermarket brands, and significantly less say the same about communications from banks (13%), food and drink brands (11%) and technology brands (12%).

Nonetheless the study found there is a healthy consumer appetite for well-targeted and relevant marketing messages, with over a third of consumers (39%) saying they find personalised emails from companies useful. Brands identified by consumers as getting their digital communications right were: Amazon, Sainsbury's, Nationwide, John Lewis, M&S, Virgin, Lloyds TSB, and eBay.

"Brands must earn the right to contact their customers. They must show relevance by using data to personalise and tailor communications, and they need to select the most appropriate channel for delivery," Hayward concluded. "Get these ingredients right and customer communications can be a powerful tool to build deep and long lasting relationships. Get it wrong though, and brands will find themselves cut off."