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Education and retail sectors worst “junk mail offenders”

The vast majority of branded communications sent by the education and retail sectors in the UK and Ireland are irrelevant, according to research commissioned by global technology company Ricoh

The research, carried out by polling company Coleman Parkes, quizzed consumers across the UK and Ireland about the communications material they received from brands and service providers. The majority of respondents (81%) said the material sent to them by educational establishments – such as schools, colleges and universities – was irrelevant to them, while 83% said the same about content from retailers.

Researchers polled respondents from seven different industries about the communications sent by their organisations. The best performing, according to the survey, is utilities and healthcare organisations, with 46% and 42% of respondents respectively saying these sectors’ communications are normally relevant to them. However, this is hardly a shining indictment of strong performance, with no sector’s communications rated as relevant by the majority of consumers.


Sectors ranked according to irrelevancy of communications








Financial services


Public sector





Alongside this issue of general and non-personalised communications, consumers have also revealed they no longer trust businesses to handle and secure their personal data. Retail was the industry rated as least trustworthy, with nearly three-quarters of consumers (72%) saying they don’t trust store brands. Consumers appear to have more faith in the healthcare and wider public sector to keep their data safe, with 52% and 47% giving them their backing. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are also sectors with more rigorous regulations about how customer information is handled and used.

Significantly, the junk mail problem has a real impact on businesses’ bottom lines. Nearly one-third of consumers (32%) say they have taken their custom elsewhere after being spammed by irrelevant material from brands and service providers. Furthermore, 68% of consumers have admitted they would spend less with the offending businesses.

Chas Moloney, marketing director, Ricoh UK and Ireland, said: “Consumers are contacted several times a day by brands and this relentless communication can become overwhelming. It’s getting to the stage whereby this poorly targeted material is affecting business performance – eroding levels of trust, alienating potential customers and wasting valuable budget on paper and printing.

“This lack of focus also has wider implications on the environment, with our ever-decreasing forestry bearing the brunt of this seemingly scattergun approach. Only with a laser-sharp focus, and by putting the customer at the heart of all communications strategies, can brands reap the rewards of building customer relationships.”

The inside view: what businesses and consumers across Europe say about branded communications:

  • “Personalisation is definitely the big key towards the future. We’ll need to look to new ways to approach customers, mostly through technology” – head of marketing, retail, Netherlands
  • “I do feel annoyed, and it’s getting worse. I feel like I can’t escape it. It’s wherever you go. There’s always some sort of communication you don’t actually need” – Tina, consumer, Germany
  • “There are plenty of fish in the sea, plenty of choices in the market. So if you don’t provide what they (the customer) want then they will definitely go somewhere else.” –head of e-commerce, retail, UK

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