Is Email Marketing Still Effective? Uhh… YEAH!

The trend of dropping email marketing in favor of other tools is widespread among marketers. But those who hurry in following the trend are up for a disappointment. Read on to understand why

Matt Duczeminski
January 29 2018

A quick Google search for the exact phrase “email marketing is dead” returns upwards of 93,000 results. For the sake of the people behind those results, I sure hope the majority of these sites, blog posts, and articles say something along the lines of “you might think email marketing is dead, but…” The simple fact is: email marketing is anything but dead. In fact, email marketing may actually be more effective now than ever before. Look, I know what you’re thinking:

Email is old-hat.

Email lacks immediacy and engagement.

Consumers get too many emails as it is.

I’ll be the first to admit that the vast majority of emails companies send out aren’t exactly anything to get excited about. And I totally get that you’d assume this makes the average consumer rather complacent when it comes to promotional emails.

(A rare glimpse into my Type-B lifestyle…)

But, really: isn’t that a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or, at the very least, a chicken-and-egg situation? We talked about this in our past article on email newsletters: Of course email marketing is dead if you see it that way. If you think email marketing is dead, you’re not going to put any effort into creating exciting and engaging outreach messages; you’re not going to care whether or not your recipients open or engage with your emails; and you’re not going to work to ensure your subsequent email campaigns improve upon the previous ones. On the other hand, if you take the opposite stance – that email marketing is alive and well – you’ll have adapted the mindset necessary to begin focusing on creating exciting email campaigns that engage your audience and get them to take action. In this article, we’ll explain some of the reasons email marketing (done well) is still so effective, even as we move into 2018. Our hope is that you gain a better understanding of the fundamental advantages email marketing has over the other options you have at your disposal – and use this understanding to shift your focus moving forward. Before we get into all that, though, let’s take a look at some objective facts and statistics regarding the prevalence and effectiveness of email marketing.

The True Effectiveness of Email Marketing

Alright, so by now you probably know where we stand on email marketing. But it’s not just the PostFunnel team singing the praises of email marketing – it’s the majority of marketers across the board. Case in point: 80% of marketers see email marketing as the greatest driver of customer retention. Similarly, 81% of marketers also see it as the greatest driver of customer acquisition, as well. Additionally, Econsultancy’s Email Marketing Industry Census of 2017 found that 25% of marketers say email provides the highest ROI of any marketing channel their companies use. To add to this, Campaign Monitor’s 2016 annual report found that, for every dollar companies spend on email marketing, they recoup an average of $44. So…yeah. Email marketing is not just a viable option for your organization; it’s all but essential if you want your company to reach its true potential. All this being said, the statistics and data we’ve cited above are simply the outcome of marketers using email to its fullest capacity. The purpose of this article is to understand why email is such an effective marketing channel in the first place. To figure this out, we need to gain a better understanding of the modern consumer’s outlook pertaining to email as a marketing channel.

(For an updated report from CampaignMonitor, check out this link.)

This infographic is a great resource about the ins and outs of email marketing campaigns.

Email Marketing From the Consumer’s Perspective

Let’s make something clear, here: The consumer is the deciding factor of whether any marketing channel is effective or not. It doesn’t matter how exciting and new your marketing campaign is. If the customer being targeted isn’t present on the channel the campaign is delivered through, your efforts will essentially be for naught. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the ways in which email’s capabilities as a marketing channel align with the expectations of the modern consumer.

Consumers Expect – and Appreciate – Branded Email Communication

If I were to take a wild guess as to why some marketers (mistakenly) believe email marketing to be dead and buried, I’d say they (again, mistakenly) believe that “nobody cares about email anymore.” Looking at my own personal life, I completely understand where these people are coming from. Nowadays, if you want to communicate with a friend or family member, you can do so on any number of social media platforms. Heck, even my father – a non-digital native if ever there was one – prefers communicating with friends via text message rather than email. When it comes to communicating with brands, though, email is by far the preferred medium among consumers of all ages. According to Adobe’s 2017 Consumer Email Survey Report, an overwhelming 61% of respondents say they prefer to receive marketing-related messages via email. In comparison, direct mail came in a distant second, with merely 18% of respondents preferring this method. Perhaps one of the reasons some people believe email marketing to be dead is that they’ve heard that “people don’t want to be marketed to.” While this sentiment isn’t exactly wrong, it is a bit misguided. The truth is, people don’t want to be marketed to when they don’t want to be marketed to. Think about it:

When was the last time you were excited to receive a telemarketing call at dinnertime? Or the last time you jumped for joy when your favorite hour-long TV show turned out to be forty-three minutes long with seventeen minutes’ worth of commercials in between? How did you feel the last time you heard your phone’s text alert go off, only to reach into your pocket and see a promotional message from some random company that you haven’t engaged with in over a year? In each of these cases, a company’s marketing efforts interfere with the individual’s personal life, and take away from their enjoyment of an experience that has nothing to do with their “consumer” identity. The same can be said for promotional posts on social media, and other such campaigns that detract from an individual’s true purpose for using a specific platform. On the other hand, when we load up our email inbox, we’re usually looking specifically for brand-related messages that resonate with our needs. In contrast to when we’re eating dinner or watching prime-time TV, we put ourselves in “consumer mode” when checking our email; we expect to receive information from the companies we love, and we appreciate when they meet our expectations. When contrasting the marketing tactics mentioned above with that of email marketing, it’s important to call attention to the aspect of control. Rather than dictating when and where a customer receives their intended message (e.g., during a commercial break, or while scrolling through their social media feed), companies can use email to drop the message into their customer’s inbox for them to engage with at their leisure. Keep this notion in mind as we move through the rest of this article – it’ll definitely come into play again.

The Prevalence and Accessibility of Email

If we’re looking at marketing channels strictly from a “numbers game” perspective, it’s clear to see why email has a distinct advantage. First things first, it’s a fact that more people are active on email than on any other marketing platform. While it’s projected that over 3.7 billion people will be actively using email by the end of 2017, the number of active social media users is expected to hover around 2.6 billion. To add to that, though the number of smartphone owners is projected to absolutely explode by 2019, the current number is a little over 2.1 billion. Simply put: Your potential reach via email is way higher than via social media or push/text message. To continue looking at the benefits of email marketing from a logistical standpoint: Despite the fact that most social media platforms are technically accessible via desktop and other means, 80% of social media engagements happen via mobile device. Similarly, though it’s again technically possible to receive text messages and push notifications via tablet (or even desktop), it stands to reason that the majority of these communications are received via smartphone. While many other marketing channels are platform-specific (or, at the very least, better suited for a specific platform), email is accessible on essentially any internet-ready device. In fact, effective email campaigns are created with the intention of engaging users via multiple devices; Campaign Monitor explains that consumers who access a single email a second time via a different device are 65% more likely to engage further with the email’s message.

One more factor to consider, as we alluded to earlier, is that once an email is received, it remains in the recipient’s inbox until they have a chance to check it out (anyone who’s ever lost track of a post on their social media feeds knows this certainly isn’t the case on other platforms). It may sound rather trivial, but, as we’ve pointed out before, the less effort your customer has to put into an engagement with your brand, the more likely they are to move forward in the process.

Email Has Become a Part of Everyday Life

As we talked about in our article on newsletters, the concept of email as a novelty is 100% dead and gone. That being said, it’s important that we don’t misunderstand this to mean that email is no longer a valuable means of communication. Sure, receiving an email is no longer cause for excitement in and of itself – but that doesn’t mean consumers don’t want to receive marketing-related emails at all. The reality, of course, is quite the opposite: perhaps because email is no longer a new and quirky entity, it’s now more valuable than ever in terms of enabling companies to reach their target consumers. In the “olden days” (circa 1995), even though receiving an email was an exciting event for newbie internet users, they still had to go out of their way to actually read its contents. Nowadays, the modern consumer has the ability to check their email pretty much whenever – and wherever – they want.

According to Adobe, 69% of consumers check their email while watching TV; 57% check it before bed; and 79% of us check our email while on vacation. Again, it’s important to clarify that this doesn’t mean email intrudes upon or detracts from everyday life. As opposed to, say, sitting through a commercial or answering a telemarketer’s call, the act of checking email isn’t reactive – it’s proactive. Because the consumer has complete control over when, where, and how they check their email, they’re generally more receptive to the messages being communicated. Now, this isn’t to say that, because emails have become a part of everyday life, individuals will automatically engage with every single message they receive. In fact, nearly two-thirds of emails sent every day go completely unopened. So, while it’s true that your customer expects to receive branded email messages from your company, the flipside is that – unless you do something to catch their eye and truly “wow” them – your message has a pretty good chance of going ignored.

Wrapping Up and Moving Forward

I’ll admit, a lot of what we’ve discussed may seem rather paradoxical:

  • People don’t want to be marketed to – except when they do
  • Email marketing is no longer new and exciting – which is why email campaigns that are exciting so effective
  • Consumers expect to receive branded emails – but they ignore most of them

The trick, then, is to figure out how to land on the right side of each of these equations:

  • Figure out when your customers are most apt to receive your message
  • Focus on crafting email campaigns that excite and engage your audience
  • Include offers and calls-to-action that get your customers to move forward in the transaction as you’ve intended

Again, in order to even begin thinking about making this happen, you need to remember one thing:

Email marketing isn’t dead – unless you believe it is.

Matt Duczeminski

Matt is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he'd probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.

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