Rethinking email: it’s not dead, it’s different… 

Whatever lies ahead for us all in the new decade, fact-based marketing has never been so vital as it is today. At a time when factual information is a necessity, rumours and bald assertions must be disentangled and examined so marketers can make up their minds based on fact, not fiction.

Take, for instance, the ’email marketing is dead!’ rumour.  This declaration has been prevalent in digital marketing for a while now. Whether it’s shoppers who don’t open their email or the belief that email conversion is diminishing, scepticism of the email channel has served to drive it from the vanguard of CRM innovation. These claims, however, are not backed up by real data.

With the growth and spread of social media, many people like to say that social media is here to replace email as a marketing channel. Email marketing serves a distinct purpose, as outlined in one of our previous posts. While social media and paid media are at the top of the sales funnel, spreading brand awareness and stimulating demand for your products, email sits mid-to-low sales funnel; email is designed to drive repeat purchases by re-engaging your existing customers. One is not a substitute for the other. If anything, they complement each other

A social media post in the user’s newsfeed is not the same as an email in the shopper’s inbox. Email is a personal 1-1 communication that is guaranteed to be delivered to the unique recipient behind it, social media is a shout in the crowd, the same for all, with no guarantees that is will reach the correct recipients. Just imagine if you didn’t share your email address with your preferred retailers. Would you like to rely on Facebook or mobile to deliver your purchase confirmations? Neither is a reliable delivery mechanism nor does it provide the asynchronous communication that the email offers. Until we come up with an alternative channel, email is here to stay.

The second reason people like to pronounce the death of email is that it often gets a bad name due to its abuse. Email marketing is abused in either of two ways: either spam campaigns or excessive frequency and repetitiveness. The vast majority of marketers would readily agree that no-one should ever send spam/unsolicited email. All email interactions should be entirely opt-in and should have a clear policy of subscription and contact frequency. While most retailers recognise the damage of unsolicited email, the damage of excessive email volume is not always immediately obvious. Increasing the frequency of email campaigns almost always results in short-term revenue increases that could be considered an immediate marketing success. But in practice, the combination of email repetitiveness and high frequency can lead to increased churn that damages your brand and your long-term sales.

The curse of email is that it’s very cheap and easy to automate. As a result, marketers often don’t give a lot of thought to it and view it as you would direct mail marketing by batching and blasting static banner-like brochures. As marketers increase the frequency, consumers end up flooded with crap just as they do with direct mail. Nobody wants to open their mailbox to find a bunch of pointless brochures. As a result, ESPs protect customers with easy options to filter or unsubscribe from retailer’s emails.

The problem is not the email marketing itself, but how it is used. As email marketing becomes ubiquitous, effective email marketing requires new strategies and better technology to maximise results and cut through the noisy inbox.

Marketers can exploit the unique nature of email: it’s 1-1 personal communication so don’t send out static campaigns that look like junk mail. Make it personal and your customers will notice. Delight your shoppers with merchandise they would like to buy. Make it personal, exciting, and non-repetitive. Mercanto enables you to deliver the step-change, supplying you with the next-generation email marketing platform that will delight your consumers every day with fresh and relevant merchandise in their inbox.

Related story: Dynamic content in the era of machine learning

If you still think email is an old-fashioned channel, allow us to share a few hard numbers and facts:

Email marketing statistics

  • The mean email marketing revenue contribution is 18 per cent (The Relevancy Group)
  • Email generates around £29bn in retail sales annually (Marketing Week).
  • 73% of marketers rate email as the number one digital channel for ROI (Marketing Week).
  • ROI for email increased from an estimated £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017 (DMA).
  • 86% of marketers say email is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to their multichannel marketing strategy (DMA)…
  • …but email marketing only receives 10% of digital channel budgets (Econsultancy).
  • 83% of marketers consider their email marketing strategy to be ‘somewhat’ to ‘very’ successful when compared with their competitors (Ascend2).

Email user statistics

Email gives great ROI on average, but is it the right channel to reach your audience? Here’s what the figures tell us:

  • 58 per cent of millennials say that email is their preferred way to be contacted by a brand (Adobe).
  • Email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020 (The Radicati Group).
  • Despite the increased use of many other forms of communication such as instant chat and social networking, email continues to be the leading form of business communication (The Radicati Group).

The only other marketing channel that drives as much online revenue as email is search. Search engine marketing, however, has substantially higher costs As a result, what marketers often do is to use search and advertising to capture email subscribers and then use email to convert them into customers. These other communication platforms would become considerably less successful without email. When used appropriately, email can become your best and most cost-efficient revenue driver.


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