Email marketing – how is it still relevant in this social age?

Marketing trends and mediums come and go, and not so long ago email marketing seemed to be reaching the ‘go’ part of the cycle. It was declared to be on its last legs by some in the industry and, given the prevailing attitudes, it was becoming increasingly difficult to argue otherwise.

Fashionable, shiny new social media platforms piled through the door one after another, offering everything email could do and more. Combined with emails bad public image (let’s face it, we’ve all experienced some questionable email marketing practices over the years), email was decidedly looking second best.

But email hasn’t died or gone away, it’s just raised its game. The continuing development of email as a marketing medium has meant consistent innovations, technological improvements and better regulation.

The industry as a whole cracked down on the type of spammy practices that gave it such a bad name in the first place. Now the punishments for unsolicited email are so harsh, just a few mis-steps can result in a black-listing, and the resulting damage can take weeks or even months to undo.

And consumers are more informed, knowing they’ve always got the fall-back of reporting spam directly from their email client, they won’t tolerate bulk-blasted, low-quality, non-personalised emails.

So quite deservedly, those dark days of spamming and bulk blasts have been put behind us. And the improved world of email marketing we’ve worked towards is now a different beast altogether.

Measurable

The metrics available for email marketing are far reaching. Each individual user and email can be tracked, each click counted and tied directly to their resulting purchase. Over time, this can lead to an extensive database of statistics on buying and browsing habits, which is invaluable for making email campaigns that are…

Targeted

Consumers now expect more than ‘Dear FirstName’. We can make email campaigns an integral part of a consumers interaction with a brand by making the exchange feel personalised and relevant to them. The aim being that the consumer actively wants the emails.

By constructing an automated campaign of emails to run over the course of their customer journey, from the initial sign up with communication preferences (what would you like to hear about and how often?), a ‘welcome’ email to introduce tone of voice, offers of discounts based on their preferences and purchase history, abandoned basket emails, all the way through to re-engagement campaigns for lapsed customers, we can send the consumer relevant and timely emails that address their personal position along the customer journey and their history of interaction. Offering value to the consumer, and making the effort to tailor what we send to them, results in a more engaged contact list and a higher ROI.

This type of segmented targeting is rarely as accurate or accountable as when used with email.

Mobile

I’ve seen open rates as high as 50 per cent on mobile devices (for some campaigns/sectors) so ignoring the need to tailor content for mobile devices would be foolhardy.

Previously this might have meant creating a plain text version for Blackberry devices, or segmenting your list to isolate mobile openers and sending a second mobile optimised version of every eshot.

But the HTML email community (it does exist, you just don’t see us very often as we’re normally forced to work from dark cupboards under stairs) has been busy figuring out ways to make HTML emails responsive, echoing the drive to make the web responsive and device agnostic.

This has resulted in a bizarre mix of old and new HTML techniques being used to allow us to create responsive HTML eshots that work across devices, browsers and, most importantly of all, across the various email clients we have to deal with.

To give a very brief overview, HTML emails have to use old fashioned HTML tables for layout (thanks Outlook), but to facilitate responsive designs we can combine old fashioned tables with modern CSS media queries to force the tables to respond to the devices width. It really is an alchemy of techniques, but it works and allows HTML emails to look great no matter what screen you view them on, keeping them visually relevant and able to mimic modern responsive websites.

ROI

And here’s the big one, this gets rolled out every time an email marketer needs to prove their medium is still relevant. Drum roll please…

Email marketing still returns one of the biggest ROI’s of any marketing medium.

I’ll back that up with a single stat: For every £1 spent on email, the average ROI is £24.93, and even more tellingly, that’s up from £21.48 in 2012 (Direct Marketing Association).

And to quote their National client email report 2014 “Email marketing is rated as by far the best marketing tactic for both ROI and for developing enduring and profitable customer relationships.”

So basically, no. Email isn’t dead.

  • It’s constantly developing better techniques and methods to reach more consumers, with more accurately targeted content.
  • It can provide marketers with a DM technique that is totally accountable and measurable.
  • It returns a very high ROI, which is still rising year on year.

Like any medium, it has positive and negative points, some of which set it apart as unique (after all, the medium is the message). And when used properly, email can give you a direct line of communication to your customers, where you can develop your relationship and reinforce all of your multi-channel marketing efforts in a personal, one to one channel where the customer can choose how, where and when to read your email.

It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed.

Written by Alan Huxley.