Marketers have gotten used to hearing all the kinds of things about email. That it’s dead. That social media will take its place. Or that messaging apps like Slack will make it obsolete. But how much truth is there in those statements? Let’s find out.
How email experts got it wrong
For a decade, marketers have been saying that email is dead. In a Wall Street Journal blog article from 2009, you can read:
Email has had a good run as king of communications. But its reign is over.
In its place, a new generation of services is starting to take hold—services like Twitter and Facebook and countless others vying for a piece of the new world. And just as email did more than a decade ago, this shift promises to profoundly rewrite the way we communicate—in ways we can only begin to imagine.
In the same year, John C. Dvorak expressed even less hope for email’s future in his column for PC Magazine:
E-mail is essentially unreliable; it needs a major, world-class overhaul in its basic design. The system has been dead for probably a decade, and I’m amazed that such a potentially useful and universal tool has been allowed to so deteriorate. E-mail is a carcass on the side of the information highway, rotting away.
How the market got it right
Fast forward to 2016, and we’re still using email. You may be thinking, “What’s going on?” Let me answer that question: Email is not dead. It doesn’t generate as much buzz as other “cool” channels, including social media websites and apps. But email still has one or two aces up its sleeve.
In fact, the most important aspect of email is its effectiveness. According to DMA’s 2015 National Client Email Report, email’s ROI was 3800%.
And email marketing was rated as the most effective channel in the 2015 research conducted by Smart Insights and Technology for Marketing and Automation (TFM&A).
The most important point is in the following from a Marketing Sherpa email marketing study:
72% of consumers say that email is their favored conduit of communication with companies they do business with.
In other words, email is not only the workhorse preferred by digital publishers for their online marketing campaigns. It’s also the preferred method of communicating for a big share of today’s audiences! Talking about win-win, right?
The evolution of email marketing
Authors who prophesied the death of email didn’t foresee that email evolves, although not necessarily the email clients — many of them still look and work as they did two decades ago. (Gmail is an exception for implementing interesting features such as the unsend button and automatic image loading.)
It is consumers who have changed the way they use email. They read emails both on desktop computers and on mobile devices when they’re on the go.
For this reason, marketers have shifted toward mobile-responsive design. And not only for websites and landing pages but also for emails, a natural development due to changes in how readers interact on mobile compared to on desktop computers.
Why “one size” no longer “fits all”
Marketers have changed how they use email. Sending the same offer to everyone may have worked in the past when competition for a place in consumer inboxes was milder. Marketers could generate enough revenue to justify this approach.
But in the era of the on-demand consumer, this approach no longer works. If something isn’t interesting or tailored to user needs, it can be easily filtered out. If you ignore the rules of on-demand consumers, your campaigns won’t be effective.
If you want high engagement levels, you need to work harder. You have to design emails based on the stage in the buyer’s journey and individual preferences. Demographics and past behavior have to be considered if a message is to capture the user attention for more than a glimpse.
Beyond manual sending
Communicating by email isn’t the way it used to be. It’s no longer a manual process that requires you to click “send” to welcome a new subscriber or present an offer.
Email marketing has evolved into an essential component of marketing automation. And it involves much more than sending promotional newsletters manually.
Messages can now be sent automatically in response to an event or according to a script you’ve designed for your campaign. These scripts, also called workflows, consist of various messages, conditions, and triggers that deliver a series of communications to your audience.
Whether you want to greet new subscribers, re-engage long-time users, or follow up customers after a purchase — you can plan ahead and design your communication so each is sent automatically. Not only is the timing better but so is the content — because automation reacts to current user actions and facilitates processes.
The shift toward multichannel marketing
Another factor that changed email’s fate is the need for a unified set of interactions that marketing teams develop over time. To run effective campaigns, professionals want full control over the channels they use to communicate with their audience.
Multichannel marketing provides the ability to follow the customer’s path: see what they see and analyze which pages they visit, which links they click, and how they engage with each communication.
At the same time, marketers can influence this interaction by sending timely messages across those consumer touch points — be it an email, retargeting ad, or phone call from a sales rep, depending on what will delight users.
Done well, it works wonders. Here’s a case study from Marketing Sherpa describing how a B2B company called Elsevier grew its conversion rate to 35% by a developing a well-defined strategy to synchronize their various communication channels.
Coordinating the marketing message
The multichannel marketing approach aims to align and combine channels to reinforce each other, maintain a consistent tone, and deliver consistent value to users.
The approach involves coordinating offline and online activities. Printed in-store materials must communicate the same message as online campaigns. And whatever your customer does offline should also be recorded in the digital world. That’s why retailers offer loyalty cards or run online campaigns with discount codes and vouchers in exchange for the user’s email address.
Interestingly, email is the hub of many of those channels. Marketers need the customer’s email address to provide a loyalty card. To enable them to register on Facebook or Google+. They can use email to retarget using AdWords or Facebook Custom Audiences.
In other words, email goes well with all the digital marketing channels: PPC ads, SMS campaigns, push messages in apps, and more. Email is here to stay, with no current trend indicating it might fade away.
Getting started with multichannel marketing
So you may be thinking, What’s the next step? If you haven’t developed buyer personas and started using marketing automation, this article will convince you and guide you.
Are you already following the multichannel marketing approach? Or are you an omni-channel fan? In the comments, let us know what’s been working for you.