Email is dead… NOT!

Email is dead… NOT!

Over the past 10 years I have heard time and again that email was dead or dying. And with the increasing popularity of all the various social networks, it may seem like email is growing out of fashion both with consumers and marketers. But beware of perceptions… for reality paints a much different picture!

The origins of this urban legend

Ever since 2008, most American universities ceased providing students with .edu email accounts. Critics understood this as the end of email, with the next generation more fond of text messaging and social media interactions. Fact is, these institutions had noticed a majority of students already had a strong webmail presence, i.e. Hotmail, Gmail, AppleMail, etc. So it made no sense to continue on with a dedicated .edu system and the costs of maintaining such platforms. Sure, students are less prone to communicate with each other via email, but they still use this tool for more formal uses, with teachers or work-related interactions.

Same could be said of Ben & Jerry’s 2010 initiative to let go of email campaigns in its UK marketing strategy. Why? They had a hard time evaluating efforts in this sphere and preferred to revisit their whole  approach in this market, including a bigger focus on social media which was growing fast (and still is). Yet does this mean email is dead and no longer relevant? Not likely.

Investments in email marketing on the rise

Truth be told, email remains one of the most powerful tactics in the marketing communications tool box :

  1. You own the database, which can be built and segmented through time, allowing customization and more relevant communications with various types of audiences, i.e. occasional clients, frequent travelers, employees, community stakeholders, etc.;
  2. It is a permission-based relationship. Thus, we get to talk to people who shared their email address at some point in the relationship. (NOTE : I am assuming you don’t continuously purchase third-party listings or host multiple contests just to build the database. If such is the case, well, quality of the database isn’t the same to begin with)
  3. Email is a very intimate communication, as it makes its way directly into the customer’s inbox, whether on desktop, webmail or mobile device. (NOTE : I am assuming you respect basic permission-based rules, with opt-in or even double opt-in, easy unsubscribe features, etc.)
  4. Open rates are generally high, depending on industry and types of communication, ranging between 20-40%, often more in the travel industry. When compared to posts reaching only 16% of Facebook page fans…

Email vs Social Media

At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of email vs social media, but rather how both could and should be combined to maximize communication efforts. In fact, a recent study done by VerticalResponse showed that small businesses combining email and social media experienced a 28% higher open rate than companies who didn’t. This echoes findings from a different research conducted by MarketingSherpa in 2011: 83% of marketers surveyed found that social media increased the reach of newsletters into new markets, 53% said social media improved email campaigns ROI, 47% said social media accelerated growth of email database, and 31% thought social media generated more qualified leads.

Examples of good practices

- On your Facebook page, why not develop an application (formerly known as tabs) that capture email addresses so that fans turn into email subscribers?

Exemple de capture de courriels via la page Facebook de NCL
Example of email form application from NCL’s Facebook page

- When tweeting, why not cross-reference to contents from the latest newsletter? Same can be done on your blog. Have you asked your fans, followers and blog subscribers to register for your newsletter?

- It takes two to tango, so the same approach should be done within the newsletter where content should obviously lead to the website but also strategically to your social media presence. At minimum, your newsletter should showcase icons with hyperlinks to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other relevant social media where you have a corporate account.

- Segment content according to various profiles in your database. Did you know 80% of email marketers presently send the same content to their subscribers? (Source: Experian, April 2012). A good strategy involves testing in order to know what content works best and when is the best time to push your emails. Yet only 1/3 of companies take the time to test their email marketing campaigns… In other words, those who take time to clean their database, segment according to customer profiles, needs and wants, and test accordingly will come up on top with an edge over competitors.

Less than 1/3 of companies test email marketing campaigns

What about Mobile?

The other big reason why email isn’t going away anytime soon is due to the increasing adoption rate of mobile as a way of life. In fact, by the end of 2012 more people will be accessing their emails via a mobile device than via desktop or webmail, according to a recent survey by ReturnPath. Mobile represents both a great opportunity to reach people on the move and a challenge as content is not consumed in the same way, nor within the same context. Device compatibility becomes an issue, just like content adaptation for a smaller screen.

By the end of 2012 more people will be accessing their emails via a mobile device than via desktop or webmail. (ReturnPath, March 2012)

Knowing 63% of Americans and 41% of Europeans would close or delete an email not optimized for mobile ought to bring serious thinking to all marketers. Question now is: are you ready and willing to adapt?

 

Other useful links:

7 Infographics That Make The Case For Mobile Optimization

16 Things People Really Hate About Your Email Marketing

7 Enlightening Infographics About Email Deliverability

 


Frederic Gonzalo
Written by Frederic Gonzalo

Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with 18 years expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at frederic@gonzomarketing.biz

11 comments
Laura watson
Laura watson

Hi Frederic, Nice job!

The email marketing is the most effective and economical way of promotion and advertising. It gives you the opportunity to increase your lead conversion rate. You can target a wide range of audience through e-mail marketing and spread your business around the world.

Thanks By :- www.garudaim.com

Erik Emanuelli
Erik Emanuelli

Hi Frederic, nice points. I believe that email marketing remain very important for the business, and even more in the future. The basic thing is that email users must be active. Collecting emails through the process of spontaneous subscribe via newsletters, should be a sign of having almost all users interested in your niche and content.

Adi Gaskell
Adi Gaskell

I'd love email to be dead as so much of it remains mass communication in a world where personalised communication is where we should be at, but in reality it's still a massive part of the 'marketing mix' at a lot of companies. It won't be going anywhere for some time.

Gazalla Gaya
Gazalla Gaya

Excellent post, as usual, Frederic. I also love the nifty graphics. I check my email more often than any social networks. It makes sense to do split testing. I should try it in one of the sites that I'm consulting for. Thanks for an informative and well thought out post.

Tom De Baere
Tom De Baere

Frederic, I think the most important these days to break through the clutter of too much information channels, of which e-mail is just one, is providing relevant content. If you are sending the wrong type of content to your target audience, you'll lose them : they'll opt-out or put you in their spam folders. And breaking through the clutter can only be done when you have a descent process set-up to listen to your customers, and talk about the topics that are interesting to them, and provide them with offers relevant to them. All the rest of your post: I agree. Br, Tom De Baere my blog : http://www.B2Bmarketingexperiences.com

Peter Trapasso
Peter Trapasso

I still check my email all day, every day. Long live email!

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Thanks for the feedback, Erik. I completely agree: email users, just like social media fans or offline users, must be active. It then becomes the brand's responsibility to engage the conversation and make sure it's sustainable through time. Cheers, FG

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

You are right, Adi: email won't be going anywhere for some time, specially for savvy marketers who will leverage its effectiveness with the audience reach of social media, among other things. Thanks for your comment! Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Very good point, Tom. The essence of this post was to remind many that email still has an important role to play in the communication marketing tool kit, but obviously, as you point out, content is of utmost importance. Companies who properly manage their email databases, segmenting and testing, are more likely to send out more relevant content for their right audiences. Same can be said with other social media tools, but often the segmentation is more limited, which is why I believe email still such strong appeal. Thanks for your comments, Frederic