Email marketing is here to stay.


Michael Bromley

From time to time, the following question is asked; is email marketing dead?

Invariably the question is answered using statistics like this one: email marketing has the best return on investment of any promotional channel and returns $38-40 for every $1 spent. 

All well and good.  But this statistic doesn’t tell us why email marketing is not dead and here to stay. It tells us that it works, but not how it manages to outperform all other digital marketing channels year after year.  Because the perceived wisdom today is that email is terrible for us.

Email Kills Productivity

Knowledge workers receive, on average, 121 emails per day, and spend much of their time processing, checking for, and reacting to emails–killing productivity. 

Scientists claim it takes 25 minutes to recover our focus at work from an interruption.  So every day, our best work is lost as each notification shaves a sliver off our concentration. Outside office hours the agony doesn’t end either; checking work email eats into our personal time too, with 43% claiming they check work emails regularly outside of working hours. 

Amid all this doom, it really is a wonder that email remains the most effective channel for digital marketing. How can email still hold onto the crown? 

Maybe it’s due to new methods of collaboration devised to ease the pressure from bulging inboxes. SaaS products like Trello, Slack and Asana help to manage inbox fatigue. There is a buzz about these more efficient communication methods reminiscent of the early days of email too; if you don’t have a Slack handle, you’re not part of the scene. Even Microsoft has gotten into the game, with their Teams software one of the fastest-growing in the space.

Maybe progress on spam-fighting has played a part in our continued reliance on email. Incredibly, of the 300 billion emails sent daily, about 55% are estimated to be spam.  You wouldn’t guess it’s that much, though. Spam filters prevent most dodgy messages from sneaking into inboxes, and it’s only a handful of times that you have to visit your spam folder to retrieve a misdirected message. 

At the very least, more efficient methods of workplace collaboration and communication, plus tidier inboxes has made it easier to live with email.  Or maybe it’s the reverse.  Is email impossible to live without?

An email address is a prerequisite to navigate the modern world. If you want to book a hotel, try doing it without an email address. Want a Slack workspace? They’d like your email address, please.

For all its faults, email remains popular. And according to Adobe, it’s the communication channel we overwhelmingly want to receive promotions by.  Across all age groups, email is king.

Why is this the case?

We use separate digital communication channels predominantly with different aims in mind. When collaborating on Asana or Slack, we are in ‘work mode.’ Don’t try to sell us a product when we’re getting stuff done.  Slack knows this; ‘Where Work Happens’ is the tag line they’ve chosen.  

When browsing social media, we’re in ‘play mode’, seeking out dopamine-hit tidbits of gossip and news. A promoted tweet or influencer’s sponsored update only serves to jar the experience. 

Conversely, when we open our inboxes we don’t mind seeing a promotion or two – it’s where we go to look for them. The double opt-in subscription assures us we’ll get to see what interests us, and if our interests change, we’ll be sure to unsubscribe. 

Also, perhaps email isn’t dead or even dying because it’s an excellent channel for the marketer too. Marketing spend is more quantifiable via email than all other channels, particularly social media.  

Is email marketing not dead because email marketers won’t let it die? The ROI assures constant investment and improvements, which creates effective campaigns that compel and convince. Email marketing messages get tracked, split-tested, and personalized to ever smaller segments.  

We can measure and control email marketing better than any other channel; marketers won’t let it die!

Perhaps the most significant benefit of email is that no single organization owns it. In theory, you could email anybody if you have their address. 

Email is the delivery channel to replace similar forms of marketing like direct mail, and to a certain extent, print, because it is cheaper and easier to manage. 

Marketing remains marketing. Little has changed since the early 20th century when manuals about marketing were first published. If you look at the image below, you may be surprised that nearly 70 years separate the two adverts.  The first appeared in print ads in 1951; the second is a recent email promotion.

Email is just a delivery system.  In the 21st century, it is now the default delivery system for B2B and B2C communication, and it happens to be the most effective one we have.

Email Marketing Opens a New Sales Channel

Email marketing can open up a new sales channel for a business.  Building on assets that exist but are often underutilized. 

Shokosmile, an online retailer of tasty chocolate treats to the Ukrainian market, felt they could leverage email marketing to increase their sales.

They retained an email marketing consultancy to run a trial for them.  At the start of the project, Shokosmile had a subscriber base of about 3000 email addresses, but no dedicated system or tools with which to deploy a campaign.

An email marketing consultancy developed a strategy, then set to work.  First, they cleaned the existing list to make sure that they had engaged subscribers who were happy to be contacted via email.  Second, the firm set up forms for Shokosmile’s website to capture fresh contacts for the list.  

Next, the email consultants chose to send two broadcast messages per week.  One email was product-focused and directly sought out sales. The other email was informational but had a CTA which led back to the e-commerce store. Finally, transactional email flows, like cart abandonment, were created.

After six months Shokosmail analyzed the campaign and found the following;

  • Growth in their subscriber base from 3000 to 16,000.
  • A conversion rate between 5 and 10%.
  • An increase in sales of 2100%.

A whole new sales channel had been created, which had the additional benefit of not being tied to seasonal sales. That’s the power of email marketing. 

It’s tempting for some to claim from time to time that email is dead, but look closer, what are they promoting instead?  Chances are it’s a communication tool that solves a problematic aspect of email, but can’t replace it in full. 

Email is now as essential.  It’s as widespread as the physical postboxes outside of our homes.  A prerequisite to participate in the 21st century that is freely available to all. No, email is not dead or dying, it’s unequivocally here to stay.

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