The numbers aren’t in dispute: email trumps traditional banner ads and social media in reach, engagement, and ROI virtually every time. Why? Because the majority of consumers actually want to receive relevant emails. A report by Hubspot, referencing a study by Statista, revealed that 86% of consumers want to hear from brands that they have done business with once per month. Those numbers haven’t gone unnoticed: according to a recent survey by Econsultancy, 75% of companies agree that email offers “good” to “excellent” ROI. So if consumers want it, and top marketers are certain that it works, why is email rarely front of mind for CMOs?
One of the reasons, according to Matt McGowan, president of Adestra, is that email has an image problem. “It’s not flashy,” said McGowan, “and compared to other marketing channels the costs to effectively reach customers and clients are considerably low.”
“It’s the workhorse of the digital space,” McGowan continued, “and it’s often overlooked cause it’s ‘just email’”. According to another Hubspot report, only 23% of marketing professionals had integrated analytics into their websites to track what happens after a consumer clicks on an email. That’s a big mistake, according to McGowan. Per a new report by Adestra, The Consumer Digital Usage and Behaviorial Study (2017), more than 80% of consumers are constantly checking their emails throughout the day, willing to read any new, relevant messages regardless of their origin. That’s a huge audience just waiting for a message that will resonate, and marketers are missing opportunities to gather valuable data, and win conversions.
Is email just too much of a bargain (or too “common” place) for leading marketers—despite their understanding of its benefits—to take it seriously as a core part of brand strategy?
According to McGowan, email isn’t being ignored only because of a perceived lack of “high end” status, it’s also been the victim of a long history of misinformation. People just don’t understand how email marketing works in regards to data privacy, and that means that for many CMOs, the risks outweigh the handsome rewards.
“Trust is a major factor in consumers’ decisions about which brands to include in their universes,” said McGowan.”Marketers must grasp the enormous responsibility they have for their customers’ personal information, given the email address’ value as an individual identifier across channels and throughout the customer journey.” Marketers must also educate their consumers, insists McGowan. As recent international data security events have shown, the risks are very real. “Marketers must not only know, understand, and apply laws and regulations governing data protections and security, but also lead their customers to understand the risks and rewards of sharing personal information and how to protect themselves.”
Adestra found that although few clients had to be convinced of the potential value of email as a driver of revenue, showing them that the mechanics of a strong email strategy were not prohibitive took some work.
“Our work with Naked Wines, for example, really went to show how powerful email can be as a channel,” said McGowan. “There’s no shortage of data that’s available and if you start to see a trend, you can really act on it ahead of time as opposed to being reactive. The inbox gets more and more crowded, so you need to keep adapting your message, be personal, and stay as relevant as possible to cut through all the noise.”
There’s an even bigger benefit to brands owning email as more than an “add-on” to marketing plans, according to McGowan. Email is a native component of AI-driven personalization models as well as an irresistible sandbox for data-savvy marketers to develop a sustainable long-term engagement strategy.
“An email address allows marketers to identify users in a way that simply isn’t possible when using web-based cookies,” McGowan states. “AI takes that one step further and is already helping marketers sort through mountains of data to find meaningful connections that drive more relevant messaging.” “The promise these developments could offer in email marketing is staggering,” McGowan continues. “Marketers can apply machine learning to simple areas such as subject line and copy testing. Then, once they’ve got to grips with the fundamentals, especially using data to guide their messaging strategies, they can then reach higher with the data models that are at the center of AI.“
Will email ever lose its “Cinderella” status? Recent articles in Ad Age, Forbes (link), and other leading journals suggest that the industry is finally taking notice of email’s sleeping giant status. This year, email marketing spending is expected to rise to $22.2 billion, up 19.5% over last year alone.
“Despite predictions of its downfall, email isn’t going anywhere,” says McGowan. “Its high levels of ROI, ease of use and popularity among consumers means the channel continues to be a go-to for marketers looking to connect.” But for it to be effective, it must be done right, McGowan insists. “As competition for customers’ attention intensifies, their tolerance for the spray-and-pray `batch and blast’ approach weakens,” McGowan states. “Customers are smart, tech-savvy and won’t hesitate to cut ties if marketers don’t deliver the quality they’ve come to expect.”