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This article was written and contributed by Rod Ussing at Lookahead.io.
With the explosive growth of social media, some marketers have started to question whether email is still relevant to online marketing. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see blog posts entitled “Email is Dead!” To examine this dramatic claim, let us take a look at the current status of email in marketing, and review a few facts along the way.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have been widely adopted by a growing segment of the population embracing real-time, bite-sized communications. Worldwide, the number of social media users now exceeds two billion. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015 90 percent of young adults used social media platforms, but even more striking Pew notes, in 2015, 35 percent of adults over 65 used social media, up from only 2 percent in 2005.
Considering the meteoric rise of social media, digital marketers who ignore social media do so at their own peril, and it is certainly tempting to declare email passé.
Does this mean email is now irrelevant? Not so fast. Before we can arrive at this conclusion, we must review the data, and here the numbers tell a different story. As is often the case with high-profile new technologies, social media gets all the attention, but it is the older, less glamorous email that provides the essential business support, allowing social media to flourish.
Despite the rapid growth of social media driven advertising, email remains the biggest player in digital marketing and commands the highest return on investment (ROI). According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) a highly respectable $38 is made for every $1 spent on email marketing. In 2015, articles in the Harvard Business Review and Forbes Magazine cited a recent study by Adobe of 400 white-collar workers, in which 47 percent of the respondents stated that they expected their use of email to increase over the next 5 years. Adobe also found that Millennials checked their email several times per day, and study respondents estimated that they used their email an average of 6 hours per day.
There can be no doubt that the new landscape of digital marketing is putting pressure on email. In the natural world a species confronted with a changing environment and competition for resources must evolve and adapt; in the world of commerce, email must now also evolve and adapt, or risk becoming extinct.
Contemporary customers are more demanding. They wish to be well informed, they prefer to see marketing that is of interest to them, and above all, they are mobile. The Adobe Study found that 88 percent of Millennials use a mobile phone to check their email. Developers of email marketing technologies have risen to this challenge, adapting email templates to work well on mobile devices and making available technologies that allow for automatic personalization of marketing materials using advanced analytics.
According to the DMA, the number of “blanket emails” from marketing campaigns where the same message is sent to all recipients has decreased to only 14 percent, with email using “advanced tactics” making up the other 86 percent. Responsible email marketers of today are a far cry from the spammers of old. They have realized that consumers want to be treated with respect and noticed as individuals; smart marketers understand that email coupled with analytics and good management still has the potential to generate huge revenues.
In this evolving online ecosystem, I believe that marketers can use email with other platforms such as social media and Software as a Service (SaaS) as complementary systems. In fact, if leveraged properly, social media has the potential to supercharge an email campaign.
The majority of today’s online social interactions take place on familiar platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat; however, email is still deeply embedded in all aspects of marketing and commerce. When it comes to conducting business (including the management of social media and SaaS accounts), transactional email is usually involved at some stage of the process.
Email is often used for order confirmations, delivery notifications, sending links to reset passwords, and acknowledging transactions of all kinds. Transactional email has the highest open and return rate, since the recipient usually expects the email and is eager to open it. For the savvy email marketer, it doesn’t get any better.
As discussed earlier, social media platforms have been making rapid inroads in the marketplace. On the surface this may seem like bad news for email marketers; however, with minimal effort, social media can be leveraged to further the reach of a well-designed email campaign. Well placed “Like” and “Share” buttons and “Retweet” links can help expand the scope of marketing email by taking advantage of the social intelligence of existing customers who want to share with like-minded individuals.
We often hear that “email is dead because young people do not use it.” While it may be true that today’s youth rarely use email as a social platform anymore, we must remember that they do graduate to the business world. And as we’ve previously outlined, when it comes to business, email is not going anywhere anytime soon. The challenge for email marketers will be finding new, creative ways to connect email and social media platforms.
Despite the popular axiom that email is no longer relevant, the data and metrics simply do not support this claim. While social media has become a major factor in a changing online market, this by no means negates the importance of email. The role of email is crucial, and by adapting campaigns to leverage the reach of social media, email will remain a top revenue generator for a long time to come.
Last updated on August 20, 2019