Email Marketing: What Parts of It Are Dead and What Parts Are Very Much Alive

In the late 1990s I became obsessed with email. Back then, email was primarily an inbound channel. (The most popular email address was xxx@webmaster.com). I fell in love with email because it offered something no other communication channel was able to: it connected a customer to a brand in real time and supported data capture that fueled future intelligent conversations.

In early 2000 I ran the first email marketing division of an ad agency. I was laughed out of company boardrooms when I would suggest email as a marketing channel. CMOs swore they would never use email (today, 90 percent of their communications are digital). Back then, people didn’t understand the power of email as a customer connectivity tool. They saw it as batch-and-blast. They couldn’t see the future potential.

Today, more than 65 percent of companies using email still get it wrong. These are the same companies who dare to claim that email is dead. A few days ago someone asked me if I thought email was dead. As the founder of the Email Experience Council, I am asked this question quite frequently. It still shocks me every time. How can people think email is dead?

Email is the backbone of all digital communication. It can never die. It will continue to evolve.

Think about it: You cannot create any single type of digital communication without an email address – you need an email to register a cell phone so you can text, email is required to set up a social network or cloud storage, get on an app store, register for an event, and purchase something online. The list goes on and on.

That said, parts of email marketing are dying or dead. And quite frankly, that’s not a bad thing. After considering what parts of email are alive, and which have seen their day, I’ve compiled this list for consideration.

A few things about email will never die:

  • The email address is your digital social security number. You need one, no matter who you are, or how old you are. You might not read your email, but you will have an email address forever.
  • Opting in for email communications from companies is a sign of brand interest. It’s like giving your phone number to someone you would like to date. You only do it when you feel a real connection. Opting in to an email campaign is still one of the best predictors of increased brand spend. The average opt-in email person on your list will spend 12 to 20 percent more with your company than those who do not opt into email (or text messages).
  • Transactional emails are the most responsive, and most powerful emails. Who wants to order something and not get a confirmation or receipt? No one. Transactional emails are read at least 50 percent of the time, within the first two hours of receipt (people are looking for errors). Most companies don’t use transactional emails in the best way to drive increased engagement and sales.
  • The average marketing email has huge brand impact: It will live in an email inbox or folder for two years. You might be aware that you will get most response to emails with 72 hours, but your email will live for up to two years. Keeping mindshare is key.
  • Customers rely on email to help them most effectively live their lives. A recent customer survey showed that people except abandon cart emails and other reminders to take action.

What about email is dead, or dying:

  • Email is no longer the channel of choice for immediate personal conversations. Texting is.
  • Batch-and-blast emails are dead. Switch to a predictive, triggered, and responsive models ASAP. The technology has never been more powerful.
  • There is no such thing as a single-channel email. Emails are most likely initially read on a mobile device. Create responsive design emails.
  • Embedded forms in emails are dead. It was a phase (like big hair) it’s done for now.

Where will the next innovation in email come from? Lots of places – integrated inboxes, wearables integration, improved POS integration, and many other places. I look forward to continuing to watch this incredible communication vehicle flourish.

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