The Renaissance of Email

As my good friend and co-author Jeanniey Mullen mentioned in her very last column on email marketing, I will be writing this column going forward. I am not entirely new to the ClickZ family. Back in 2004 I wrote the marketing trends column for a few years, when ClickZ and JupiterResearch were owned by the same parent company. Seven years later, here I am again writing about email marketing.

Much to the surprise of many, email has not been replaced by another form of written communication. I can recall about 12 years ago, when I began writing research about email marketing, that many people were suggesting to me that instant messaging would replace email. We’ve all heard similar arguments more recently about SMS, texting, and social messaging replacing email. While our communication patterns are impacted by these channels, email remains a persistent communication tool every day.

A consumer survey by my company indicates that 93 percent of consumers use email every day. Such engrained use of the email channel is driving a renaissance of sorts for email marketing in our connected society. The following data and trends substantiate that, while changing, the email channel is alive and thriving.

Connected messaging: As individuals, we are accustomed to carrying around smart devices that facilitate message convergence across email, IM, and text in the palm of our hands. Mobile use of email is soaring. From ages 13 and older, my firm finds that 39 percent of individuals regularly use their mobile device to check their personal email. This number soars to 66 percent when you zero in on the 27 to 40 age group. As this behavior increases, it provides a challenge for webmail providers, such as Yahoo, etc. as the number of visitors and time spent in the online webmail portal may decrease. This could impact their ad revenues. However, the notion of increased mobile email adoption also presents new opportunities and challenges for email marketers, such as ensuring that websites render properly on mobile devices. Bottom line, such mobile access to email is simply making email usage more persistent and further underscores its future in our connected society. This is similar to when broadband usage achieved critical mass in the home, and we witnessed the time spent online soar. Persistency drives behaviors that form habits.

Continued growth from email marketing providers: With Responsys poised to launch an IPO as well as strong growth reported by ExactTarget and other ESPs, the industry continues to show positive signs of growth. Recent acquisitions of email marketing firms, ESP consolidation, and the scores of email marketing jobs that I see posted every week also signal continued momentum for the industry.

Email innovation continues to increase: Even Facebook discovered that it couldn’t dismiss its users’ need for email, and while it slowly enters the channel with its version 1 offering, other email software companies continue to innovate. Currently updated webmail projects are underway at AOL (Project Phoenix) and Google’s Gmail, and last year we saw Microsoft improve Hotmail Live, as well as introduce a version of Outlook for the Macintosh. If email is in decline, why would so many leading technology companies devote product development dollars to improving their email offerings? Answer: because email is not in decline.

Email has become the connected hub to other nascent text-based marketing channels, such as mobile and social. Such reliance on email indicates that it is here to stay.

In future columns I will highlight some of the tactics necessary to improve email marketing effectiveness as well as provide you with insight to the new innovations that cross my desk each month.

Until then, all the best!

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