Why Now Is the Time to Invest in Email Innovation

Publishers are just starting to understand what retailers have known for years: emailing consumers drives traffic. And until now, publishers sent email for only one reason: to drive site traffic. Traffic means revenue in the form of ad impressions. But these ad impressions came at a steep cost.

One of the reasons publishers have ignored this opportunity is because sending email is costly and previously had little to no ability to monetize until the user clicks through. Now, there are new technologies and techniques that have the ability to help publishers harness the power of their email audience, create relevancy, and turn it into a profit center.

Social networks figured out in 2011 that email is the key to their success. You cannot get a social media service account without an email account. You confirm your identity, reset your password, and get digests of updates that lead you to return to the site. Without email, social would be very lonely.

Why should we, as marketers, continue to invest in email innovation? It’s pretty simple – email’s universal, it plays well with other marketing activities, and it still tugs at our personal strings. People send email to other people. It’s personal, even when broadcast. You’ve opted in. You’re a subscriber. Email is the home that you return to time and time again, and, as proven by ShareThis, email is the number one method for sharing content among Internet users.

Device Agnostic

One of the first things people do when getting a new computer, tablet, or smartphone is set up their email. Email is a constant that pretty much works on all devices, no matter what company makes that device. With an estimated three billion worldwide email addresses, email is a ubiquitous service that anyone with access to the Internet on any device has the ability to receive and consume content. Email is “globiquitous,” in our terminology.

According to Nielsen’s research, you spend more time checking email (25 minutes of any hour) than making phone calls, playing games, or engaging in “social media.”

Email Use in Conjunction With Digital Channels

When it comes to communicating with audiences from a retailer or publisher perspective, email audiences are extremely valuable; arguably more valuable than any random web visitor. Why? Email users are joiners. They’ve voted for your brand, service, or publication by opting in, opening, and clicking. All of this makes them much more likely to click through and engage with the company’s web content than non-subscribers.

If you are looking for engaged users, the combination of subscription, open, and click behavior makes email the top channel for establishing durable online relationships. The cumulative effect of all of this makes email your best consumer acquisition channel.

One year ago, Techlicious – a newsletter publisher in the DailyCandy mold that focuses on tech-hungry female users – started working with our company in two ways: to acquire customers and to monetize them once captured. The results were stunning: sign-ups from newsletters were not only cheaper than search or other CPA capture methods, but had higher MailChimp quality scores and had dramatically higher household incomes. Once acquired, these email sign-ups sourced via ads placed in other email newsletters engaged more and unsubscribed less. In short, the best customers came from the email channel.

Email Is Personal

Investing in innovations to improve our email communications will go a long way with the audiences we are trying to reach. Fundamentally, email is an interactive way to communicate, and as marketers, we should learn to employ email in the right fashion to drive engagement, clicks, and commerce. The search is over and the answer has been in front of you all this time: email is the killer app of the Internet.

This column was originally published on March 1, 2012 on ClickZ.

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