Make what’s working in email marketing work for you

Sarah Miller | January 18, 2013

Responding to a client request, we recently had the opportunity to provide our thoughts on email trends, discussing what’s happening in the current environment. The broad request was honestly a bit daunting at first blush. Let’s face it: there’s a lot going on in the digital landscape, which is evolving and changing every day, let alone in email marketing. Covering trends, making them significant and presenting our observations in 30 minutes seemed impossible. But when we looked at what’s going on, compartmentalized facts and figures, and teased out meaningful learnings, there became three clear takeaways that not only resonated, but also felt meaningful to a larger audience.

Takeaway #1 – Get all of your moving parts working in synergy

When we look at the proliferation of channels, we see that people are engaging, sharing, posting, tweeting, viewing and liking all over the place. And folks, it’s not slowing down. As social channels are able to allow for more specific, unique ways of interacting with your friends, people are adopting and including these social channels as a way of life. For the majority of people, it’s not a choice anymore. There’s simply too much going on to choose not to participate.

Channel Breakdown

And within of all that noise, we see that almost every adult online – nearly 98% – is using email (and we’re not really sure just what that other 2% are doing). Practically everyone has a mobile phone, with close to half on smartphones. And almost a third of the market has a tablet or eReader.

Reading Emails in Stats
Sources: Forrester Research, The New Email Messaging Mandate, Oct 1, 2012, eMarketer, US Digital Media Usage Report, 2012, & Pew Internet Report, Jan 2012

Looking at more email-specific data, we see the volumes continue to trend upward. In 2012 there were 3.3 billion email accounts, and by 2016, that number is projected to reach 4.3 billion. When looking at what people are receiving, we see that by 2014, people are expected to receive 9,000 emails per person annually.

Email Volumes in Billions
Sources: Radicati Group, Email Statistics Report, 2012- 2016, Forrester, US Email Marketing Forecast, 2009 – 2014, & Symantec, Intelligence Report, February 2012

So, to summarize: Yes! People are getting inundated with marketing messages like never before – but they’re also connected like never before. We’ve got to resist the immediate mindset that everyone will start to tune things out.  That’s not what’s happening.

What is happening is that people are focusing on the content that really matters to them, and then seeking it out on a continuous basis – allowing it to come in their lives in an unprecedented way.

We must create messages that resonate, with a holistic view of who these people are and remaining consistent across all channels. Our email campaigns have to be tied back to organizational objectives and demonstrate measurable success. Going behind the scenes, our content management must be seamless. Finally, when it comes to attributing success, we must be looking at the entire user path, and not just the most recent channel the customer interacted with.

Takeaway #2 – Make your existing emails work harder

Epsilon’s recent report compared trigger emails – defined as anything from emails that were the result of an action (Welcome, Abandoned Shopping Cart, Thank You, Anniversary emails) to Business as Usual (BAU) emails – to basically anything that’s not trigger. In the study from Epsilon, trigger emails only accounted for 2.6% of volume, yet show dramatically higher results than BAU emails.

Trigger Emails
Sources: Epsilon, Q2 2012 Email Trends and Benchmarks, September 2012 and Acxiom Digital, 2012

What do we take from this? Trigger recipients are highly engaged in our messages, and we need to be sure that we’re leveraging appropriate opportunities to speak with them. We need to ensure that this communication is targeted and acknowledges the information we know about the recipient. Whenever possible, we need to be implementing automated solutions to drive efficiencies and create seamless execution. Finally, we need to remember that trigger serves as a cost-effective and relevant form of communication.

Takeaway #3 – Do the work ahead of time in order to keep your customers for a lifetime

Another interesting trend we saw in the Epsilon study was with regard to lifecycle and the importance in connecting with the individual. We must connect early on in their lifecycle, so they know they can count on us for relevant, meaningful content. In order to connect with the individual, we need to understand them at an individual level – emphasizing the importance for segmentation analysis. Once we have that analysis, we must deploy communication strategies that speak to the individual’s unique and personal needs. And always remember a key business tenet: it costs much less to keep existing customers than to acquire new ones.

We see some interesting trends, with nearly one-third of new email subscribers active within the past 3 months, but almost two-thirds of new email subscribers being inactive. 89% of the avg list had been on file for over 3 months, but things were trending upward, with 50% of the avg list active compared to 42% three years ago.

Email Use Breakdown in 2013
Email Segments
Sources: Epsilon, Q2 2012 Email Trends and Benchmarks, September 2012

Summing it up

Yes, there’s a ton going on in your customers’ lives, and they’re connected at a level like never before. Their inboxes are getting inundated, and you can lose a customer quicker than ever – or have them opt out from any potential email message you’d ever want to send them. But email marketing is still an important weapon in your arsenal. By ensuring that your email efforts are congruent and harmonious with your other marketing efforts, leveraging your existing communications by making them as meaningful as possible, and finally, putting your best foot forward on during the first 30 days of acquiring new leads, you can take a cost-effective marketing tool and make it a powerful ROI driver.

Also read:

It takes more than personalized URLs to make direct marketing personal

Customer Preference Centers are a great foundation for your CRM


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