Saturday 10 December 2016

A toast to the trusty workhorse of the digital marketing universe

Email is still a potent weapon for driving conversion rates and revenue

John McGee

Published 13/11/2016 | 02:30

Hillary Clinton was caught up in an email scandal as the election drew to a close. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters
Hillary Clinton was caught up in an email scandal as the election drew to a close. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

Hillary Clinton knows a thing or two about email and its importance as a channel of communications. So, too, do those uber-efficient people in Amazon when they email to tell me that the Bose bluetooth speakers I looked at several times have now come down in price and are screaming "buy me".

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But who would have thought that, some 45 years after the first email was sent by computer engineer Raymond Tomlinson, email as a communications platform would endure to the extent it has? In an increasingly cluttered digital world, where consumers are targeted and re-targeted across their various devices, where they have to navigate through the floods of digital detritus that consumes part of their daily lives, email, for all its failings and weaknesses, has remained a constant in the background for digital marketers. Email's endurance, however, isn't just luck. As a basic open-source platform that is not owned by anyone, it has definitely improved with age.

While email marketing is about as old-school as digital marketing gets, it continues to provide a credible return on investment at a time when ad blocking and ad viewability are striking fear into marketers worldwide. A research report, eCommerce KPI Benchmarks, which was published by the Dublin-based agency Wolfgang Digital earlier this year, found that email delivers as much traffic as all social channels combined and ranks third behind search and direct traffic for revenue generation for the participants in the research, including retailers like Harvey Norman and LifeStyle Sports.

"The trusty email is an often overlooked power player when it comes to conversion rates and it delivers three times as much revenue as all the social channels combined," says Alan Coleman, managing director of Wolfgang Digital. "What's more, nurturing an email database now delivers far more value than the sending of email alone. Google and Facebook, for example, now allow advertisers to target people via their email address and we've found these campaigns to be super-high performers," he adds.

Similar studies elsewhere reaffirm email's stature and its reputation for generating a return on investment (ROI). A report published earlier this year by eConsultancy found that it comes out top for ROI - ahead of search - among 73pc of the companies surveyed. The same report noted that, on average, organisations are spending 15pc of their marketing budgets on email, up from 13pc in 2015. With the average proportion of sales attributed to the channel standing at 23pc, however, marketers may not be taking full advantage of the benefits email can bring - from driving revenues to building long-lasting relationships.

Despite the increased use of mobile apps like WhatsApp, and productivity platforms like Slack in the workplace, rumours of email's demise would appear to be greatly exaggerated. A report by the Radicati Group shows that worldwide the use of email continues to grow. In 2015, the number of worldwide email users stood at 2.6 billion. By 2019, it will have climbed to over three billion.

But the old way of churning out mass generic emails in their thousands is a thing of the past. "The days of blanket email blasts are over - it's all about time-sensitive personalisation now," says John Ring, managing director of Tinderpoint, the Dublin-based digital agency. "Email is very much the unsung hero of digital marketing."

So let us raise a glass to email, that much maligned pit-pony of the digital marketing universe.

Here's to the next 45 years.

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