Econsultancy's Email Marketing Industry Census 2018: Key Takeaways

Posted by Rowland Marsh on 25/06/18 22:23
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Yes, it's that time again  the 2018 Email Marketing Industry Census has dropped! The 12th edition of Econsultancy's annual Email Census is an extensive report, jam-packed with revealing trends, statistics and industry insights, giving brands and agencies a great view of the state of email marketing today and beyond. We're delighted to have had the opportunity to contribute to the report for the second year running.

Here we outline the importance of the report and explore the key trends and takeaways from this year's edition...

What is the Email Census all about? 

The 2018 Email Marketing Industry Censusin association with Adestra, surveyed more than 700 marketers this year and provides comprehensive data and analysis of current trends and performance, compared with results from previous years.

And that's not all. The report also contains insights from some of the top email marketing industry experts and thought leaders, such as Jordie van Rijn, Rachel AldighieriJenna Tiffany and Enchant's own CEO, Philip Storey. 

Spanning almost 100 pages, this extensive report from Econsultancy explores a wide range of topics across the email marketing landscape, including automation, personalisation, measuring success, optimisation and of course, data and the impact of GDPR on email marketers.

Here's an overview of some of the Email Cenus' key findings, plus some insightful quotes from industry experts:

Email continues to lead way for ROI (but performance has dipped)

Once again, email marketing emerged as the most highly rated marketing channel or discipline for return on investment. The Email Census revealed that 74% of companies rate email marketing ROI as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. As in previous reports, SEO (organic search) is the closest challenger of email in terms of ROI. See chart below:

Email marketing ROI channel comparison - Email Census 2018

Rachel Aldighieri, Managing Director at the DMA, had this to say about these results:

“An impressive 74% of marketers rate the ROI email offers as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, which has grown year-on-year, and highlights that while phone numbers and postal addresses are important, the central point of contact for most marketers has coalesced around the email address.”

However, there are some signs that email marketing performance has dipped. When asked about the performance of their email campaigns, 48% of company respondents rated their performance as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, down from 52% last year and 56% in 2016.

While email still leads the way with ROI, when in direct comparison to other channels, brands are stepping up their investment in paid social, content marketing and SEO, to increase their reach and targeting. It will be interesting to see the results of the same ROI charts next year, as the impact of GDPR starts reveals itself.

Better personalisation is a priority, but a challenge

Personalisation is clearly a high priority for marketers, but it's also an area of email marketing that's proving a challenge to master.

Delivering better personalisation was revealed to be the highest priority for companies surveyed in the Email Census, when asked what area of email marketing they'd like to improve that they're not currently doing to their satisfaction. See the chart below: 

Email marketing priorities personalisation - Email Census 2018

Businesses are clearly struggling to master personalisation, and this largely comes down to the data-driven nature of personalisation and the perceived time and resources required to do it well.

The following chart shows "integrating data", "lack of resources" and "finding time to make it happen", were the most popular reasons cited by respondents as key challenges and barriers to implementing effective email personalisation:

Email marketing personalisation challenges - Email Census 2018

Jenna Tiffany had her say on the ongoing challenges of personalisation:

“Personalisation provides a vast and exciting opportunity to email marketers to bring to life the desired ‘right time, right message, right person’ journey. Although only 13% of respondents state that they are sending emails based on individual activities and preferences at scale, the technology has been available for some time, which demonstrates it’s being underutilised.” 

Marketing automation still underutilised

A similar story applies to marketing automation. Marketing automation is clearly a priority for marketers, especially when it comes to selecting the right email service provider (ESP) for your business. 60% of Email Census company respondents cited marketing automation as one of the three most important attributes of an email technology provider, which was higher than for any other attribute. The chart below shows the results:

Marketing automation capabilities a priority for ESP selection - Email Census 2018

Using marketing automation to set up a wide range of behavioural triggers, to send more relevant email campaigns to subscribers, is understandably a key motivation for marketers. However, like with personalisation, email automation is still to be mastered and is underutilised by businesses.

A surprising 37% of respondents rated their automated email marketing activity ‘not successful’, whilst 55% said their marketing automation programmes were ‘quite successful’. Clearly there's work to be done in this area.

Our Principal Email Marketing Consultant Philip Storey here at Enchant Agency, talked about the changing trends in email marketing automation tools and the demand:

“The vast majority of email marketers are now demanding powerful automation tools. And there’s no wonder as to why – email marketing automation is efficient and incredibly lucrative. But there’s a major gap here, as most traditional email marketing platforms have been slow to develop capabilities in automation. This has created a temporary new marketplace where new tech companies are appearing and bridging this automation capability gap.”

At Enchant, we recently wrote about effective automated campaigns that marketers and retailers should be running. See the blog post links below:

Early adopters aim to leverage AI and predictive technology

Artificial intelligence (AI) in email marketing has been a hot topic for a while now, but predictive technology is really starting to play a role in improving the targeting capabilities and efficiency of brands' email campaigns.

Companies and agencies are seeking to learn more about what they can do the leverage AI. Currently, optimising campaign send times, subject lines and calls to action are popular attributes of AI in email marketing

However, this year's Email Marketing Industry Census revealed that only 17% of company respondents and 21% of agencies plan more innovation with AI in 2018. This suggests that many brands view AI as a technology for early adopters and one that many dont have the scope for explore further yet.

The chart below shows some of the main ways that businesses have considered or implemented AI and predictive technology, for replacing manual marketing processes:

Predictive technology and AI in email marketing - Email Census 2018

GDPR in focus but still impact to become fully revealed

Although this year's report wont reveal much about the impact of The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as respondents were surveyed earlier this year, but it did reveal the level of readiness of marketers, brands and agencies in the build up to the GDPR compliance deadline. 77% of company respondents indicated they were confident of being compliant by the 25th May deadline, whilst agencies were less confident (66%) in being fully compliant.

If you take a glance back to the attributes that companies felt were most important when selecting an ESP, data compliance and consent was third highest, reflecting the looming spectre of The GDPR.

Rikke Thomsen, Head of Marketing at Sleeknote, spoke about the findings and the influence of GDPR on email marketing:

“It’s interesting to see how data and consent compliance is now the third most important attribute for email providers. With the new General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union, it’s no surprise that this is now of concern to email marketers. That’s why it’s of utmost importance for email marketers to become familiar with the regulations and how they as individual businesses comply — not just in their email marketing, but with all their data collection services (both external and internal).”

It's encouraging that the vast majority of email marketing innovation priorities for companies are customer-centric factors, such as behavioural triggers, which utilise technology to get closer to customers and what makes them tick. See the chart below:


Get access to the Email Marketing Industry Census!

To access the full report and explore the wealth of insights, handy charts and statistics to help you understand the state of email marketing, head to Econsultancy's 2018 Email Marketing Industry Census page.

Here's an overview of the areas and topics covered the report:

  • Approach to email
  • Email marketing practices
  • Responsibilities and importance of email
  • Email innovation and technology
  • Optimisation
  • Personalisation
  • Marketing automation
  • The future of email marketing

The report is an unmissable resource for brands, agencies and email marketers.

Do you want to take a leap with email marketing this year? Enchant Agency is offering retailers a free email audit and roadmap from leading industry expert, Philip Storey, to help you identify your key opportunities for growth. Apply for your audit now! 

Get free email audit and roadmap

Enchant Agency is a leading email marketing and paid social agency, specialising in customer lifecycle marketing strategies. Our world-class marketing consultants help brands to supercharge their performance, create quick impact and lasting growth, by putting their customer first! Get in touch now or book a free consultation with our experts!

Topics: AI, automation, behavioural triggers, Data, Email automation, Email design, email marketers, Email Marketing, Email marketing automation, innovation, Insights, Marketing Automation, optimisation, Personalisation, retailers, ROI, UX, Marketing trends, ESPs, artificial intelligence, email marketing statistics, email marketing trends, marketing reports, 2018 marketing trends, GDPR, Data protection, Data compliance

Rowland Marsh

Written by Rowland Marsh

Rowland is the Marketing Manager at Enchant Agency. He is a writer, content marketer and former film reviewer. Rowland studied Literature and Philosophy at UEA and has a background in promotions, marcomms and print media.

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