Email marketing has been the trusty workhorse in the marketing mix for almost two decades. But is that still the case? What role does email marketing play in today's modern marketing landscape? Does it have a role at all? In this blog, we explore email marketing in 2019, if email is indeed dead or whether it still has a place to play in marketing.
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The role that email has played to date
I started my email marketing career in 2004. It was an accident. I was actually a UX designer and front-end developer at the time. I had just started my first job in Ecommerce at a massive furniture company. On the third day I was asked "do you know anything about email marketing?". That was that. From that day onwards, I was an email marketer. And I've never looked back.
Since that day, I spent the next 15 years of my professional life developing my email marketing skills to the point where I now spend the vast majority of my time helping companies to achieve phenomenal success with email by illuminating how brands can improve and how exactly they need to get there. Email quickly became the primary channel of communication, especially at the top of the funnel (and for some brands, this is all they focussed on) because of the huge return on investment it drove. At one company I worked for, email marketing consistently drove a 3200% return on investment and to be honest, that wasn't even an outlier result. It was just how it was.
I've seen brands take their email marketing from modest results, where email was a back-bench channel, through to it being the primary marketing channel and clawing the lion's share of revenue. Until now, it's been a truly incredible channel for most of us...
Where did the "is email dead?" problem really start?
Thinking back to that first day when I became an email marketer, that's when the "is email marketing dead?" problem began. I imagine that you're wondering if this is really true, that the problem started at the beginning? But it did. Why? I'd like you to think back to the days where direct mail was the primary customer communication channe. It took weeks to get one campaign out. In order to do that, marketers needed all kinds of information in order to deliver their message to the doormat. It was archaic and a race to the bottom.
The problem with email, is that it just happened to marketers. One day it didn't exist, the next day it was the single greatest innovation available to marketing teams. Suddenly, direct marketers had this incredible tool where they could deliver electronic messages into the inbox in minutes or seconds. Nobody was taught how to do this well, there were no rules of engagement, no legislation, no training and no customer centricity.
Guess what happened? It was another race to the bottom, except this time the results were even better than direct mail, so most companies focused solely on growing the size of the list and database and continued with this narrow-minded approach to email forever more. The result - overnight, email marketing became the most abused marketing channel that had ever existed.
I was briefly a part of this cohort, because I didn't know any better. I had a head of Ecommerce that continually asked "how many people can we send the email to?" or "can we send an email twice a day for the next few days because we're behind target?". These were more instructions than requests and of course I got better at answering these requests with analytics and my own experiences, to be able to say "no, we're not doing that".
But have things changed? Let's see...
The state of email marketing today
Email marketing in 2019 is certainly in a different state. The industry has gone through a lot of innovation, but at modest speeds considering the rate of pace of change in other marketing channels today. Today, email is perceived a little differently to how it once was, to say the least. Broadly, I see most marketers describing email marketing as fitting into one of the following three categories:
- It's dead and dated and not part of my plans (5%)
- It still works great, but never invest in it like other, perhaps newer channels (70%)
- It's central to everything that we do in marketing and we are constantly growing and adapting our email marketing strategy. It is one of the first channels that we budget for because of the results that it achieves (25%)
If you think that email marketing is dead and dated, then regardless of which industry or geography you are working in, I can tell you that there are limitless possibilities for you to gain from email. I believe that email marketing even in 2019 is still a phenomenally powerful channel for every marketer.
If you think that email works great but you don't invest in it because it is already creating a significant return on investment, then you are in the vast majority. The problem with this approach to email marketing, is that we never reach our full potential because we are hoodwinked by our perception of our own success. The 2018 DMA Email Marketing Benchmark Report showed that yet again, email marketers generate over £40 for every £1 spent on email. That's massive, right? Except it's not. Because if you are already generating positive results from email marketing, there is the temptation not to push any further. And this is the trap that the 70% fall into. But what if this one stat alone shows that your email marketing is average at best when compared to other brands who take that next step? I understand why most of us settle at this stage of email marketing maturity, but I still find this to be a great shame because the possibilities are endless if you go just that little bit further.
Lastly, if you use email marketing as the central channel to everything that you do, as your primary customer communication brain, fuelling activities and interactions across lots of other channels, then I don't need to tell you the email marketing in 2019 is very much alive and will continue to be for the long term.
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Enchant is the UK's leading email marketing agency. We offer a wide range of email marketing services, helping brands to reach their full potential with effective customer-centric strategies. Contact our email marketing experts today and see how we can help you improve your email programme.
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