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Email Still Sells for Digital Marketers

By Jack M. Germain
Nov 5, 2020 5:00 AM PT
email marketing

Partly as a result of the continuing pandemic's hit on retail sales, email is proving to be a vital marketing tool -- with social media a close second.

The "2020 State of Email, Fall Edition" report from email marketing firm Litmus found that 77 percent of marketers said email is one of their two most effective marketing channels. Additionally, 78 percent of marketing executives indicated email marketing is vital to the overall success of their company, a seven percent increase since last year.

The report, based on responses from more than 2,000 marketers, noted that ROI must be properly measured and reported in order to capitalize on the potential of email. That is a problem area for many organizations.

Just 16 percent of respondents said their company measures email marketing's ROI well or very well. Zeroing in on that point, 45 percent of respondents cited ROI measurement of email marketing efforts as poor, very poor, or non-existent.

"The report showcases why email should be front and center in every single marketing mix," said Litmus CMO Melissa Sargeant. "In today's marketing environment, with brands working to break through the clutter of digital advertisements in an efficient and timely manner, personalization and targeted messaging needs to take priority."

Perfecting Personalization

Many companies also fail to adequately personalize email campaigns based on subscriber data and ensure that email lists are current, ignoring one of marketing's best practices. More than one-third of the respondents said they do not remove inactive subscribers from their mailing lists unless they opt out.

Outdated email lists can hurt ROI, defeating the purpose of personalizing emails and also contribute to security issues. More than half of respondents indicated they seldom run emails through a spam filter test to identify possible deliverability problems before sending.

The report points to marketers' preference for taking an email-first approach for overall marketing effectiveness. Four out of five respondents said they would give up their brand's social media for 12 months rather than give up email marketing for the same period of time.

Email is an effective marketing tool to create unparalleled ROI and maximize customer engagement, according to Sargeant.

"What makes email the most dependable channel available is the ability to garner subscriber engagement data and information to inform overall brand messaging, and, additionally, the capability to personalize content," she told the E-Commerce Times.

Nearly all of the marketing respondents (94 percent) noted that email is one of their three most effective marketing channels. Fifty-four percent expect to send more emails this year than they did in 2019.

Sixty percent of marketing executives said they also planned to send more emails in 2020. Nearly 90 percent of respondents are conducting A/B tests on their emails. More than one quarter do so "often" or "always."

Building in better personalization is becoming more prevalent in email campaigns. Brands are getting smarter about personalization, Sargeant observed.

"They have realized that it is much more than just inserting the recipient's first name, as other behavioral statistics are more utilized than in the past, like previous product and email interactions and past purchases," she said.

Multichannel Approach

The Litmus report focused on polling marketing professionals with survey questions primarily about how their organizations managed email marketing campaigns. That makes sense when you consider Litmus has its own email marketing platform.

But Litmus officials recognized that social media can be an effective platform to supplement email campaigns. Brands are using email more and thus have experienced a subsequent increase in reliance on email marketing. That approach breaks through the clutter of digital advertisements in an efficient and timely manner, Sargeant explained.

"Personalization and targeted messages created through [customer] data have become a priority for everyone. Email gives marketers the ability to personalize brand experiences and even influence an entire mix with post-send and performance analytics," she said.

That, in turn, drives organization-wide messaging and multichannel marketing strategy. Email is sexy again with continued innovation in areas like dark mode, graphics, and personalization, she added.

Email and Social Media

Still, email marketing and social media can work together to drive engagement for both channels and improve overall marketing strategy. Content or topics that are relevant in social can drive email content and vice versa.

"The more you leverage insights from both channels, the more lift you achieve. Social is instantaneous and allows marketing teams to get up to the second insights into what prospects are interested in. And, just as important, you can quickly see how that changes over time. Like email, social can drive personalized engagement and create human-to-human connections if utilized properly," Sargeant said.

Marketers have a solid toolset using both email and social media for ad campaigns, according to Healy Jones, managing director at Fitness Masterly.

"I have seen huge success with brands that use the targeting / remarketing features on social [media] in conjunction with email campaigns. Specifically, platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn let marketers upload email lists to target those individuals in campaigns," he told the E-Commerce Times.

A strategy that Jones has seen work is delivering the same message through both email and social media. Starting with priming the pump via targeted social media a week or so before the email promotion can increase the email campaign's performance significantly.

"I've seen up to a 30 percent boost, he offered.

Social's Sweet Spot

However, social media is often the better option for an ad platform. Its worldwide reach is compelling, countered Chelsea Hunt-Riveram, co-founder of Honest Paws.

"There is nothing you cannot see on the Internet. With just a couple of clicks, your audience can already interact with you. That means, more chances of recognition await," she told the E-Commerce Times.

But it is also risky since you are dealing with people from around the world in the most convenient way possible. One wrong move can ruin your reputation, warned Hunt-Riveram.

"But if we are talking about accessibility and efficiency, social media opens bigger opportunities for your business. In social media, creativity is not limited. There is so much to do with it like marketing through text, surveys, photos videos, posts, vlogs, blogs, tweets, and others. Unlike with email that you're already limited with an HD video or two," she said.

Dodging Spam Filters

Marketers relying on the email-first doctrine must overcome the glut of spam filters. Spam filters can be tricky as the process of labeling emails as such is often somewhat random, suggested Michael Anderson, marketing & SEO specialist at GeoJango Maps.

"However, you can decrease your chances of having your emails labeled as spam by specifying a real reply-to email address and entering in your full business name as the sender," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Applying a few insider tips can help to better handle spam filter interference, according to Kent Lewis, president & founder of Anvil Media. For instance, the best way to combat spam filters is to develop a multifaceted approach.

"First, I recommend double opt-in to reduce recipient confusion and maximize commitment. Second, I suggest reminding recipients to add the emails to Safe Senders. Lastly, pay a premium as necessary to ensure you have a whitelisted and bonded ESP to minimize loss to filters," Lewis told the E-Commerce Times.


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.


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