Marketers love email—it’s an overperforming channel with great return on investment (ROI) that’s often inexpensive to execute. For years, marketers have become accustomed to sending one message to their entire mailing list. But those days are coming to an end.
eMarketer’s Jillian Ryan spoke with eight experts from email service providers (ESPs) and email marketing agencies about why less is more for email marketing, and why brands are struggling to change their high-volume approach.
Are the marketers you work with still sending blast email messages to their audience?
When a consumer gives a brand the privilege of getting in their inbox, marketers shouldn’t abuse that. Unfortunately, too many brands do exploit the email addresses they have acquired.
They see email as an inexpensive channel to deploy where they can send the same single thing to their entire list. The goal is to just get as many emails out as possible. This is the wrong approach and marketers need to recognize the responsibility of having that access to a person’s inbox and send their subscribers more relevant messages.
The push for more revenue from leadership often leads the marketers we work with to just email, email, email. A lot of our clients’ leadership believe there is a positive correlation between gross revenue numbers to emails sent, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
Marketers still believe that the more emails they send, the more revenue they make. But part of the problem is that it is just plain easier to rest on what has worked in the past and say ‘Wednesday is 20% off coupon day and we are sending to the whole list.’
The conundrum is that doing personalized, data-driven email is hard and frankly, more expensive. Marketers run the risk of investing more time, resources and budget and potentially not seeing the same return they get from their weekly blasted promotional code.
Although revenue is the end-goal, are brands becoming more creative in how they drive revenue through email?
Sophisticated brands have goals that aren’t sales-related, but still revenue-impacted. For example, a goal of an email strategy can be to reduce customer service calls rather than just driving new sales.
Executives are starting to see that there’s a higher ROI in the long run when the focus is on keeping the customer happy instead of just growing the size of the list or driving sales.
Email doesn’t just have to be about selling a product. The savviest brands are using email to bridge the gaps in the customer experience.
Have you worked with any brands that have found success in sending fewer, targeted emails?
We worked with European electronics retailer Coolblue on an email strategy devised to drive customer product education. They included how-to videos in emails to customers who recently bought highly technical products in order to limit the amount of returns. The strategy helped reduce return rates by 30% by using personalized post-purchase tips content.
The more marketers personalize, typically the more engagement, performance and possibly even revenue improves. At Mailchimp, we found that customer who use personalized product recommendations in their email campaigns make 31% more revenue.
Working with some of our cosmetic and retail customers, we have found there is a measurable, quantifiable value to sending less email to your list every day.
It may result in overall the same number of emails sent, but instead of sending weekly email blasts to everybody about everything, let’s send communication to the subset of the list that’s relevant today. That may be a smaller number, but it’s hyper relevant, so that helps with deliverability—opens and clicks will be higher and less email will be reported as spam or result in an unsubscribe.
What’s stopping brands from being more targeted in their email strategy?
Less than 30% of brands use all the advanced functionality that’s available to them. When it comes to sending relevant, more targeted emails, most brands still don’t do it because they need to be able to pull from a vast content library in order to populate customized messages.
I don’t think marketers are really prepared for some of the more advanced plays in email. Everyone thinks it’s cool, but because it is a lot more to take on, some are struggling to do it because they don’t have the data.
For the marketers we work with, this is a technology conversation about the data. In many cases, our clients have the data but they aren’t able to use it because they don’t have the right technology or they are having issues integrating the data.
In theory, brands want to be more targeted and innovative with their email strategy, but they are beholden to the systems they have in place and how well integrated the data is. We are seeing a lot of improvements with Email Service Providers (ESPs) integrating first-party CRM data and website behavioral data, as well as third-party solutions. This is making it easier but it’s still a major challenge.
We also see marketers ignore the fundamentals of email marketing like list health, deliverability and simple segmentation in search of finding the shiny objects, the machine learning and automated systems, which are exciting, but can make things more complicated if marketers don’t understand the basics of segmentation by demographics or preference.
Brands need to get the foundation in place first and then graduate into the really, complex stuff.
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