Commentary

Email Is Doing Fine, But Don't Get Complacent!

Is email still important?

Opening keynote speaker Eric Kirby, VP of Merckle, shared the results of their annual consumer study which found that while 58% of people think email is a great way for companies to stay in touch with customers, only 48% say email is "a vital part of life and I could not live without it." The first is trending steady over the past three years, the second is down from its peak of 52% in 2007.

So email is less vital - less essential. We know that from the popularity of texting and social networks. However, consumers still feel that email is a good way to keep in touch with marketers. Does that suggest that keeping in touch with marketers is less vital to our lives? Surely many of us (and many consumers, too, as witnessed by the still strong sign up rates for email programs) want to keep in touch via email with brands we love. In fact, the Merckle study says 20% of consumer time is spent with permission mail, a rate consistent across age categories.

While Eric showed that email is not as popular among younger audiences for keeping in touch with friends, consumers do declare email as a welcome channel for marketing. That makes it a great opportunity!

With every opportunity, of course, comes responsibility. Marketers must work hard to create the kinds of subscriber experiences that build value in the channel, and resist the urge to simply broadcast generic, too frequent and irrelevant messages. Especially as the next generation comes into their prime buying years, we will no longer have the wiggle room that we enjoy today. Consumers will continue to be savvy about how to keep out annoying, ill-timed or uninteresting commercial messages.

There are three trends that I see directly affecting the long term success of email marketing.

1. The fragmentation of the inbox. Eric talked about social media, but there is also mobile devices that change the experience and the value of email marketing.

2. The importance of domain over IP. The ISPs are moving toward domain reputation. It's not here yet, but it's on its way. And that means everything every brand or business unit at your company does - from transactional messages to marketing to prospecting to targeting -- will affect the inbox deliverability of every other brand and business unit. That is a pretty compelling reason to focus on relevancy.

3. Quality still matters. Quality of communication, of synergy with other channels and of the list. Permission is not the key, although I always recommend you get permission. It's earning that permission with every message that counts.

We have the technology, automation and list management tools. There is no reason why every email marketer can't quickly move at least a significant portion of our messaging to be more relevant, segmented and customized. At the rest of the conference we will talk about how smart marketers are making it happen. Our subscribers will thank us with higher response and revenue.

What are you doing to keep up with consumer preference for relevant, timely email marketing?

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