Commentary

On Email's 30th Anniversary, Channel Continues To Evolve

On Aug. 30, 1982, 16-year-old V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai was issued a copyright for a computer program he named "EMAIL.” As “email” celebrates its 30th birthday, it continues to evolve in response to the increasing demands and expectations of consumers for personalized service.  Marketing has become a 24/7 job, and email is an increasingly important part of that job.  In fact, consider the following statistics that show how smart marketers are using email to fuel growth: 

  • Ninety-three percent of U.S. online consumers are email subscribers, receiving at least one permission-based email per day.*
  • Among consumers, 77% prefer email for permission-based marketing communications, and 66% report having made a purchase that has been triggered by email.*
  • According to B2B Magazine, nearly 60% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel for generating revenue.  

The power of email is not only evident in statistics, but in practice as well. One restaurant chain recently provided email marketing capability to nearly 13,000 local franchisees after seeing how effective email is for delivering special offers that drive repeat purchases. A DVD rental kiosk company experienced a 70 % increase in repeat rentals by using email to keep customers informed about new releases that meet their interests.  

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Email is not only important for driving sales, but has become an integral piece in the overall brand experience.  Customers who have had a positive brand experience become "brand advocates" and influence others to purchase the brand's product or service. Here again, email has emerged as the most effective channel for customer service, as 76 % of consumers prefer email for customer service communications. **

But permission-based email marketing is not limited to just B2C brands.  B2B companies, which sell products that are a "considered purchase" and have a naturally longer sales cycle, have long known that email -- especially when integrated with CRM and marketing automation technology -- is their most effective channel for nurturing leads and driving new and repeat sales. 

As we look toward the next 30 years, email is only going to continue to evolve. Smart marketers are realizing that to effectively engage and retain today's hyper-connected consumer, they need to replace the one-size-fits-all, blanket marketing strategies of the past with highlypersonalized, data-driven communication strategies across all the channels consumers use most – not just email, but social and mobile as well. 

Some have predicted that social media will replace email. However, that's not the case. Email and social media work extremely well together. Consider all the emails you receive from social network sites such as registration confirmations, Twitter Follower and Facebook Fan updates, and weekly newsletters.

Research from MarketingSherpa reveals that 75 % of social media users say that email is the best way for brands to communicate with them.  Email even tops the charts for content sharing.  Sixty-three percent of consumers currently use email to share content -- product offers, articles, and news --  with friends and work colleagues, compared to just 33% on Facebook and 5% on Twitter.*

With the expanded use of mobile devices like smartphones, email is becoming even more important as more consumers are opening and responding to email more quickly.  Research from eMarketer reveals that the number of U.S. smartphone users will reach 115.8 million in 2012, and grow to 137.5 million in 2013. This makes a mobile marketing strategy crucial for any interactive marketer.

The bottom line is that each marketing channel -- email included -- serves an important purpose in strategic, integrated marketing strategies.  While email drives purchases, social media and mobile provide marketers an additional opportunity to build the relationship and turn one purchase into an ongoing, customer service engagement.

*Source:  ExactTarget, 'The Collaborative Future', September 2010

**Source:  ExactTarget, 'The 2012 Channel Preference Study', April 2012

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