People Are Spending More Time Reading Their Email

You might be surprised to learn that consumers are spending more time looking at their email inboxes. This is one of the key finding in the DMA U.K.’s Email Tracking Report 2014 that was published last month. It indicates that people are spending an extra 15 minutes on average per day than they did back in 2010. So much for the much-heralded death of email!

Should we be surprised that email is not just surviving but thriving? I think not. Right now I have on my desk a smartphone, tablet and laptop. All of them have my email account permanently logged in -- just one or two clicks, or swipes of the finger away, and my phone even flashes to let me know I have new emails!  Yes, I have embraced many other communication channels such as live-chat -- but email remains one of the easiest ways to for others to connect with me during my busy life.

These multi-devices in an always-on and always-available world have given email a renaissance of sorts. I recall talking about email as a marketing and customer service tool way back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, at a time when e-commerce was in its relative infancy. I am sure you and your team would debate how long was too long when responding to a customer email (24 hours was often bounded around as a benchmark of success or failure), what day and what time of day should you hit send for the optimum response, would plain text be better than one including images? 

Today, marketers are able to take a far more sophisticated and integrated approach to email marketing and e-commerce, especially in the adoption of browse and cart abandonment strategies, hitting the customer inbox within the hour with personalised relevant content relating to customers’ recent online behaviour on your website, preferences they expressed and pertinent offers based on their profile.

Interestingly, the report suggests that click-through rates from emails are declining, down to 48% from 64% three years ago. However, indirect actions are rising, with 35% of consumers visiting a brand’s website as a result of getting their email, but via a different route such as typing in the URL -- and 30% will visit a store. Either way, email is having a positive impact on the bottom line. Last month, we published the results of our own research, which found organisations using browse and cart abandonment emails in this way, throughout the month of October 2014 achieving on average an astonishing £109k in extra sales for every £1 million of turnover. This represented an increase of £7k from September 2014 figures.

According to The Email Tracking Report 2014, the shelf life of email is decreasing, falling from 19.6 days in 2011 to 10 days on average today. The report argues that this is most likely due to consumers managing their email via smartphones and tablets and choosing to act or delete immediately, which certainly tallies with our experience.

The report also notes that 34% of consumers are choosing to keep emails for a week, perhaps as a reference point for considered or planned purchases. This is extremely significant for marketers, as one of the platform’s challenges is that an email will likely become less relevant the later it is opened.

Even so, the resilient email will not be thwarted! It is now possible to send an email populated with relevant personalised information only when the recipient opens the message – information customized by such data as the products customers were most recently looking at on the website, categories they were searching through, recommendations based on their purchasing history and what products are trending at that moment.

Email continues to evolve as a relevant and powerful tool for marketers. It may not grab the headlines, but it can certainly grab the bottom line.

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