As Marketing Transforms, Will Email's Role Change?

"Email will not disappear in an era of new and more immediate messaging. Instead, it will adapt as communication needs shift with different audiences. It will even help facilitate these new emerging technologies."

Looks as if my prediction from 2007, when people said texting and social media would kill email, is holding up pretty well. But now we're seeing another series of plate-shifting. Will email continue to reign as a key player?

1. Customer focus is changing the marketing conversation. So much for B2C. The new messaging model is "C2B," meaning the customer runs the relationship.

Your email is the canary in the coalmine. If your email acquisition, retention and conversions are falling off, it doesn't mean that email is dead.

More likely, your email marketing isn't truly customer-centric. Do you use email to facilitate the conversation with your customers? Does it reflect who your customers are, or their concerns, needs and motivations? Or, do your own interests run the show?



2. Marketing strategy shifts from brand building to retention. Customer relationships are becoming more important than brands in company valuations, a study published in the Harvard Business Review finds.

From 2003 to 2013, brands dropped from 18% of a company's value to 10%, while customer relationships doubled, from 9% to 18%. Digital technology is fueling that switch, in part because customers can buy based on direct research instead of brand identification.  

Email can build loyalty by focusing messages on post-purchase satisfaction, relevant up-sell and cross-sell purchases, premiums for loyal and high-value subscribers, and other relationship-building strategies.

3. Mobile rules, and mobile apps are driving the bus. I'm writing from my New Delhi hotel, where I just reported on this subject to Indian marketers in three cities. The big ecommerce news here is that Myntra, a giant fashion retailer, scrapped its ecommerce website in favor of its mobile app (10 million-plus installations).

The move by Myntra, which claims mobile drives 95% of site traffic and 70% of sales, doesn't necessarily herald the end of the Web as we know it. But it does highlight why your company should optimize its online presence for mobile.

Mobile-optimized email can be your app's best friend. Use email content to promote your app's value proposition, encouraging customers to download it, reminding them to install and use it, and explaining why they should accept push notifications.

4. Calendar-based marketing gives way to behavior-driven messages facilitated by automation. Behavioral context combined with automation opens the door to a whole new role for you as a marketer. Instead of filling up the calendar, you become the data concierge.

The information you can collect on customers from all your interactions enables you to send messages that speak to each customer's individual needs. Automation gives you scale. Your calendar becomes an overlay and ceases to be your overlord.

5. Messages don't just sell; they create value, too. Customers who don't value your messages will tune out. A steady diet of only promotional deals ignores the reality that even your best customers are not in the market to buy day after day.

Basing messages on relevant and value-driven content that nurtures the relationship until they're ready to buy is a more sustainable email approach.

6. Channel-focused messaging gives way to contextual marketing. Contextual marketing brings all these marketing shifts together. It sends personalized messages based on your customer's location, timing and device using external services such as retail beacons to trigger offers to a customer's mobile app and point-of-purchase programs at checkout to send receipts to your customer's email or mobile.  

Email is your engine, driving mobile app usage, coordinating with push and SMS messaging, and facilitating post-purchase satisfaction and follow-up.

Do you agree with my contention that email will remain a key player even as the marketing scene shifts from marketer-centric to customer-focused messaging? Please let me know with your comments.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

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