Email Steps Up To Deliver On The Broken Promise Of Social 'Buy' Buttons

It may be hot off the proverbial presses, but confirmation of one of the big email news stories of last year comes from Campaigner, which sums up the current trend as marketers losing patience with social media "buy" buttons and preferring to stick with email.

The proof of the point could well come in a very simple test. Ask yourself whether you have ever bought a product direct from a social media post? Then ask how many times has an email prompted you to click through and make a purchase. For nearly all average Internet users, I'd imagine the answer is that you have never -- or maybe just once or twice -- bought from a social post, but are regularly prompted by brands you like to click through and take up their latest offer.

Hence, the research from Campaigner suggests that a quarter fewer marketers were using buy buttons at the end of 2016 than at the start. Furthermore, of those using buy buttons, four in ten are reporting back that they will do so less frequently. So there is the sign that "buy" buttons have fallen out of favour, but what about email? Well, marketers are telling their researchers that email is the best-performing channel, and three in four will be putting more money and resources into it for 2017. 

Key areas would appear to be aligning content marketing with email, after all they are very good bed fellows, with getting on for a half of marketers surveyed predicting that they will be ramping up content efforts. Key areas reported are obviously articles but also gearing email campaigns around helpful and entertaining snippets of content, such as polls, quizzes and infographics. 

It appears, then, that one of the great mantras of email marketing which successful participants have been pushing forward for the past couple of years is beginning to gather more momentum. Namely, help more than you sell. This was once summed up to me as being helpful three times for every one time that you try to get somebody to buy from you. That may be a high quotient for many brands to hit, but it at least underscores the central requirement that email should help inform and entertain recipients at least as much as they try to sell products. If you're very clever, of course, you can do both at the same time, but if you find you're always pitching and never helping, it's a good time to take note. Nearly half of those involved in email marketing are planning to do more with helpful content in the year ahead, so it will be a common trend that will make those who just try to sell stand out for all the wrong reasons.

So the lesson of 2016 appears to be that email is far better at selling than social -- but don't just pepper people with suggestions they need to buy more stuff. Be helpful and entertaining so your audience is warmed up and in a favourable frame of mind when the big pitch comes in.

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