Deep in the night when you can’t sleep, do you ever wonder about the future of email?
We’re not talking about the next quarter’s profits — we mean the Future.
Rupert Adam, the marketing manager for the UK services provider Emailcenter, has given it some thought and has come up with a 21st-century techno-landscape. He foresees:
Growth in email automation — This is nothing new. Adam merely predicts that more companies will use automation — a safe bet.
Embedded videos — Another sure thing, although Adam notes that Gmail and Yahoo do not yet support this.
Interactive emails and eye tracking — Now we’re getting into futuristic territory, and we’re not sure we like it. Interactive emails — being able to complete a transaction from within an email — are one thing; there are already people playing with it. But changing content depending on eye scans of what you’re viewing? Gee, guys, better not stare too long at that model. What if such data were exposed or misused?
Brain implanted email — Now wait a minute. We’re not so sure we want to be hitting ourselves in the head to prevent the onrush of ads and scam offers into our brain. The only alternative might be jumping off a building.
Okay: That’s the technological side of the future. But there’s a more practical side. Do marketers expect email work as well will be moving forward? What Works in Online Marketing (2017), a recent study by AudienceBloom, suggests that the answer is no, at least for smaller businesses.
When asked which strategies will become less effective in the next five years, 23% cited email marketing, compared to 18% in last year’s survey. The only channel to pull a higher negative score — 55% — was traditional advertising.
At the same time, a mere 25% feels email will be more effective. In contrast, 60% said the same thing about social media.
Still, email has its strengths in the here and now.
Over two-thirds plan to move into the channel or increase their budgets for it, with little more than a tenth expecting to do the opposite.
What’s more, email scored the best on when it came to difficulty in finding a competent vendor — a tribute to the email supplier community.
Email’s rating was 3.58. Social media’s was slightly worse: 3.62. Both email and social “scored about a full point lower than the overall average,” AudienceBloom writes. Influencer marketing did worse with a score 5.09.
Also faring poorly were off-site content marketing (4.91) and link building (4.84).
Email also did moderately well on ROI, scoring a 6.6 average rating. But it came in sixth, behind on-site content marketing (6.85), influencer marketing (6.77), on-site SEO (6.77), off-site content marketing (6.71), local SEO (6.67) and pay-per-click advertising (6.67).
Finally, of 376 marketers polled, mostly at small companies, 87% plan to increase their email marketing spend. Of course, 95% are hiking their social media budgets.
So the vision remains cloudy—maybe Adam’s predictions will kick in and drive growth, maybe not. But for those who are sentimental about email as a technology, let’s close with this thoughtful letter to The New York Times from Marshall S. Shapo, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law:
“’What’s Lost When We Move On From Email’ evokes a memory from 1960 when I was a member of a seminar with the great historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
“A member of the seminar asked Mr. Schlesinger how the writing of history had changed. He replied that a major change was the invention of the telephone, explaining that things that had been previously written down were no longer committed to paper, a loss to historians.
“Now it appears that we have come full circle. The insecurity of email has taken us back to the phone. Doesn’t technology work in wondrous ways?”