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Stop Saying Email is Dying. It’s Not.

December 21, 2009

Alert the media (and the Wall Street Journal), email is not dead. It’s not even dying, regardless of what some may say. The argument posed by WSJ columnist Jessica E. Vasscellaro back in October was that email just isn’t as fun, useful, and “now” as it used to be. This paradigm shift occurred because we don’t “get online” anymore. We’re always online. In the days of dial-up, we were limited by how long we wanted to tie up our land lines. Today, who needs land lines? Who has a phone line at all, except to receive calls from telemarketers and Grandma? When we have access to any and all information at all times from our phones or computers, who needs a well-timed message?

Believe it or not, you need email. You might think you don’t, but you do. In fact, you probably check several emails from retailers every day and don’t have a negative feeling about it. It’s only when you start getting spam from retailers whose mailing lists you aren’t even sure how you got on that you get riled up. I just looked at my inbox and saw that I opened several retailers’ emails and actually clicked through, instinctively, on almost all of them. Think about what you did this morning: did you open some of your emails, and did you click through too?

Email’s not dying, it’s changing. And despite grim reports that Twitter’s the end-all, be-all, it ain’t. The masses aren’t tweeting, and if they are, they’re not interested in receiving sales-y, promotional information. They’re not blogging. Or, they are, but they’re not waiting with baited breath for some retailer to post their latest products and sales in the comments section of their posts. There are several things to remember about the future of email:

Email still reaches a lot more people than Twitter or FacebookAccording to ShareThis, a company who provides technology for sharing content over the web in many different ways, “email remains the tool of choice for [sharing], accounting for 46% of content-sharing activity compared to 33% for Facebook, 14.5% via other channels and just 6% for Twitter.” To Twitter and Facebook heavy-hitters, that might come as quite a surprise. What’s different about Twitter is the dissemination of knowledge and how many more people might see your message, but email allows for better, more direct engagement.

Immediacy is overrated: Retailers that post monthly or weekly sales do not need to bombard shoppers with text messages and tweets. One-day sales require immediacy; evergreen messaging and messaging that changes once a month does not. Soft-sell customers, let them come to you. Let them know, via email, what you have to offer (sparingly). If they take the bait, then you’ve done your job on the marketing end. If not, better luck next time, Tiger.

Email can (and is) personalized by those doing it right: If you are an online marketer, still sending mass emails with no personalization, it’s no wonder email isn’t working for you. Omniture recently completed the Conversion Optimization benchmark study, which was taken by over 1500 online marketers. The scary news: over 75% of marketers said that they do not serve personalized content to Web site visitors. If you’re not personalizing, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity.

Segmentation, segmentation, segmentation: According to MarketingSherpa’s Annual Email Benchmarking Survey, open rates for segmented versus non-segmented campaigns are 12.4% higher for days 60-90. Click rates for segmented versus non-segmented campaigns are doubly high for the first 30 days with a slight increase for 60-90 days. Open rates for segmented versus non-segmented campaigns are as much as 20% higher on average for the first 30 days.

Email allows you to speak 1:1 with customers: If all we did was send tweets and Facebook messages to people, abandoning email, we’d be hard-pressed to build any kind of online community. As if the social media space isn’t over-saturated enough with confusing messaging, now we’re supposed to assume that someday in the not too far off future, we won’t be using email, but text messages, Facebook messages and @replies only to get in touch with people? And instant messages? I don’t buy it. Email is still one of the best ways to communicate with someone in a private way, without being too intrusive, assuming you organically built your list and didn’t have to buy it.

What do you think? Is email one foot into the grave, or is it evolving?

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 21, 2009 4:35 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head, with that nail in the coffin remark. As the population ages, email will still be their preferred metehod of offline communication. It will depend on your audience and message (sound familiar?) which method of communication is best. The trick is using them all in an integrated, well-informed, well-timed manner.

    Selling golf sweaters – maybe a Tweet would be less valuable than an email.

    Selling luxe handbags and shoes that are 70% off today only? Maybe a Tweet is where you’ll find your best customers.

    Building a community for your brand isn’t always feasible or practical, but I don’t think email will be impractical for many years to come, especially if you’re more focused on inbound marketing and “opt in’s.”

    Always fun,

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