I will be very honest, I rarely used to open any email sent to me as part of a marketing campaign. Because of my own personal approach to these emails, I was sceptical as to their efficiency. I perceived them as a nuisance at best. I was fully aware that for the most part, I had willingly (and other times unwittingly) signed up to receive them. But the problem was that they kept interrupting whatever I was doing. Always a “pinging” on my mobile or appearing as a side bar message on my desktop. These interruptions were never when I was free, like when going back home on the bus (admittedly playing Candy Crush). They always came in when I was rushing to meet a deadline at work or even worst, in the middle of the night. To add insult to injury, most where dull, ugly and incredibly irrelevant. (No, I do not want to buy those high heeled, thigh high boots). But I must admit that in the past few years, I have changed my mind about them. 

Today these e-mails seem to be reaching me at perfect times, mostly when I am surfing the net for leisurely purposes. It also seems like my communication devises read my mind or at the very least have been spying on me and know exactly what I have been doing online, other than working, between 9 and 5. Today most messages really talk to me. Even worst, they are beginning to appeal to my sense of aesthetics. So what has changed?

Thankfully, as part of the industry, I have a pretty good ideas as to what has changed. What surprises me though, is how effective these changes are. 

First and foremost, there is an unprecedented level of personalisation. According to Aberdeen, personalised email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%. For me, it works. Thanks to automation, marketing intelligence and data gathering, messages that are reaching my inbox seem to be really intended for me. Most of them address me by name rather than by a generic greeting (Not a big surprise there, but something that still carries weight). They also contain relevant promotions for products that I have purchased in the past or products that I have searched for online multiple times.These emails certainly help reinforce brand presence, but most importantly keep reminding consumers that the sender has something that they want. Emails with personalised subject lines are also 26% more likely to be opened says Campaign Monitor and personalised emails deliver 6 times higher transaction rates according to research. The whole spray and pray strategy suddenly seems incredibly outdated. While I understand the value of of a broad reaching campaign as a Brand building exercise, it makes me think, why not hyper-targeted all our communications?

Content is also permeated with personalisation efforts and is far more engaging than ever before. I won’t say that gone are the days where e-mails were addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern” and had as a subject matter “Hi,from company X”, but today the majority of companies have something to say directly to the individual consumer. The fact is that now, promotions seem to be sent to our inboxes to help us achieve our daily goals rather than to sell us something. This makes these email campaigns all the more appealing. According to findings by DMA, segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue. In addition, many of these emails are now properly designed and are part of a campaign rather than stand alone efforts. Many of these are aesthetically pleasing and contain elements of technology, such as animation and interactive components, that make them more alluring. At least in my case, kinetic communications make me stop and take a look, if nothing else, until the animation loop is over. The added interactivity has also made it easier for marketeers to include a clear and inviting call to action.

Also, most e-mails campaigns are now responsive, making them available at any time. About 53% of emails are now being opened on mobile devices, which means that these campaigns have to be thought out as a cross-device solution rather than one that only works on laptops. Based on a study by Campaign Monitor, mobile is the most popular environment for a subscriber’s first interaction with an email since 2013. It is thought that if an e-mail is opened on a mobile device, there is a 23% chance that the reader will re-open it at a later instance. (However, you have a much better chance at conversion if this e-mail is re-opened on a laptop. Mobile readers who open an email a second time from a desktop/laptop computer are 65% more likely to click through). 

So what does this all mean in terms of effectiveness? It seems to be that emails are still far more engaging than other forms of digital communication. You have a better chance to get your audience to take action from an e-mail than any other form of digital media, including all forms of social media. An email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter according to McKinsey. And according to Marketing Sherpa, it is also the preferred way to receive promotional material. 72% of people in a survey conducted by them said they would rather get an email about a product, than information about it on social media. But the most impressive number came from a study conducted by DMA. They estimate that the ROI on an email based campaign can be as high as 3800%!

So despite my initial reluctance, for several years now, I have been including nice and robust email campaigns into my media mix. Of course, like any other form of communication it has to be well thought out and placed within the correct context for it to be effective. It can also rarely exist on it’s own as a silver bullet solution. There are also still a few (alas very, very few) clients that might not necessarily benefit from this platform. But if I had to make a prediction about the future of email as a form of promotion, I would probably say that email marketing is here to stay and thatit will take some very interesting forms in the not so distant future. In the meantime, I shall continue to resist the temptation to buy those bluetooth earphones for which I just received a 50% discount voucher in my inbox.