For a communications medium entering early middle age, email at 42 (closer to 50 by other estimates) would seem to be suffering some unwelcome aches and pains. Let’s be honest. Do you still have an AOL email account? Or better still, when was the last time you checked it? Do you even remember your login password?
Considering the breadth with which new marketing channels have arisen in the last decade, a time where news broadcasts report the number of President Obama’s Twitter followers or what’s trending on social media, it’s easy to think email has run its course. Critics argue that in the not-too- distant future, email will achieve vinyl record status. Not dead exactly. But not flourishing either. That’s an especially true sentiment when dealing with younger demographics like Millennials, a topic I addressed in a recent blog post, The Truth About Contextual Loyalty.
But a closer examination of this sometimes-forgotten marketing channel reveals an entirely different portrait. And it’s a depiction marketers in all verticals should welcome and embrace. For email, 42 really is forever young.
Let’s start with the big-picture endorsement. According to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 92% of American online adults use the web to check email. This is a statistic that cuts through all ethnic, gender and income barriers as a segmented breakdown reveals no usage rates below 86%. By contrast, only about 66% of online American adults use social media. Not to be outdone, private research firm Ipsos found similar global results:
For marketers, though, the news grows more encouraging. Email, despite its “age,” beat out 10 other communication channels as consumers’ most preferred method of receiving product introduction. And, likely mirroring other findings, a recent benchmark report by Experian Marketing Services found its own client base’s email volume rose 11.6% from Q1 2012 to Q1 2013 and unique open rates were up nearly 10% during the same time period. Revenue remained at 12 cents per email.
I’ve found a way to make Email Marketing even better!
Of course, email’s eternal value might be at risk if consumers don’t feel genuinely engaged, or if they feel attempts at personalized outreach are so phony that they just tune out, growing numb to the messaging altogether. After all, unique open rates of 10% aren’t ground breaking, nor is 12 cents revenue per email. In fact, it’s just enough positive feedback to coax many marketers into believing that message bombardment is still email marketing’s most effective tactic. The fact that only 14% of US internet users say they give out their email address to companies for genuine brand engagement speaks to the consumer backlash marketers might face.
Going forward, marketers must get creative in how they use email as a medium that links and syncs other marketing channels. In a sense, email marketing needs to “borrow” some of smartphones’ convergence thunder, ending its static communications status. It needs to evolve. To that end, perk.es, a marketing solution I’ve created, helps address this problem. Perk.es is a nifty URL shortener that delivers instant rewards in the form of your own coupons – and it’s free. If you have a website or blog and you want more people to click through from your emails, or from just about anywhere you can put a link to your website, then Perk.es is for you. Considering that we live in a world of instant communication, this level of streamlined, immediate rewards redemption might be exactly what email requires as it competes to retain its relevance against newer and faster methods.
Assuming email marketing can evolve and creative ideas (beyond URL shorteners) are brought to the table, there’s no reason why email should fear the onset of middle age.
Social media, with its fans, fads and shifting use patterns may not age so gracefully. Here, too, time will tell.
So, are you a marketer looking to revamp or improve your email engagement and click-through rates? What new methods have you implemented that are helping reinvigorate the channel? What’s your take on URL code-shortening and do you think it’s the way forward in keeping email a critical communications and engagement medium? Let me know in the comments below.