As a full-time digital marketer since 2004, I’ve witnessed the evolution of email marketing.

It started out as the only game in town. Then, along came pay-per-click, social media, video, and mobile.

All of these marketing channels are very popular and continue to grow.

So, it’s certainly reasonable to go one step further and ask, “If email marketing isn’t dead, is it heading to the technology graveyard?”

In this article, I’ll answer that question with hard data and reveal what the future holds.

Why do people keep asking, “Is email marketing dead?”

Email has been around since 1971. By today’s standards, it’s considered old technology.

And even though all the wiring and pipes required to send and receive emails have improved, everything else still looks and works essentially the same.

Couple that with the rise and prevalence of spam, which Mobile Monkey says accounts for nearly half of all email.

No wonder people think email is losing its grip. However, two key situations have caused this myth to catch fire:

  1. The rise of Facebook, other social media platforms, and chat apps.
  2. Businesses employing ineffective or poor email marketing practices.

Allow me to quickly address each one before revealing the current state of affairs.

Is social media on its way to replacing email marketing?

No, this is not happening. Social media is a tool that has certainly disrupted traditional human interaction models. It has value. But it has not achieved the personalized touch that email offers.

Email has a one-to-one feel that encourages your customers to engage with your messages in specific ways. They can read, share, reply, delete, archive, or mark them as spam.

So, unlike social media posts that don’t require a response from users, email demands some level of direct interaction.

Email Offers Several Advantages Over Social Media

Segmentation and remarketing – email allows you to segment your prospects, leads, and customers and remarket your product/services to them repeatedly.

For example, you can tailor your emails to reach customers who have bought a specific item. You can then offer upgrades, related products, or discounts to encourage them to come back and spend more.

You can also reach out to your list to find out what information they may want to receive. Then, personalize future emails accordingly.

You can’t easily do that with social media.

High return on investment (ROI) – email marketing is a cost-effective strategy offers one of the highest returns on investment. As a matter of fact, it is higher than other marketing strategies, including paid ads, direct search, and social media (Litmus).

email roi -return on investment

Ability to test – you can create multiple email subject lines to evaluate the effectiveness of messages across different segments of your community.

Send the same email with two different subject lines and see which variation gets more opens. You can then customize your content to match their preferences.

Preferred communication method – in 2021, the DMA surveyed consumers to determine their preferred marketing communication channels (Validity).

The survey approach asked consumers to identify the best ways for businesses to contact them at different touchpoints in the customer journey. (Spoiler Alert: Email won in every scenario.)

There were nine communication methods from which to choose, including phone, text messaging, direct mail, and more.

But for this article, I’m only going to focus on comparing email and social media for the following four customer experience categories:

  • Pre-purchase – discounts and offers; advice and reviews; new product/service announcements.
  • Post-purchase – order confirmations, delivery status; tutorials and user guides.
  • Customer service – account/service information; appointments/reminders.
  • Other benefits – contests, events, access to exclusive content.

Consumers were allowed to choose one or more communication methods for each touchpoint category. Here were the comparative results.

comparison table of consumer preferred communication methods

The above chart makes one thing quite clear. Year after year, email is the top communication method among consumers for nearly every marketing situation.

Now that I’ve dealt with social media, I’ll address the second possibility that may be causing many people to believe that email marketing is dying.

I’m referring to poor marketing practices and strategies.

What are the most common mistakes done with email marketing?

Do many of your sent emails get flagged as spam? Are you experiencing low open rates?

Use the average open and clickthrough rates below to gauge how you’re doing. If you’re falling short, then I can understand why you might think email marketing is dying.

email and newsletter open and clickthrough rates

(Constant Contact updates the rates monthly. So what you see on their website may vary.)

Of course, underperformance usually means that some aspect of your email marketing strategy has gone off the rails. Here are five common mistakes that can kill email effectiveness:

Violating GDPR rules (Europe) – one of the most common reasons email marketing does not work is violating EU General Data Protection Rules (GDPR).

Email marketers must now obtain consent from consumers. Compliance with these privacy rules requires that you adopt new practices, which include:

  • Proof of consent storing systems.
  • New customer opt-in rules.
  • A disclosure method that allows customers to request the removal of their personal information.

Sending non-personalizing content – the goal of your email marketing platform is to send personalized messages to your customers.

That means you should include their name and tidbits that will trigger future interactions and increase website traffic. Many marketers still send generic messages.

Failing to ensure emails are mobile-friendly – nowadays, most people across the world are constantly on their mobile devices. So, your emails must be easily readable on small screens.

Use a mobile-optimized template to ensure that your emails are accessible on mobile, especially smartphones.

This will increase the chances of prospects and customers interacting with your brand.

Using poor subject lines – the easiest way to get your emails marked as spam is to use poor subject lines. When a customer receives an email, the chief motivator to open it is the subject line.

If your emails have lousy subject lines, customers may also assume the content is junk. So, they may delete it or mark it as spam.

Employing a visually unappealing design and layout – make sure your sign-up form and email design are visually appealing. If you combine that with a readable font size (14-20pt), your emails can stand out.

Also, make sure that your images load properly.

I’ll share several more free tips for improving your email marketing game in a moment. But first, I’m going to provide data to dispel the “Is email marketing dead” myth.

Is email marketing dead? Let’s first take a big-picture look

You may find it hard to believe, but the use of email is expanding. Here are some projections that you may find interesting:

  • Over 306 billion emails are sent and received every day. This number is expected to increase to more than 376.4 billion by 2025 (Statista).
  • In 2020, the email marketing market was valued at $7.5 billion, globally. This amount is projected to rise to $17.9 billion by 2027 (Statista).
  • More than 4 billion people use email daily. This number is projected to increase to 4.6 billion by 2025 (Statista).

If email is dying, all the above statistical numbers should be shrinking, right? But let’s keep going.

Is email marketing dead? Let’s see how consumers feel about it

Earlier, you saw a chart showing that email is the consumer-preferred marketing communication channel under different contexts. Check out these additional marketing statistics that reveal the importance of email to consumers:

is email marketing dead? 61% of consumers want to receive promo emails weekly

If you’re a little surprised by that percentage, then you will be shocked to learn that 38% of the same survey respondents said they’d like to receive emails even more often (Marketing Sherpa).

Here are a couple of other email preference stats:

  • 60 percent of consumers indicated that they have bought a product or service based on an email they received.

    On the other hand, only 12.5% of consumers said they would even consider clicking the buy button in a social media ad (Constant Contact).  
  • In another survey, 28% of email subscribers said they’d like to see promotional offers 2 to 3 times per week (Constant Contact).

Finally, according to a Sales Cycle report, 59% of consumers say that marketing emails influence their buying decisions.

59% of consumer say marketing influences buying behavior

I hope you’re beginning to see that email marketing is only going up. This is especially good news if you’re in the e-commerce space. But let’s continue just in case you’re still a bit skeptical.

Does email marketing still work? What do email marketers and business owners think?

Surely intelligent online marketers and business owners wouldn’t continue to waste money on something that’s ineffective and dying, right? Well, here’s what they think about it.

  • In 2021, 77% of marketers saw more engagement with email over the past year (Hubspot).
  • A survey of business professionals found that 80% believe that email marketing improves customer retention (Sales Cycle).

And as the following stat by Campaign Monitor shows, even small business owners and entrepreneurs understand the value of using email in their marketing…

64% of small businesses use email

Finally, Litmus found that 78% of marketers said that email was important to overall company success.

78% of marketers said email was proven effective in 2020

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Not only is email marketing alive and well, but it also continues to play a crucial role in running a business.

Now that it’s clear you should be using email in your marketing, I’ll briefly remind you of its benefits and best practices to employ.

What are the benefits of using email marketing for small and local businesses?

Here are just three of the ways email marketing can help grow your business:

Excellent ROI – earlier, I showed you that the return on investment for email marketing is $36 for every $1 spent.

The beauty of email is that it’s an effective marketing channel that cuts across all demographics, including Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Increased traffic, engagement, and sales – your target audience wants to hear from you. So, send them targeted, irresistible email offers.

It’s the best way to attract them to your website or to get them to walk into your local brick-and-mortar establishment. Having an enticing lead magnet also helps.

Quick and timely communication – emails allow you to communicate with your customers quickly, effectively, and as often as you like. And it doesn’t take much effort.

Further, you can tailor emails to your prospects and customers based on their previous purchases or other needs.

Compare that to the slow speed and hefty cost of direct mailing.

What are the best practices for ensuring that your email marketing strategy is effective?

Here are five best practices you must employ to have a successful and winning email marketing strategy:

– Curate your list – it is essential that you continuously prune your email list to ensure your messages only reach active customers who have an interest in seeing them.

I recommend that you delete email addresses flagged as “hard bounces” as these can harm your spam score. You should also do the same for people who haven’t opened one of your emails in over 120 days.

– Use segmentation – customer or lead segmentation allows you to customize product/service offerings to specific audiences.

– Craft eye-catching subject lines – ensure that your emails stand out by using better subject lines that grab the attention of your prospects and customers.

– Tone, timing, and frequency – nothing annoys people more than receiving promotional emails at the wrong time. So, understand your audience, provide value, and keep the tone of your emails friendly and engaging. Avoid hype and send messages at the best time that work for them.

– Use automation – most email service providers include an automation feature in their platforms. You can configure complex workflows that automatically send emails when subscribers take a specific action.

– Personalize your emails – consumers feel valued and appreciated when brands use personalization. This includes their name and relevant content to show that you know who they are.

A final word

Is email marketing dead? Nope. As the data shows, email is not only alive, but it’s thriving.

In addition, the ability to include video and interactive elements in email is giving this channel new life.

Also hovering on the horizon is artificial intelligence and what that technology may bring to the table.

Overall, I’d say the future of email marketing looks very bright.

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