Email produces more ROI than any other marketing channel. That might be a surprising statement, given the constant media coverage of viral advertising, mobile apps and the latest social media sites. Even so, email, the workhorse of digital marketing, has quietly integrated itself into the core of ecommerce. Over time, it has constantly and consistently evolved to become the most effective revenue generating tool available to brands.
Today, almost everyone has an email address - many people have multiple address - and they use email for much more than just communicating with friends and relatives. In fact, email has become so ubiquitous that an email address is now required for almost any online activity: social networking, online banking, making travel arrangements and online shopping, to name just a few. Email is an essential part of daily life, and its universal nature gives marketers a huge opportunity to reach customers in a channel where they are already highly engaged.
Most marketers have incorporated email into their marketing strategy to some degree. Many recognize its potential to increase website traffic and online conversions. There is still, however, plenty of untapped potential in this highly effective marketing channel.
The Ultimate 1-to-1 Marketing Channel
Many marketers still think of email as a one-to-many channel - the "batch-and-blast" approach to email marketing; it doesn't have to be this way. Email is among the most mature and sophisticated marketing channels, and it generates a wealth of data from which marketers can draw insights about their subscribers.
Using this data, marketers can quickly and easily create unique promotions based on individual subscriber behaviors and preferences. Nearly any element of an email campaign can be customized to the individual subscriber: the products being promoted, the type of offer, the layout and content of the email-even the day, time and frequency of email communications. This highly personalized approach to email allows marketers to reach the right customer with the right message at the right time, and creates a deeper degree of loyalty and engagement on an individual customer level.
Subscriber engagement can be further enhanced when email campaign data is used to optimize future email communications. By tracking and analyzing both overall campaign performance and individual subscriber behaviors, marketers can make better decisions about future campaigns and further refine their approach to personalization. This constant cycle of action, analysis and optimization serves to further improve subscriber engagement - and, of course, increases the likelihood that each email will lead to a conversion.
It's also important to note that major mailbox providers like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo increasingly rely on subscriber engagement signals to catch unwanted email before it reaches the inbox. Engagement-based filtering looks at metrics like read rate, forwarded rate, complaint rate and "deleted without reading" rate to determine whether emails are actually desired by the recipient. The more relevant and targeted your messages are, the more likely your subscribers will want to engage with your brand-thus sending the "right" engagement signals to mailbox providers, and increasing the chances that your emails will reach the inbox.
Protecting the Email Experience
Brands with a loyal, engaged customer base tend to thrive. These companies typically drive higher than average revenue, but more importantly, they create brand advocates and devoted customers for life.
Earning - and keeping - loyal customers is no easy task. A consistently excellent customer experience is critical, but the potential pitfalls are many. Whether it's a misleading email offer or a cybercriminal spoofing a legitimate brand, it may only take one bad experience to turn a loyal customer into a former customer.
To address this concern, many brands are adding a chief brand officer (CBO) to their C-Suite. The CBO is essentially a customer experience advocate, whose chief concerns are creating a high-quality customer journey and preventing anything that might negatively impact the brand experience.
For most companies, customer experience takes a back seat to quarterly goals and budget concerns. Giving the responsibility of the overall brand image and experience to a C-Level executive allows businesses to place a higher priority on promoting and protecting their brand. About the Author
Tom Sather is Return Path's senior director of email research. Tom uses his deep knowledge of the email industry and deliverability to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter.