Believe it or not, email has been around for over 40 years, and has over time evolved to a tool to conveniently connect with people, both personally and professionally. The introduction of social media, mobile apps, and other forms of advertising has led some to believe email isn’t as compelling as it was in its heyday.
But even with the addition of these newer marketing channels, you shouldn’t take the “out with the old” approach with email. Instead, it’s vital to understand the evolution of email and the new capabilities it has. Read more to discover the power of email and how to do it right to elevate your customer experience.
The history of email
Email existed even before the Internet. It all started with the “@” symbol, which Ray Tomlinson used in 1971 to send the first computer-to-computer message. In 1978, the first email “blast” was sent by Gary Thuerk of Digital Equipment Corp. to 400 recipients as a promotion for the company’s products; it made $13 million as a result of the blast ($78.8 million today). The mid-1980s saw an increase in email use for government and military employees, students and academic professionals.
With the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1991 came widespread use of the Internet, and when Hotmail became the first free web-based email service in 1996, it sparked the use of email marketing. Not coincidentally, “spam” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary that same year. The creation of the Blackberry in 2003 was the catalyst for mobile email use.
Whereas back in the early days marketers could quickly and easily send mass promotional emails to a large list of customers and prospects and expect results, today’s online audiences have come to expect more of a connection from brands, which has sparked the rise of social media networks, apps, virtual and augmented reality, and other digital advancements.
Email as the foundation of your marketing strategy
Even with these new marketing trends, email reigns supreme. With 80% of marketers reporting email as the top driver of acquiring and retaining customers, it is worthy of your time and resources. However, heightened customer expectations and the increased importance of customer engagement means email requires a data-driven, customer-focused strategy. While certain technologies have made marketing strategies more complex, they also provide new opportunities for marketers to connect with their customer base through email:
Automation allows marketers to turn their email strategy into a well-oiled machine. After establishing journeys and creating content for separate groups within your database, marketing teams can then automate the process of sending different updates and promotions to customers.
Artificial intelligence allows marketers to leverage email differently, creating more specific messages to targeted segments of their customers. It leverages the power of machine learning to predict a customer’s future behavior based on their past behavior. For instance, if an individual customer has engaged with content surrounding a certain product or topic, AI takes note of this and selects the best content in your arsenal to send next. This more personalized messaging will further engage your audience.
Deliverability is also becoming increasingly important. The goal for any email campaign is for it to get sent to the correct person, and for that person to open and engage with it. Deliverability is the overall percentage of a campaign’s messages that reached customer inboxes, rather than bounced emails or those that went to spam or junk folders. Ending up in the spam folder too many times can result in a significant increase in unsubscribes and even a hefty fine. If you aren’t active in ensuring email deliverability, chances are your email strategy isn’t as effective as it could be.
Email can play nice with other channels
None of this is to say email should stand alone, however. The aforementioned social, mobile, and other new, innovative channels are popular avenues for marketing messages that meet customers where they are. Fortunately, they can work with email to deliver consistent, unforgettable experiences:
You should be promoting your social media pages in every email correspondence you send, encouraging follows and post engagements. Additionally, you can leverage social actions to inform your email strategy by targeting emails to people in your audience who have shown interest in certain types of social posts. Finally, take advantage of the tools each social channel provides; for example, Facebook’s Custom Audiences feature allows you to import contacts from your email list to create targeted ads on the site.
Paid ads give marketers the opportunity to view customer behavior flows and when/where they stopped interacting with your brand. Therefore, you can set up emails triggered when a person either leaves your website, or creates an online shopping cart but never completes the purchase. According to a Forrester survey, 79% of customers who received browse-abandon emails said it made them more likely to return.
It’s no breaking news that today’s consumers spend a lot of time on their mobile devices. In fact, about 46% of email opens are via mobile devices. Therefore, if your emails aren’t responsive and mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on almost half of your audience.
Blogs, Videos, and Other Content
Emails are also great for pushing other types of content you have on your site. Increase blog views and subscriptions, as well as site traffic, by promoting them in emails; you can do the same for other landing pages. Videos are also a high-engagement content format to boost via email or even include within an email. Essentially, email gets important content in front of the right people at the right time.
Email is a tried and true communication method that has evolved to keep up with the times. Maropost helps you send emails that drive acquisition and retention, with content and design optimization that customers can’t ignore. See it for yourself here.