Digital marketing has undergone somewhat of a transformation over the last decade, bringing email marketing into its centre.

This is evident in a number of ways, not least when looking at email’s ROI rising from 66% in 2008 to 73% today; it has shown a spectacular growth compared to other channels in the marketing mix.

In addition, 10 years of increased integration between the technologies and channels used now means better segmentation, increasingly sophisticated personalisation and customer-driven marketing.

However, in order to make such a tactics and strategy analysis more useful for marketers it’s important to drill down until we reach the sector level.

This way marketers can learn from each other and even cherry pick (and test) good ideas that already work in other sectors.

Using data collected for the Adestra/Econsultancy Email Marketing Industry Census 2016 – a survey of over 1,100 digital marketers around the world - we looked at the top six sectors: Retail/Mail Order, Print/Publishing & Media, Charities/Government & Non-profits, Financial Services & Insurance, Travel & Hospitality and Technology & Telecoms.

We analysed each sector to see which are producing the best return for the budget they spend on email, the tactics and strategies they use, the time spent on them, how they focus on mobile and implement automation, and finally their outlook on the future.

I’ve picked three sectors from the report which are notable for being best performing, most improved and showing most growth potential.

Print, publishing & media

Yet again, the Print, Publishing & Media industry has produced consistent results across the board. Publishers have seen email performance shoot up since last year (see fig.1), and they top the chart for total sales attributable to the email channel.

They make use of the broadest number of ESP services and lead the pack in optimising email for mobile. It’s not surprising then that there is no other sector that feels more love for their ESP.

Fig.1 How do you rate the performance of your company’s email campaigns? (Results show Excellent or Good)

Email performance 2016 Sector Census

Charities, Government & Not-for-Profits

From mediocre results last year, the sector with the biggest turnaround has to be Charities, Government & NFP. Their ROI is consistently higher (and now tops the chart at 84%, excellent/good ROI – see Fig.2), email performance has skyrocketed and more time is now spent on strategic activities.

Fig.2 How do you rate the email channel in terms of return on investment? (Results show Excellent or Good)

Email ROI 2016 Sector Census

Retail/ Mail Order

ROI has grown considerably from last year for the Retail/Mail Order sector, and email performance is just keeping above the overall email industry average.

Retailers also score above the industry average for mobile optimisation strategy. While they are keeping time spent on tactical activities down, they have however lost a little focus on strategy.

Their use of tactics overall has dropped back since last year, however firms have seen modest improvements in success when implementing automated email programmes. With an eye on the future, retailers are the most innovative sector (see Fig.3), and feel most strongly about innovating with creative behavioural triggers.

Fig.3 How do you intend to innovate with email in 2016?

Email Innovation 2016 Sector Census

And the king of the hill is…?

Publishers have produced the most consistent results across the board, while charities have shown a huge upswing in both return and performance as they get to grips with more email tactics and strategies. Travel firms too have upped their game as they adopt more email tactics, data services and mobile optimisation techniques.

Retail performance is largely middle of the road, however the sector has a great future potential if it can focus its efforts. While finance firms have experienced a rise in email performance, they are let down by not embracing email tactics or ESP services, and have low email optimisation strategies.

Similarly, with few highpoints, tech companies are often trailing the pack in terms of how they use email and (predictably) the return it produces.

While we can still highlight individual improvements across the board, some sectors need to use the experience and successes of their peers and look at the opportunities, services and tactics available to really make the email channel work harder for them.

It might seem an uphill battle, but experimentation and testing are the name of the game.

Subscribers can download the full Email Marketing Census 2016.

Henry Hyder-Smith

Published 15 November, 2016 by Henry Hyder-Smith

Henry Hyder-Smith is CEO at Adestra and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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