Despite the numerous predictions about its demise, it is now clear that email is not going anywhere.
Most people’s lives are so entangled with their emails that living without them would be unthinkable.
For anyone who is in doubt, a study by the Radicati Group estimates that there are now 2.6bn email users worldwide, and there will be 2.9 bn by 2019.
Usage is not declining either. Another recent report found that a typical office worker checks email 74 times per day, more than three times as often as they check Facebook.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, email marketing is not dying either. According the Econsultancy Marketing Budgets 2016, email marketing accounts for at least 12% of marketing budgets in 2016 and is set to rise this year for nearly two in five (38%) of companies surveyed.
Email marketing, it seems, is here to stay.
With the continued success of email marketing and increased investment in email technology, many are wondering about what might be new with email and what the current best practices are.
To find out, we spoke to a number of email marketing specialists at Digital Cream Singapore. Marketers from companies of all sizes participated in a roundtable discussion sponsored by email data solutions provider, Return Path.
Here is what attendees said every email marketer should be doing now.
1. Checking deliverability
One term which kept on coming up during discussions was ‘deliverability’. Deliverability is the measure which lets marketers know what percentage of their email is landing in their customers’ inboxes.
High deliverability means that more people are able to see your email, low deliverability means that your emails are either bouncing or being qualified as spam.
There are many ways to improve deliverability but one of the best ways is to work with a high-quality email service provider (ESP). High-quality ESPs offer many services to ensure that your emails reach their target, or if they do not, they will tell you why not.
These sorts of checks and reports are becoming even more important as consumer email services (such as Gmail and Hotmail) and corporate email servers are now more vigilant about sandboxing commercial email because of fraud concerns.
For those who are not sure about their providers, Return Path provides a service, Sender Score, which will give you instant feedback about your company’s deliverability.
2. Using triggers
Triggers are events which lead to an email being sent to a particular person. For example, a customer signing up for a mailing list may trigger a welcome email from the list service.
Participants noted that email triggers are becoming more creative. Whereas many used to only use them for sign-ups and after a purchase, they are now being sent when users:
- abandon a shopping cart,
- visit a particular web page,
- spend a certain amount of time on the website or
- do not return to the website for a certain number of days.
Other attendees said that they are even using external information, such as weather, in combination with other factors to trigger emails.
These algorithms can even learn from past performance, meaning that artificial intelligence is becoming a part of email strategy.
3. Upgrading opt-in and opt-out capabilities
Traditionally, being on a company’s email list was an all-or-nothing affair. Customers were asked to opt-in and they stayed on the list until they opted-out.
Now, according to delegates, companies are upgrading their list management services so that customers can choose from multiple lists, digests, and even overall email frequencies so that they can get as much or as little email as they choose.
Participants urged everyone to look at their email providers opt-in/opt-out capabilities and make sure that they were able to cater to customer expectations.
4. A/B testing (correctly)
Most email marketers at the tables were familiar with the basics of A/B testing. Many had already used the practice to make sure they were using optimal subject lines.
What the more advanced email marketers said, though, is that everyone should take a second look at the math behind A/B testing and ensure that they were doing the tests correctly.
Most service providers, they warned, did not check the size of sample groups and so the tests may be invalid.
The main thing to ensure, according to delegates, was that both the control (A) and the variation (B) group were large enough to be statistically significant. For those in doubt, there are online calculators to help with the calculations.
5. Updating key performance indicators (KPIs)
Nearly all attendees had moved on from basic KPIs such as list size and were using email performance metrics such as email opens and click-through rates.
The next level up, according to participants, is to measure how emails are contributing to conversions, also known as attribution, and comparing performance by segments or audience demographics.
Additionally, some of the more sophisticated email marketers are using ‘hidden’ email metrics which are only available from select ESPs. Listen to what Dale Langley, director of professional services at Return Path, has to say about these and how they affect return on investment (ROI).
6. Sending less email
One of the most surprising claims of the day was that some attendees were focused on reducing the number of emails that were sent to a particular person over a certain time period.
The purpose of doing so was to reduce unsubscribes from customers who were suffering from ’email fatigue’.
Sending less email is typically a goal which can only be met once a company has centralised its email distribution. Otherwise, participants noted, it is difficult to stop various departments from emailing customers at will.
Instead of relying on volume to hit KPIs, marketers who send less email focus on the relevance and quality of the email content.
Doing so forces the marketers to spend more time thinking about what they are sending which, in turn, means that they learn more about their customers’ interests and preferences.
Others also said that some of the messaging which used to be sent via email is now being delivered via social media.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day, our table moderators, Pamela Choong (senior digital marketing manager) and Angeli Beltran (director of digital marketing & CRM), and our table sponsor for the day, Return Path.
We hope to see you all at future Singapore Econsultancy events!