Channels like social media, mobile apps, and immersive in-store experiences are exciting touch points for digital marketers looking for the coolest new ways to engage consumers. However, those same marketers may have inadvertently pushed email to the backburner.
Although the appeal of such innovative marketing channels is completely justified, the shift in focus has caused some marketers to toss their email strategies into the same bargain bins as DVDs and light-up sneakers.
Email marketing never went out of style. Instead, it has undergone a complete makeover from a classic model to the in-depth contextual emails that—with the right tools in place—can help any brand perfect its cross-channel marketing strategy.
The Evolution of Email Marketing
When I think back to where my email journey began, the landscape is almost unrecognizable. During the time that personalization and targeting efforts really started to take shape, contextual email was still a foreign concept.
At that time, it was less about the list and more about the content. I’m talking about the now-antiquated email marketing strategies of the late-1990s, where a simple “Dear [JOHN DOE]” line of code was enough to get the attention of anyone who was just happy to receive an email on their desktop computer every once in a while.
Now email marketing focuses on a combination of strategies that help marketers know and understand who their customers really are before spreading brand messages to the masses. Email automation and personalization, for example, can help today’s marketers create contextual messages catered to a customer’s location, device, purchase history, and real-time status, all while driving conversions at scale.
That’s not to say there still isn’t room and utility for classic email models. For example, there’s no point in developing full-blown contextual emails to address simple tasks like passwords resets or courtesy notifications after a failed login. But the great thing about the current state of email marketing is that brands have options, ranging from simple correspondence to immersive, contextual emails that deliver the right offer to the right person at the right time.
Marketers should no longer view email addresses as soulless assets on a list. Today’s email addresses represent the very people we love doing business with. And the more we approach those addresses the same way we would the people who own them, the better our email marketing will be.
What’s Making Email Marketing Cool Again?
When email marketing became a major marketing channel for business-to-consumer (B2C) correspondence in the early 1990s, receiving electronic messages from around the globe was a big first for many consumers. It didn’t take long, however, for new technology to quickly draw attention away from marketers, who (mistakenly) began to consider email as uncool as the unfortunate username choices for their first email accounts.
Email’s recent digital marketing comeback may be attributed to the people that knew it was never going away. Chad White, author of the “Email Marketing Rules” blog has written for years about innovative ways marketers can improve their email marketing strategies across a changing cross-channel marketing landscape.
So what exactly has gotten all of the other cool kids at the marketing lunch table talking about email again? The fact that every other digital marketing channel is making email marketing look really good. Channels such as mobile devices and social media, which seemed to take many marketers away from a focus on email, have actually been the very reason email remains so effective today.
Sophisticated technology has helped email marketing evolve by giving more people access to email in a multitude of places at any time of day. Think about your first email experience: you probably spent a few minutes logging into your email account from a desktop at your home or office, loudly humming your favorite tune while trying to muffle out the dreadful sound of your 56K modem dialing up.
Nowadays checking your email is as simple as refreshing your inbox on your mobile device. The ubiquity of various digital marketing channels hasn’t hurt email. Instead, email has benefited from the proliferation of mobile devices and worldwide connectivity, working alongside modern channels to optimize the consumer experience.
Automation and Personalization Are Changing the Way We Do Email
Much of the renewed excitement over email marketing is the emergence of some pretty cool and innovative tools that apply automation and personalization to make email seem like a new form of old marketing.
For example, Adobe’s automation and personalization tools give marketers the ability to deliver relevant and consistent emails that build upon the consumer cross-channel experience. Such tools can help brands identify and target the right customers at the right time, analyzing cross-channel data that allows marketers to develop contextual emails like never before. With a reliable content management system (CMS) such as Adobe Campaign, enterprises can even set up workflows that will help them determine the most effective ways to drive the consumer-to-brand conversation, whether through email, social media, or offline engagement.
When companies focus on making these channels work together instead of allowing them to compete, the consumer experience remains seamless across all channels—including email. For example, I love being able to engage with one of my favorite brands on social media, and then receiving a targeted email from that brand presenting special offers, discounts, and incentives based on what I’m interested in online. When email marketing can pick up the conversation where another channel left off, customers are more likely to stay engaged with your brand.
It Pays to Improve Your Email Marketing Strategy
Email is a vital part of every cross-channel marketing strategy, which is why today’s digital marketers should focus on how every channel—both online and off—can work together to deliver contextual messages that build consistent brand messages.
If delivering valuable, contextual emails to your customers isn’t enough of an incentive, then consider this: at $39 for every $1 spent, email has the highest return on investment (ROI) of any other channel. That’s a fact you can take straight to the bank.
Email marketing never really went out of style, but it is becoming universally cool again, which is great news for digital marketers looking for exciting new ways to engage with customers through the channel with the highest ROI than any other. And few things are cooler than a phenomenal return on your investment.
This article was originally published in Marketing Land.