Email Gets (Personal) Intimate

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Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News
Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News

Ah, email. If it were a love song, it would tell the tale of a bittersweet romance. For many marketers it's the core of their marketing strategy. It's the key driver of customers to other channels, to sign-ups for alerts and contests, and sometimes to immediate sales. It's a mainstay of retention efforts. And as marketers gain more access to data and technology, their ability to use email to build customer engagement increases exponentially.

Yet, for all its glorious successes, email is fraught with tribulations. Low response rates, inactivity, and opt-outs may come immediately to mind. They're often signs of email marketing that's irrelevant or off the mark. But they're just the beginning. Issues like timing and context can vex marketers, as well.

The right time

Segmentation and targeting are one common way email marketers address timing and context. These data-focused tactics may take extra time, effort, and resources, but can pay off handsomely. Done well, they can allow companies to build campaigns that go beyond one-off promotions and welcome emails to follow a customer's entire lifecycle—potentially extending it by bolstering engagement and retention and spurring sales along the way. As Loren McDonald, VP of industry relations at Silverpop, says in “Emailing in Synch With the Customer Lifecycle”: “When you break down these [email] series, they may not generate a ton of revenue, but they create a better customer experience. As a result…people come back and buy more.” In fact, as Al Urbanski notes in the article, after one year using lifecycle-based emailing The Motley Fool's net retention rate increased by 16%.


Lifecycle-based email adds intimacy by being in tune with where individual customers are in their relationship with a brand. As such it can help strengthen that relationship.

The right place

Another test of email marketers' mettle: mobile. Yet, with all the challenges mobile has brought to email—opens on multiple device types, mobile triaging, rethinking email design and layout—mobile provides a new opportunity to use email to all of its best advantages. And with mobile devices accounting for 44% of all email opens as of June 2013, according to Litmus, if mobile email isn't a priority, it should be. “Anybody who isn't working on a mobile strategy is behind,” Katrina Conn, VP of marketing services for marketing services firm StrongView, says in “Email on the Move.” As Jason Compton notes in the article, WeddingWire's mobile-first strategy has earned its subscribers' attention: click-through rates have increased by 10% and open rates have increased 27%.

What's more, like lifecycle-based email marketing, mobile email brings a new level of intimacy to the customer relationship. Mobile emails enter a customer's life anytime, anywhere—and often more in context than their desktop-oriented brethren.

The right answer

Rethinking email as not simply a marketing tool to drive the occasional action, but as a formidable asset to build and maintain customer engagement can enable marketers to outthink their competition. Email becomes more strategic, playing an integral role throughout the customer relationship by helping to deepen that relationship. And that will leave marketers singing a happy tune, indeed.

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