Email Reborn as a Data-Driven Workhorse, Says DMA Report

As growing access to customer data and analysis buoys the importance of relatively new digital channels, it also has breathed life into an old standby—email.

Direct marketers put social media, online display, and mobile at the tops of their spending priority lists over the past two years, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s Quarterly Business Review. But email actually outdid younger digital options for budget during the last two quarters, according to the newly released Q4 report from DMA and Winterberry Group. Results of the report are based on an online survey of 257 brand marketers and technology providers conducted in January.

“You have a vehicle that’s been a steady part of the marketing mix for two decades growing at a faster pace than leading edge channels like social and mobile,” says Jonathon Margulies (at left), managing director of the Winterberry Group. “Something that a lot of marketers have discovered is the importance of email as a vehicle for retargeting and re-engagement.”

A stabilizing economy over the past few years, Margulies says, has also led to the establishment of firm data and data analytics infrastructures in American businesses. The third and fourth quarters of 2014 have shown a leveling off in spending on data-driven marketing pursuits. At the same time, more than three-quarters of those surveyed said they are confident in the practice and in prospects for its further growth.

Their sentiments were based on three factors: a growing interest in data-driven marketing throughout their organizations, increased budgets, and increased availability of technology, according to the survey. “You would normally expect to see substantial swings in the fourth quarter, but that wasn’t the case this year,” Margulies observes. “The peaks and valleys in investment are less dramatic than they were when the economy was less settled.”

Direct mail and other traditional channels—aside from email—continued to lose share to digital media throughout 2014, according to the report, though the share declines were modest. When it comes to actual dollars, however, direct mail still rules.

A report on actual marketing spending released by Winterberry Group last week positioned direct mail as the leading channel among non-measured media. Marketers spent $43.5 billion on mail in 2014 compared to $41.5 billion on teleservices, $24.2 billion on search, and $23.4 billion on display ads.

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