It’s Time to Shake Up Email Marketing

Email is an effective, mature channel. Research from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that email returns $39 for every dollar spent. Even so, the time has come for email to don some stilettos and head out to the omnichannel party if it’s popularity is to continue.

“Marketers have really rich, email-centric data,” Kristin Naragon, director of email solutions for Adobe, told me during a recent conversation about the state of email marketing. “And there’s lots of talk among marketers today about adding other channels [to their email campaigns], but it doesn’t mean much if there’s no cohesion.”

According to research by Adobe and DMA, 60% of email marketers say email is part of a larger cross-channel strategy, but only 36% said it’s “the central means of communication for our cross-channel marketing strategy.”

“Remaking email as the heart of the cross-channel strategy is a huge opportunity,” Naragon said.

So, Naragon’s goal is to “disrupt the chaos” and get marketers to think past an email-centric view. And based on the Adobe/DMA research, now is the ideal time to shake things up. More than half of respondents (51%) say they’re challenged by a limited email-only view instead of having access to a true 360-degree customer view, 41% are stifled by the inability to automate email campaigns with multiple touchpoints in their entirety, and 38% are challenged by an inefficient connection with other marketing tools. In fact, only 54% of email marketers surveyed coordinate email with offline channels and just 46% use information from other channels to guide their email campaigns.

Another reason the time to shake things up is now? Only one third of email marketers surveyed are happy with their current email service provider (ESP). That means that two thirds are potentially open to something new, Naragon pointed out, adding that it’s a great opportunity for marketers and vendors alike. “Email is still the glue and delivers the best marketing ROI, but it’s been a bit stale,” she said. “So, now it’s time to shake up the market.”

Indeed, email marketers are looking to get more from their email efforts. Those surveyed say their priorities include having real-time integration with analytics tools (44%), taking real-time actions based on customer behaviors (44%), and tapping into their company’s content library to deliver more personalized communications (45%). Other strategies that respondents consider potentially high impact: 72% say technology that enables a 360-degree view of interactions and 64% say technology that enables real-time, cross-channel email insight; 68% cite the ability to test and iterate email campaigns; and 67% say the ability to share email content seemlessly across silos and channels. Additionally, 60% claim that a CMO who values the integration of email with other channels would be a high-impact strategy.

“Respondents’ priorities are encouraging for us and debunk the naysayers who say that email’s dead or passé,” Naragon said. “But the research also points to a mature market that until recently hasn’t needed to change. Now’s the time…to change it.”

Naragon pointed out how closely email marketers’ challenges and priorities are linked. The marketers surveyed are looking for better data and analytics integration to deliver more contextually relevant messaging, for example. This includes conducting A/B testing at the email open to ensure that what’s displayed is relevant based on location or a recent customer action, or using real-time data to decide the next best action, whether that’s an offer or content. “There are ways to make that happen,” Naragon said. “This is real, here, and now; it’s no longer aspirational.”

And the marketers who are first to the party will outshine those who are fashionably late.

“We’re at a cool moment,” Naragon told me with enthusiasm. “The market is shifting. It’s ripe for disruption. Consumers are giving brands more information, but they’re expecting something in return. They’re forgiving brands now for the misses, but not for long. Soon their expectations will be even higher than they already are. Marketers with big aspirations are great, but change isn’t always fast.” Today, it needs to be.

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