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  • Writer's pictureExpert Opinion

Email marketing is dead?

For years, marketers have been told that email marketing’s days were numbered. That email itself is outdated as an engagement, lead generation and prospect nurturing platform, replaced by social media networks and other channels.

The rollout of annual industry trends and prognostications wouldn’t be complete without some so-called “expert” predicting the demise of email marketing.

It turns out reports of email marketing’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Email marketing is more vital than ever, giving brands a direct way to segment, engage, nurture and convert leads.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Email marketing takes precision and dedication to do it justice. Otherwise, your audience will tune you out.

Which may explain why some people are so quick to retire it as a marketing strategy: It’s easier to chalk up failed email campaigns on a fundamentally flawed and outdated approach than to recognize execution errors and put in the work needed to succeed.

Is email marketing dead? Absolutely not. It’s essential to successful inbound marketing strategies. If you play to the channel’s strengths (automation, segmentation, direct communication) and meticulously craft every campaign and email to engage your audience, email marketing will deliver enormous ROI.

If your brand's email marketing strategy is currently struggling with bringing in high ROI, it could be because your strategy hasn't been improved to reflect how email currently works.

Email marketing isn’t dead

Just as email itself isn’t dead, neither is email marketing. In fact, email marketing remains one of the most successful and cost-effective ways to reach customers. It’s certainly more effective—and efficient—than social media marketing.

eMarketer reports that 81% of retail professionals say email marketing is a successful way to acquire new customers, compared to 51% who think the same about social media. That makes email more than 40 times more effective for acquiring new customers than either Facebook or Twitter.

That’s due, in part, to the high number of people who read the emails in their inbox, compared to the low number of people who see your social media activity. You are 6 times more likely to get click-throughs from an email campaign than you are from a tweet, and a message is 5 times more likely to be seen in an email than in a Facebook post.

According to a report by MarketingSherpa, 72% of those surveyed prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to only 17% who prefer social media, such as through their Facebook feed.

When it comes to sales, the DMA reports that email marketing drives more conversions (66%) than any other channel, including social media, online search, and direct mail. The average order value from an email sale is more than three times higher than that of social media too.

Ultimately, if you're not catering to your audiences, or if you're not using metrics to appropriately measure and improve your email campaigns, you're likely missing out on ROI — not because email marketing is dead, but because your strategy is outdated.

To improve your email marketing ROI in 2020, here's what to retire:

Email Marketing "Dead" Practices

1. Impersonal subject lines

Email marketing starts before readers even open the email. Subject lines can make or break open-rate, a metric that tracks how many subscribers open your emails.

A major component of a successful campaign is targeting the customer by creating content that identifies with their lifestyle. In email marketing, this begins with the subject line.

As a consumer, if I see an emoji in a marketing email's subject line, I immediately open it as opposed to others, because to me, this shows that the sender took a little extra time to personalize the message.

For instance, here's a look at the promotion emails I've opened and engaged with:

Personalizing marketing messages makes readers feel connected to what's being sold. Generally, making a subject line personal can be as easy as noting the holiday season or asking a question to get readers thinking.

Think about what in your email is the "must-know" takeaway, and create a short subject line that taps into emotions to get subscribers clicking.

2. Ignoring GDPR standards

In a nutshell, GDPR means making sure the reader gives clear, unambiguous permission to receive marketing emails. Full compliance with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) ensures that sending marketing emails is legal.

GDPR was created so consumers know their data is protected and being used by brands they have trusted with personal information. They opt-in to emails they'd like to receive from brands they're interested in.

This is good news for marketers because it means your email campaigns will only be sent to users who are genuinely interested in your marketing messages. It also ensures your email marketing messages are compliant with the law.

3. Using templates that aren't mobile-friendly

The world is mobile now. When I check my emails in the morning, I'm checking from my phone, where I prefer to check my email.

Emails that aren't mobile-friendly are probably raising your bounce rate exponentially due to poor user experience. Because it's so easy to click away from something that's unappealing, emails optimized for mobile should be an important step in the design process.

Apple's iPhone is the most popular method for opening emails, with Gmail in second place. For some audiences, marketing emails that are stellar for mobile should take priority over emails for desktop, so the majority of readers don't get turned away from desktop-friendly templates.

For businesses using email automation software, check the mobile previews as well as the desktop previews when drafting your email design. If the template being used interrupts comprehension or is just plain ugly on mobile, it might be a good idea to switch to something else.

4. Poor email design

We've talked a little about design, but it's really imperative to take time designing emails that delight readers.

Emails lately have gotten snazzy. From animations to GIFs, and even embedded full-length videos, businesses are dipping their toes into exciting email marketing efforts to pull readers in.

Emails that have quick loading time, bold CTAs, and colorful visuals typically perform best. Consider this email I received recently from Adobe:

There are ways to include helpful information in emails without sacrificing the user's experience, and it's all about using visuals

Think about it — an email newsletter with an emoji in the title, a beautiful infographic, and a couple of lines of exciting copy before an engaging CTA is exciting to look at and read.

An email newsletter with long paragraphs, the same-old template and a CTA that hasn't changed in years are … less than exciting, and probably leave readers clicking out of that email in favor of something that is.

Here are some examples of how email campaigns are stepping up design. In a nutshell, think about how every email can visually tell a story as much as words.

5. Not strategically using metrics

Tracking metrics helps fill in the gaps when looking at where to improve with marketing efforts. They break down the behavior of email subscribers.


There's been a lot of talk about metrics, and that's because metrics drive results. They are the numbers behind the campaign. Metrics tell marketers a plethora of important details.

Metrics collect data on how many people are interacting with emails, when they are, who they are, and for how long. All of this information is important to know when planning because they lead to important marketing decisions.

For instance, let's say a marketer who checks email marketing metrics regularly notices that the bounce rate is high, meaning that readers are opening emails but not engaging with them. This can stem from a variety of issues, but knowing the bounce rate tells the marketer what to focus on improving for the next marketing email.

Metrics save time by reporting on what's working and what isn't. To begin tracking metrics, consider what email software you use.

Ultimately, the reasons you may not be seeing results is not because email marketing is dead — it's because of how you're email marketing. So, before you turn away from email marketing as a whole, think about ways you can beef up your strategy to compete.

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