Email Marketing Is Dead? Not So fast!

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John Ring

JOHN RING MANAGING DIRECTOR

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Those who regard email as old fashioned fail to realise it is the gateway to social media – a powerful position to occupy online. An email address is typically required to sign up to new platforms, effectively making it a digital passport across a variety of channels. Once a company gets an individual’s email address, they become direct targets for advertising at all their favourite online hangouts.

On September 28, 2015, Google announced the introduction of their long-rumoured Customer Match targeting. This allows advertisers to create and target a customised audience simply by uploading a list of email addresses. As long as you have a customer’s email address, Customer Match allows you to reach them on Search, Gmail or YouTube. Another AdWords feature, Similar Audiences, was released by Google in March this year. It allows advertisers to display their AdWords ads on the Google Display Network, not only to previous visitors to a site via standard retargeting, but also users who display a similar browsing history as these visitors.

Lookalike Modelling is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to existing customers. Google is very late to the party, which has been in full swing on Facebook and Twitter for some time. Facebook’s Custom Audiences lets you reach customers you already know. You simply upload a list of email addresses and they deliver your ad to those people if they’re on Facebook.

Likewise, Twitter’s Tailored Audiences allows you to create highly relevant remarketing campaigns. By uploading a list of your customers’ email addresses, you can target them with display advertising.

Simply put, if on Wednesday, I target 10,000 people on my email list and 1,000 of these bite – I can retarget this subgroup of 1,000 at the weekend without hitting them with an email again. I achieve this with an ad across a variety of social media channels without running the risk of annoying them with another email. Win-win.

When businessman Denis O’Brien moved to block ads on Digicel’s Caribbean network prior to its unsuccessful flotation on the New York Stock exchange, he wasn’t thinking of email. His manoeuver was a rather blatant PR stunt pulled at the expense of display ad networks, including major players such as Google, and intended to raise the company’s profile – ‘hey, look how innovative we are’ – in advance of the IPO. This signalled a major trend that is set to continue. As one major route for advertisers is cut, email becomes more relevant. Mobile advertising on devices such as phone or tablet will inevitably take a hit because cookies are poorly supported on mobile browsers, leaving email in a strong position.

Privacy concerns are preoccupying many of us at present and plenty of companies are wary of sharing customer data with third parties. This problem can be eliminated by the use of hashing. Hashing is a way of encrypting a piece of data, such as an email address, into a hexadecimal string. Your email address – a unique value – is converted into an individual hash string. Originally used as a security feature, it has now surprisingly ended up as a cool marketing tool that works across all channels.

So far we’ve been talking about the growth of email advertising but the traditional email marketing path has also improved. Standard email marketing is showing slow and steady progress due to advances in personalisation, timing and the ability to deliver the correct message using tools such as real-time triggered messaging.

We’ve all heard the mantra ‘Content is King’ and it is true now more than ever. Over the past couple of years, email has been moving progressively up the sales and marketing funnel because branding has overtaken direct sales in importance. Email marketing is highly effective in getting your high-quality content in front of customers and, for this reason, it is more valuable than ever. Email is also fast becoming the key to omni-channel marketing.

The value of email is linked to return on investment (ROI) and performance when used with real-time bidding. If the value of an email ad is increasing because top-of-funnel is now involved, it means you can better measure the ROI of your email database and use it to drive exposure.

Widespread mobile penetration is also contributing to email’s resurgence. Marketing Technology Provider, Adestra, estimates that 45% of email is opened on mobile, 36% on desktop and 19% on webmail. Another reason email will remain relevant for quite some time is because it is vendor-neutral. It doesn’t depend on any private platform such as Facebook or Google to proliferate.

So reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. It is the future of digital advertising and more and more companies are using it as their central hub for achieving digital marketing success. Your email address is your digital password; there lies its power.

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John Ring

JOHN RING MANAGING DIRECTOR

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Over the past 15 years, I've helped many international companies like Ebay, Intel, Burberry, The AA, Suzuki, Calor Gas, and Lexis Nexis as well as local Irish companies like SSE, Irish Rail and many others with their digital marketing. My role is to lead the Tinderpoint team to deliver outstanding results continuously for our clients.