Email is making a comeback.

According to new DMA national client email report, success has been seen across the board for email: delivery rates have increased by 10% year on year; open rates are up by 8% on the same period; click through rates up 4%, conversion rates have more than doubled; and crucially, ROI? Up a phenomenal 53% on 2013, to £38.
Email’s purple patch is a credit to ever improving systems and processes, and sophisticated analytics. In an increasingly digitally-led marketing landscape, the email address is now the centre piece of any marketing activity. In fact it is fast becoming the glue that binds all cross-channel activity together.

Undoubtedly, one factor contributing to this upsurge is the role played by mobile in making email more accessible on the move. What it has highlighted however is the crucial nature of the message itself. Targeting and timing are obviously fundamental factors in effective planning. However, the main body of email still needs to be easily digestible and instantly relevant, whether your target is walking between meetings or sitting behind a PC at their desk.

A massive influence on the increasing importance of the message is email segmentation. Many email recipients are no longer slaves to their spam, and this has made genuine one-to-one standout much easier. When Gmail introduced its email segmentation tool in 2013, it empowered the consumer to take greater control over the emails they wanted to consume and when. Consumers now have to actively seek out your promotional email, in a crowd of many other promotional materials. This means that when you do achieve that cut through with open rates, click-throughs or those all-important sales, that email has stood out and captured the attention among possibly hundreds of other promotions.

To increase your brand’s chances here, marketers have to remember not to allow segmentation to weaken or dilute your brand personality and creativity. Subject lines which are direct and encourage an emotional reaction can be especially very powerful, in particular when they are individually relevant. It is, after all, the all-important subject line which acts as the hook for the reader to engage further. But the message also has to be suitable to cross devices – something which proves just as appealing whether read on the train on a small screen, or on a more fixed device.

To provide the context for the message, it is vital to keep the end objective in mind when shaping the content. Are you looking to capitalise on a short term window of opportunity from a trigger event or spurred on by real-time data? When are you sending the message – both time of day, and at what stage in the customer journey? Real-time only works when people are in the market to be targeted. The content of the message has to reflect that and understand which levers to pull to encourage the right result – whether that is triggering an impulse purchase on a flash sale, attempting to interrupt a customer defecting to a competitor, or educating on a new holiday destination during a person’s planning phase (or even in that post-holiday period, as daily life starts to take hold again). The right message has to land in the right moment: as the DMA found, emails triggered by a specific behaviour or activity were responsible for nearly one third of client’s revenue in 2014.

Every marketing department is busy and under pressure. The research also found that marketing automation software is on the increase, and it’s easy to understand why – everyone wants to invest in technology which enhances their role and makes their lives easier. There is, and likely always will be a place for automation in the customer journey – but careful consideration should be given to whether this approach undermines the strength of the message or even its value. The personal touch may sometimes prove the more effective route when locating that elusive moment of decision or influence rather than a mass mail.

Clearly, email can be a tremendously powerful tool, and the DMA client research found it is predicted to remain one for the year to come. Expectations are high – 60% of clients expect an increase in conversion rates in the year ahead, with 70% expecting click-through rates to improve also. These kind of gains will only be possible both over the next 12 months and further years ahead by making sure the message match the power of the medium.

Mark Ash

Mark Ash


Mark Ash is Managing Director Teradata Interactive International.