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Does email marketing still work in 2021?

Email marketing gets questioned mainly because of two factors.  

It’s been around so long (which is often seen as bad in the digital world) and people prefer spending time on social media than pouring over their inbox. (careful we don’t confuse audience size with its intent)

So does email marketing still work in 2021?

Short Answer

The general consensus in the marketing community is as follows.

Longer Answer

So why has email remained such a strong marketing channel for all these years?  There are a lot of contributing factors but here’s a list of the ones I think are the most significant.

  1. More than 4 billion people now use email on a daily basis. (Growing at almost 10% per year)

  2. It’s the only channel that remains independent (no tech giant controls the marketplace and controls the price of entry)

  3. Its universal (each party doesn’t have to be using the same software to send and receive messages)

  4. It’s the most established channel (nerds know that the first email marketing campaign was sent in 1978 to 400 people)

  5. 72% of customers prefer email as their main channel for business communication.

  6. Email offers the highest return on ad spend (ROAS) of any digital marketing channel (on average £1 spent on email marketing is £30

  7. Email segmented properly can offer prospects and customers an extremely personalised experience. (Creating a website with similar levels of personalisation is both costly and complex with the increased privacy controls)

  8. Email offers the most easily shareable trusted content. (Think about how you respond to forward emails from friends and colleagues in comparison to likes and shares….)

  9. It offers flexibility.  You can deliver text, images, video consistently to different devices.

So getting back to my initial question. Yes, email marketing is still incredibly important. In my two businesses, it’s still the primary channel for revenue (followed closely unsurprisingly by PPC).

Email suffers from a case of over-familiarity, and due to its age, there’s a sense of creeping irrelevance in a TikTok world. But we need to always be on guard against the obsession with potential audience size and the intent of that audience.  

What has changed in the last few years is the way in which email is being used.

For years email marketing has been seen (and unfortunately for many still is) as a broadcast medium. Terms like email “blast” are still very much commonplace.

Email “newsletters” are generally packed full of look at me, me, me messaging with no regard for the reader’s specific interests. In a world of overloaded inboxes, it’s not surprising that (average) open rates have been on the slide for years.

Email at its best is hyper-personalised. Just compare your own engagement with brand emails vs those from friends. Email response rates haven’t fallen. Consumer attention has been overloaded.

So to stand out from the noise, you need to focus on personalisation. Move away from “blasting” and towards “conversations” Remember there’s a real person behind each email address. The brands which harness technology to identify and personalise their messaging will be the biggest winners.

So I think perhaps the better question is, how are you working with email in 2021?