E-Mail Remains Relevant…To A Point.

I have three e-mail accounts:  one business, one mixed use “testing” / “sort of interested” account, and one personal account. At 53, I am of the generation that went through our core business years with e-mail as an “essential” communication tool. But, while I check my business e-mail obsessively, I still miss messages. My personal account gets checked about once a week, and my “sort of interested” account…well, it sort of gets checked.

None of that profile is likely to be unfamiliar to you as a reader. Even amongst millenials who are more e-mail averse (see this NYTimes article from 12/2010 for a look into the trend), e-mail remains a form of communication…but only one form, and a situational one at that. Yes, e-mail is necessary at work, valuable in e-commerce world, and potentially useful for detailed communication with a friend. But, the sheer volume of e-mail I receive makes diminishes its usefulness.

Yet, in it’s 1Q E-mail trends report (Epsilon.com:  http://bit.ly/lUfOZg), Epsilon reported:

  • An increase in open rates (23.3%) both quarter over quarter (by 5.6%) and year over year (by 4.2%)
  • An average click rate of 5.9% which represented only a slight decrease from the prior year (6.0%).
  • A 3.0% conversion rate that was the strongest over a two year period.

It is important in evaluating e-mail activity to understand whether the data incorporates “service” messages…e-mails sent for transactional or customer support purposes… which, according to Epsilon, show the highest open rates (37.5%) and click rates (7.9%) of all e-mail. Epsilon’s data does include service message sends.

Across all age demographics, users are becoming more conditioned to get electronic statements, check for transaction confirmations, and review reservation reminders than ever. This means that the same characteristic that drives people to read e-mails as work, are now driving readers to their personal Inboxes — they NEED to check e-mail, like it or not. That creates a very real opportunity for marketers who understand how to target and deliver relevance and value.

In an August 2011 report, Pew Research notes that e-mail and search remain the top two most popular activities among adult Internet users, with 92% of online adults using search and an equal number using email. Counterbalancing those optimistic stats is the cold reality that most Inboxes are flooded and readers are increasingly likely to be focused on messages from specific senders they truly value…or that they know they need to open (such as bills). Finding time for marginally interesting content just not at the top of the list. In this environment, following good practice (clearly identifiable brand/sender, compelling subject, solid content that rewards the reader for opening, targeting strategies that drive solid relevance) is critical to success.

With all the emphasis on social media and mobile marketing, it is easy to toss aside boring techniques like e-mail. But, especially as the medium becomes a real for delivering transactional information, the medium can reward those who use the technique well.


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