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How to improve your email marketing campaigns

By Chris Hyde, Vice President of Technical Operations at Validity 

It seems everywhere we look these days new methods are being sought to innovate everything we do until the point at which the original method becomes obsolete.

However, one area that has held mostly true to its initial form is email. Since its inception, businesses have seen the value of email’s instant communication, not only with their employees, but also their prospective customers.

The first email marketing campaign was sent in 1978 by Gary Thuerk to 400 recipients promoting his company’s computers, which reportedly resulted in sales of $13 million. In today’s world, these sales would be the equivalent of $78.8 million. When email then became freely available to the public with the launch of Hotmail in 1996, email marketers jumped at the opportunity to communicate with large audiences.

Even with all the new communications opens available today, if we take a look at our inboxes it’s clear that email is still a hugely popular channel for marketing. The reasons for why email marketing has persisted for so long are manifold; in this article I’ll explore these factors and share some tips on how strategies can be improved to ensure campaigns make an impact.

Why email marketing can hold onto its crown

Although most consumers would not necessarily list email as their main medium of communication owing to the rise of social media and messaging apps, many people still have and use an email address for several different reasons. According to research by Statista, global email account numbers from 2018 amounted to 3.9 billion users and this figure is set to grow to 4.4 billion in 2023. That figure is half of the world’s population and clearly shows that email holds value in the modern age.

Despite social media being hugely popular as a communication tool,58 per cent of internet users check their emails first thing in the morning before their social media accounts.Email’s age and the public’s familiarity with it grants it a level of seniority. You can’t create a social media account without an email address, after all. Many people are also encouraged to go ‘paperless’ with their household bills and receipts by using email instead and all online retailers ask for a valid email address before arranging a delivery.

According to the DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker 2020, consumers believe email is the best channel in a range of contexts, including customer services communications, discounts, offers and sales notifications, and order confirmations and updates. In fact, on average, they prefer it almost twice as much as any other channel: 46% compared to 26% for post, and 24% for text or face-to-face

One reason for this may be the many privacy issues that persist with social media that have yet to be fully overcome, whereas email has never really presented the same concerns. In fact, one could argue that email has been proactive in dealing with privacy issues through various authentication tools such as SPF, DKIM, DMARC and BIMI.

Social media also sets algorithms in place meaning not all posts are seen by subscribers as there are usually too many updates to cram into an average news feed. Messagesarefive times more likely to be seen in email though, explaining why social media is not yet a match for email marketing.

Email holds its position as the more formal form of business communication. From communicating with colleagues and customers, sending announcements, offers and newsletters – email is ubiquitous to the functionality of a business.

According to a US survey conducted by Adobe, 50 per cent of consumers prefer to communicate with brands by email rather than social media, direct mail or mobile apps. Favour for email is further supported by the DMA’s 2019 Marketer Email Tracker report which found that the average email ROI (return on investment) is now £42 for every £1 spent (up from 27 per cent in 2018), showing that email marketing investment still produces huge monetary gains for businesses.

Having said that, Statista also found that approximately 281 billion emails were sent and received every day worldwide in 2018, and this figure is projected to increase to over 347 billion daily emails in 2023. With such an unprecedented number of emails being sent out each day, how can companies ensure their email marketing strategies are cutting through all the noise?

Show that you know your subscribers more than they know themselves

For email marketers to stand out from the crowd, personalisation is essential. Consumers want to know that brands understand them and only send relevant content. In fact, Marketing Sherpa’s 2017 study found that one of the biggest reasons why people unsubscribe is receiving irrelevant content.

Nailing personalisation is a sure-fire way in guaranteeing the majority stay on-board, but to get it right, businesses need to ensure the data they collect from customers is accurate and up to date. There are many ways to improve the customer data you have, including regularly performing a data cleanse, offering incentives for people to provide new, up to date information and being able to demonstrate that people’s data will be responsibly stored so they are more comfortable in sharing data in the first place.

In doing this, email marketers will have higher quality, more accurate data at hand. They will be able to show that they know more about their subscriber than just inserting their first name into the subject line. Email marketers can instead also make recommendations based on past purchases, promote compelling offers and use dynamic content to fit consumer preferences. This will shape a better customer experience and help businesses leave a good impression.

Optimise subject lines to maximise open rates

Another way to push through the email marketing madness is to carefully consider the subject line each time. Most people decide within seconds whether to open, ignore, or delete a message based on the subject line alone, so it is crucial businesses consider optimisation to boost open rates.

Along with being personable, it is also worth noting that over 41 per cent of emails are opened on mobile devices, so the subject line needs to be short and snappy. A report by Retention Science found that subject lines with 6 to 10 words deliver the highest open rate, because if any longer, it will be cut off on mobiles and the recipient will not know what the email is about.

You also often hear the phrase ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) being thrown around and it certainly rings true when it comes to subject lines. Creating a sense of urgency around a call-to-action can further boost open rates as most people hate the idea of losing out.

However, businesses must always ensure they are responsible with their marketing and comply with a series of regulations, so consumers are not put under any undue pressure, as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has clamped down on limited time deals that create a false sense of urgency.

Why technology will always help you go the extra mile

Although there are many tactics that will cost nothing for a business to improve their email marketing game, leveraging the latest technologies will nearly always be the most efficient way to automate processes and stand out from the crowd.

The organisations that are enjoying high open rates tend to do so because they not only have good strategies in place but are also using technology to support their success. From email list management and verification, to data quality and deliverability tools, there will be some form of technology available designed to make an email marketer’s life easier and save time.

Like anything we purchase, it is a matter of understanding where the business needs to improve its marketing strategy and being smarter about where budget is spent. Unfortunately, there is no one technological solution for them all. At least, not yet anyway!

Email is still the cheapest, fastest, most convenient and permanent marketing communication method out there. It is the best tool an email marketer can use to reach a large audience across demographics, and when effective strategies and technologies are in place, good email marketing is crucial for businesses.