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GUEST COMMENT Email is not dead, it’s just misunderstood

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Email is not dead – in fact, it has never been more important. Email is essentially your digital fingerprint. For all intents and purposes, it is the most powerful individual online identifier available to companies, capable of transcending devices, browsers and channels. Today, unsophisticated batch-and-blast combined with untargeted discounts and weak personalisation tactics are slowly but surely eroding the value of email and your bottom line.

Email is a high ROI acquisition channel that is remaining stagnant because of current tactics – it is time to adopt a more strategic, behavioural email approach in order for organisations to truly own their audience and deliver incremental revenue.

Email is the digital ID

Personal email is used on a daily basis – from online purchases and banking to social networking, streaming media and travel. Email addresses underpin huge swathes of essential 21st century behaviour and activity – think about the ways that you log in to Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon etc. Email is one of the only digital identifiers that can stitch together a single view of an individual across every browser and device, simply because of the nature of the way that it is used by consumers.

Visitor identification rates are low

Brands are increasingly dissatisfied with the return on ad spend that they are receiving from their acquisition campaigns. Why? Because ninety-five percent of the traffic digital marketers are driving to their site remain anonymous, leaving them no option but to pay to get them back to the site after they leave.

The creation of good first party data – information including demographic and behavioural customer profiles that are intrinsic to the company – is increasingly becoming more valuable. And email is a fantastic first party data source that provides a means to identify and nurture visitors on their journey to becoming customers.

Most organisations retain an outdated attitude towards email marketing that fails to reflect the power behind it. Most email campaigns are blunt attempts to engage both customers and prospects, most with the same messaging and same desperate discounting. Why erode your margins when you have the capability of messaging to the inbox with offers that are relevant to the individual consumer? This untargeted, unsophisticated approach not only leads to high levels of unsubscribes and list fatigue but also creates an audience with a discount-first mindset.

Tactical v strategic

Though rarely used to its fullest potential, email is still one of the top five revenue-driving channels for most businesses. 80% of companies claim to achieve ROI and, according to eMarketer’s2016 survey, email has an average ROI of 122%, which is four times higher than alternative marketing channels. As a result, companies are either turning a blind eye to the continual erosion of the email list or remain completely oblivious to the massive revenue opportunities they are missing out on.

But consider the true impact on this invaluable first party data source: using Silverpop’s average unsubscribe rate for email across all industries (0.13%) – which would be perceived as low by many companies – 365 email sends (assuming one a day) will result in a reduction in the email database of 40%. In other words, the bedrock of the business (and the marketing strategy), this carefully curated first party data diminishes by 40% in one year – leaving the company with no direct way to reach out to those individuals again.

It is also important to put into context organisations’ expectations regarding ROI. A recent research survey of retailers reveals that most are not really focused on using email to deliver revenue. Instead measures of success include engagement, click through and conversion rates. This underlines the tactical attitude towards email marketing and suggests that many companies have failed to reconsider or re-evaluate activity for several years. Email is a very effective channel – but one that is being underutilised and in some cases unintentionally destroyed.

Driving incremental revenue

Email is a valuable acquisition channel and this seems to be frequently overlooked.

It is essential to revisit the email strategy; use this online identifier intelligently and explore behavioural techniques to get closer to the individual customer. Email represents the key to unlocking untapped incremental revenue. Today only a small percentage of companies can deliver email content based upon the onsite behaviour of an individual visitor.

Few organisations are truly using email list segmentation, sophisticated abandonment strategies or behavioural triggered emails. All of these techniques are incredibly effective and are proven to deliver higher attributable revenue and higher opt-in rates.

A behavioural email strategy enables an organisation to continue to build conversion momentum even after a visitor has abandoned the site; it enables a company to identify high intent individuals and it provides a way to nurture and create an ongoing dialogue with an individual.


Given email’s strategic value to a business, online organisations need to consider five key points:

Firstly, recognise that email is a great digital identifier of a consumer.

Secondly, treat email as the cornerstone of the digital marketing strategy and invest in email capture, using behavioural techniques, to drive up identification rates and massively grow the size and quality of the email list.

Thirdly, measure revenue for each acquisition channel (including email) and understand the revenue impact of the strategy.

Fourthly, define and implement a behavioural email strategy including email segmentation and abandonment strategies to deliver ongoing incremental revenue.

Lastly, continually, measure and refine the behavioural email strategy.

Email is a vital strategic component of any online marketing activity and organisations need to revisit their email marketing strategy and start to realise the revenue opportunity they are missing without having a successful behavioural email strategy.

Nick Keating is director EMEA at BounceX

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