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Myth Busters: For Digital Marketers Is Email Dead or Should It Be?

By Feather Hickox

Inspired by the Discovery Channel’s television show MythBusters, we decided to do a little Big Data Analytics myth busting of our own. Over the next several months we’ll tackle hot topics related to Big Data, analytics, customer engagement and mobile technology and we’ll determine whether the topic can be confirmed, is plausible or is busted (not true).

For our first myth buster exercise, let’s tackle the “email is dead” topic. In late March, the Boston Globe published a piece titled “E-mail a thing of past for business, young.”  The gist of the article was that people are turning away from email. It cited a Radicati Group study that found a 9.5 percent decrease in email traffic between 2010 and 2012, and identified people who rarely use email (students, venture capitalists and researchers) – some went as far as to no longer include an email address on their cards or websites.  The reasons for the decline in email were: 

  • Too much spam,
  • Email is too limiting,
  • It is the natural progression of communications channels (think the death of fax),
  • The emergence of better two-way communications channels like Twitter, Facebook and corporate chat technology.

But for the digital marketer is email truly dead? We say no… busted! Here are the facts:

  1. Measured by sales per dollar spent, email outperforms social-media advertising 3-to-1. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email generates $39.40 in sales for every $1 spent.
  2. 60 percent of shoppers visited a physical store because of email, according Wanderful Media based on its survey of 1,000 US consumers.
  3. 91 percent of consumers check email daily, up from 85 percent in 2008 according to data from ExactTarget. Yet this usage is evolving, as fewer consumers rely on email for personal communications.
  4. Most of the $690 million raised by the Obama campaign was generated by fundraising email.The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers.
  5. There are more opens on mobile devices than either web-based or desktop clients. According findings from email specialist Return Path, which reports that mobile open share has increased 300 percent since 2010, and shows no sign of slowing, with four out of 10 emails sent being read on a mobile device.

While email can be an effective tool, marketers need to effectively use the channel, which means well tested campaigns, and thoughtful messages and offers. A Pardot survey reports that while 70 percent of marketers do not consider email marketing to be a primary lead generation tactic, they are using it for lead nurturing, targeted messaging and message testing. 58 percent of respondents test to see what type of content results in the best click-through-rates; 57 percent test for a correlation between subject lines and open rates; and 46 percent test to see how open rates are affected by time of day. Highly targeted digital marketing is so much easier to do via email than any social channel.

Did we convince you? Did we bust this myth? Is email dead, or to steal a line from Mark Twain, are rumors of its death greatly exaggerated?

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