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January 10, 2013

The Rebirth of E-mail Marketing

Remember e-mail marketing? Many consider the practice a dying art; a marketing technique that’s fallen by the wayside in favor of social media.

Well, things are starting to look up for the old school Internet marketing method. The ‘Q3 2012 North America E-mail Trends and Benchmarks report’ () was just released by Epsilon (a major marketing, consulting, and e-mail list management company), and the news looks good for e-mail marketers.

Epsilon’s Findings, in a Nutshell

Epsilon’s report showed major growth in the use of triggered messaging. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term, triggered messaging refers to an e-mail that is automatically sent to a customer or prospect as the result of some action.

The most obvious examples include “Thank you” e-mails sent after you make a purchase and the traditional “Welcome” e-mail you receive when you sign up for a service online. There are many lesser-known triggered e-mail types as well. For example, think about those annoying e-mails you receive after abandoning an online shopping cart. Those, my friends, are triggered messages.

According to the report, triggered messages were up 10.3 percent year-over-year. They yielded 75.1 percent higher open rates as well as 114.8 percent higher click rates. These stats were compared to Business As Usual (BAU) messages in Q3 2012.

Judy Loschen, vice-president of digital analytics at Epsilon, had this to say about the upswing: “It’s no surprise that triggered messaging improves customer engagement, builds loyalty, and drives sales. The challenge is the integration of triggered message systems, as with other real time systems, can be an overwhelming and often lengthy process that requires significant investment to yield the pay-off. Over the past year we’ve seen many marketers investing in the implementation of triggered message systems because the return on investment is significant and the results are immediate.”

So open rates are up and the ROI is awesome. Sounds like triggered messaging does indeed still work.

Business-as-usual (BAU) e-mails did not do as well as triggered e-mails, but they still came out swinging this quarter. First, keep in mind that this data is compiled from 6.4 billion e-mails sent by Epsilon in July, August and September of 2012. The e-mails spanned a wide range of industries and almost 200 different clients. I appreciated the diversity – one can apply this data to his or her own marketing strategy with relative confidence regardless of niche.

BAU e-mails maintained a strong non-bounce rate, holding steady at 96.1 percent. In addition, BAU open rates increased quarter-over-quarter (+6.5 percent) as well as year over year (+14.6 percent). The result? An average open rate of 27.2 percent overall. In the second quarter, the average open rate was only 25.6 percent. Click rates also increased by 0.1 percentage point (2.7 percent overall) from Q212. They’re now at 4.5 percent.

It’s All about the List

Old school Internet marketers have been singing the praises of list building for years now. They still do. And for good reason… lists work (when you build them right). Lately, though, dismal open rates and increasing consumer skepticism have led some to believe the ol’ e-mail list is a dying art. Some.

The power of the list has not diminished – it’s just experiencing a string of roadblocks. Epsilon’s new study confirms what many shrewd marketers have known all along – e-mail lists are gold. If you can work them right.

This leads me to another part of the Epsilon study: the E-mail Activity Segment Evaluation (EASE). The highlight reel for this portion of the program includes the fact that 66 percent of new subscribers in an average list had no opens or clicks. Roughly half of an average e-mail file had at least one open or click over the course of the year the study took place. To top it off, EASE reported that approximately 28 percent of an average e-mail file’s subscribers had opened or clicked sometime during the last three months.

Loschen had something to say about these stats as well: “It’s also important to note that our EASE analysis found that over half of an average email list is unengaged. This highlights a significant opportunity for marketers to reactivate this dormant asset. Email marketers should view subscriber engagement as a strategy – not a one-off campaign – and focus on segmentation strategies to provide relevant and timely messages at the proper cadence to create a more meaningful dialogue and re-establish their relationship with consumers.”

Open rates may rise and fall, but if you build a loyal audience around your brand, you’ll experience far less fluctuations than most. Loschen’s quote reminds me of an Internet marketer whose list I’m on. I’ve been opted into dozens of lists in the past, and I’ve ignored e-mails from pretty much all of them until I would finally unsubscribe. One marketer, however, I kept around. She tells personal stories about her life, cares about the people on her list, and gives back whenever she can. For these reasons, this particular marketer has drawn me (and hundreds of others) in.

Believe it or not, I actually look forward to her e-mails. On the occasion that she does try to sell me something, I actually listen to her pitch. Sometimes I even buy the product in question. This, my friends, is marketing at its best. You don’t have to get up-close-and-personal about your life, but you do need to create a dialogue, attract people, earn their trust, and leave them wanting more.

Epsilon’s stats are promising – they prove e-mail marketing isn’t going away any time soon, especially with the rise of mobile users. That said, if you can manage to engage your audience (and learn how to treat them right), you’ll earn loyal customers that will stay with you for life. And your open rate won’t be too shabby, either.

Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the ‘net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.