Email marketing has taken a hit this week following the news that US email marketing company Epsilon was the victim of hackers that stole data from customers of some of the world’s biggest businesses. But it is not just security breaches that email marketers need to be concerned with; the channel needs to address many issues before it can truly flourish.
Before I continue, it is worth highlighting the many benefits of email marketing. It is instant, certainly when put up against direct mail that relies upon the often unreliable postal service to deliver. Its carbon footprint – no paper, no vehicles necessary for delivery – is considerably smaller than that of other channels, and campaigns can, when planned properly, target hot prospects that are more likely to buy.
Most importantly though, it is using a channel of communication that it is becoming more natural than speech to a considerable number of the consumers that it is targeting.
So, with all this going for it, what are the problems that I alluded to in the first paragraph?
For those wanting to attract prospective customers, a little more work needs to be done on creating relevant content that will not be virtually binned on receipt, that is if it manages to find its way past SPAM filters.
Having the email address of someone that may have opted-in to receiving information via a direct or other source is not enough to build a relationship. Too many companies are blanket bombing targets without any personalisation or relevance.
Receivers just view emails seemingly sent randomly as unwanted annoyances that create a fog that makes it difficult for customers to see those marketing messages that are relevant.
An opt-in is a green-light but it is not enough. Research carried out by GI Insight earlier this year found that, in terms of relevance, email marketing is performing randomly with 53% saying that almost all email received is irrelevant.
Email does not have the advantage of being as tactile as DM, or as arresting as TV, so it is absolutely essential that communication is better than simply being received. Too many emails are being sent to too many people at present.
Email marketing has much going for it, and as a way of developing and maintaining a relationship with customers once that relationship has been established and more than just an address is known, it is and will continue to prove to be a valuable marketing tool.
The industry, however, needs to take stock, take a deep breath and not treat an opt-in as an excuse for arbitrary communication. Email marketing will, given its advantages, likely grow to become by far the biggest direct marketing channel. With such clout comes the need to make sure it stays on the right side of annoying.