Email can be a brand building tool

Email marketing is seen by the majority of marketers as a classic DM tool – a low cost way to land a direct hit – but new research suggests the channel could, whisper it, be a valuable brand building tool.

Russell Parsons

I wrote recently about the potential dangers email marketers face. The sector should check itself, I argued, or face blowing its growth potential. There are too many emailers bombarding consumers having obtained the merest hint of permission, my missive went.

This polemic I stand by despite the aforementioned DMA Email Tracking Survey demonstrating increasing acceptance of email as a marketing channel. More than 1 in 10 customers are signed up to receive emails from 10 or more brands, the report finds, an increase of 10 per cent on last year.

There are several statistics contained in the report – news of huge leaps in volume, dwell time etc – that will leave email marketers salivating but the most revealing turns received wisdom on its head.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that the most popular reason that brands sign-up for a brand’s emails do so primarily to save money. A whopping 61 per cent of people sign up to hear more about offers and sales, 59 per cent to get discounts and 56 per cent vouchers.

So far, so not yet revelatory. However, dig a little deeper and you will find that email can not only be used as a tool to generate a sale but as a direct channel for engagement.

Other significant motivations that prompt sign-up include “like the brand” (40 per cent), a desire “to stay in touch” with news and views from the brand (33 per cent) and the promise of “exclusive content” (21 per cent). Not modes of engagement that would have direct marketers focused on ROI skipping with joy but a huge opportunity for them to achieve as much but in a very different way.

Elsewhere, the report finds modest but significant increases in the desirability of content and offers that acknowledge the value of the customer relationship such as increased loyalty coupons, product reviews and user guides.

The increasing acceptance of and indeed desire for email communications that focus on matters other than price should provide plenty of food for thought for direct marketers.

Brands have gotten a little carried away sending increasing numbers of price-based offers. They can and do work but like anything , too many and effectiveness is diluted. Better to balance the communication with engagement that does not necessarily contain a call to action. It might just boost effectiveness all round.

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