With email, less should be more

Email has replaced direct mail in many ways – as arguably the most cost effective direct marketing channel but also the most likely to shout loudest about its worth. 

Russell Parsons

On a weekly basis, I receive email notification of a study trumpeting its unmatched ROI and increased use.  One received this week caught my eye as it came courtesy of Marketing Week sister title E-consultancy.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the marketers polled for the study ranked email as the best digital DM channel for return on investment, up 3 percentage points on a year ago.

The study, published by Adestra and E-consultancy, also found marketers getting more bang for their buck. Almost a fifth (23 per cent) of sales were attributed to email, up from 18 per cent a year ago.

Impressive stuff but all in the garden is not entirely rosy. Despite the returns reported by some, more than half (58 per cent) of respondents described the results of their campaigns as “average” or “poor”.

The clue to what appears to be a contradictory finding might be found elsewhere in the report. The proportion of companies sending more than one million emails per month has doubled since 2007, it claims.

Email’s low cost and accountability is tempting. Companies are now using the channel as both a direct sales route and an engagement tool. Sending three or four emails in a relatively short space of time is cheap and relatively painless but email is in danger of standing alone in sending so much so often.  

The problem is volume does not always equate to quality. As much as there have been great strides in personalisation, targeting and relevance, if volumes continue to go up and up, email risks becoming a victim of its own attributes.

Those marketers not enamored with their own campaigns need to consider whether less is more. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Marketers and email as a channel could benefit be reducing volumes by a fair few thousand.