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In the not too distant future, your business will make even better use of email marketing, building your brand, nurturing leads, and driving sales. As email marketing approaches middle age, now is a good time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.
The Email Marketing of the Past
On May 1, 1978, Gary Thuerk, a marketer for Digital Equipment Corporation, sent an “e-marketing” message promoting his company’s new product to 400 people with an ARPANET address. It was the first sales email, crafted more than a decade before most consumers had their first AOL or Prodigy address. And it was successful. DEC sold “$13 million or $14 million worth” of machines through that email campaign. However, it was also the first spam — “Complaints started coming in almost immediately,” he told Computerworld. “I knew I was pushing the envelope.”
But almost 40 years later, email is all grown up. We’ve been through the worst of the spam years when the majority of sent messages were unwanted and possibly malicious. CAN-SPAM laws and the first spam-box filters bid farewell to our long-lost Nigerian prince relatives, and workers and consumers alike settled in to dealing with dozens of email messages every day.
The question is: Where are we going to go next?
The Email Marketing of the Future
Firstly, just because it’s getting older, doesn’t mean email is about to have a midlife crisis and buy a Camaro. Email marketing is big business now, and the trend is set to continue.
Big and Getting Bigger
In fact, the size of the email audience is just staggering, and it’s only going to go up — we are fast approaching 2.9 billion email users worldwide. There are already 245 million users in the U.S., and we’ll add another 10 million users here by 2020.
We send a lot of emails — 105 billion messages every day, and less than three years from now in 2020, that figure will increase to 246 million. That’s about a 140% increase; we’re talking more than doubling our email output in only a few years time.
Why? Does such an increase make any sense? Yes, it does: Consumers tell us they want even more email. Nearly one-third — 28% — want more than one promotional email from your brand per week.
Four Trends to Keep an Eye on
Looking ahead, demographics are a big thing to keep your eye on. The 75 million-strong millennial generation — the world’s first “digital natives” — will have a big effect on email and 73% of them currently prefer it for business communication.
Another trend that’s fairly obvious — mobile. Just as the smartphone has taken over social media, content marketing, and local SEO, email marketing experts are turning their gaze towards the small screen. Apple’s iPhone has the largest market share of any email client at 31% (Gmail is second place at 22%). But add together market share for iPhone, iPad (11%), Samsung’s mobile app (5%), and Android (4%), and you’ve already got 52% of the email client market.
A less fortunate trend — spam is up. More spammers are getting through filtering algorithms and ending up in your customer’s primary inbox. The figure stood at 12 spam messages a day getting through in 2015, it’s 16 this year, and forecast to be 19 by 2019.
Fourth, email marketing teams are trending up. Fewer businesses (8%) are assigning email marketing to a single dedicated specialist. Easy-to-use marketing systems mean an in-depth knowledge of HTML is not necessary to contribute, and larger marketing teams working on email (now 45% of businesses) have been growing at a rate of 8+% per year since 2015.
Three Opportunities Right Now
You don’t have to wait for the future to start doing more with your email marketing. In fact, these stats reveal three areas that can drive growth right now.
There’s a huge opportunity to pull ahead of the competition with brand-building through email. Small- and medium-sized business get a great response from their sales email efforts, but most don’t do any brand marketing via email. Only 7% take advantage of building their brand up to a captive audience of fans.
Similarly, only 7% of email marketing messages sent in Q1 of 2017 were triggered email campaigns — that is, emails triggered by a prospect’s location, the local time, local weather conditions, or a prospect’s action. This is a huge opportunity for right now, as triggered email campaigns get 5x the CTR, double the open rate, and triple CTO of typical email marketing emails.
Finally, email marketers right now can take advantage of segmented email campaigns. MailChimp says segmented campaigns have a 14% higher open rate than non-segmented campaigns and a 101% higher CTR than non-segmented campaigns.
One thing’s for sure — email may be getting older, but it’s also getting better. There are clear opportunities to take advantage of today, without waiting for the future. And lots for email marketers to look forward to down the road.