E-mail marketing has a future: it simply changes


A question posted on a forum I visit quite regularly: "Why is it that every time a new medium/channel comes along, it has to kill the old one to be legit?" A good question!

To my knowledge, the only modern (technology based) form of communication that was ever killed by a new channel was the telegraph. It's most blatant flaw being that it didn't use plain language and therefore was not a mass medium. Since then, each new channel has simply carved out its own niche among the varied channels which already exist.

So, as you are bombarded almost weekly by people pontificating on the immanent death of e-mail in the jaws of social or some other new channel; keep in mind that history suggests that probably won't happen. Communication channels are evolving (in some cases trying to) based on what they are good at doing as opposed to winking out of existence. It's more likely that at some point e-mail, social, mobile and all the other channels out there will get married, move into a nice house somewhere and live happily ever after in an integrated way. At the least in the short term, this is a valid analysis.

The importance of devices in the interactive marketing channel debate

The key to this whole debate are the devices which we will use to access the information. Tablet PCs and smartphones are at the centre of this. Once people have a convenient device to access the information all in one place, things will really heat up. At some point in the next few years the smartphone and tablet will meet in the middle and the result will be a device which will accelerate all of this change. I personally think the primary issue is the display technology. Flexible display technology which is portable and functional will really make the difference.

E-mail isn't dead. Wishful thinkers who have their own agendas may want to push it over a cliff, but that's just self interest at work. Consider that according to a recent study from Merkle, 87% of American internet users checked e-mail daily in 2010 - a number which has remained reasonably stable since 2007.

The changing e-mail behaviour

Social media users are actually more likely to check e-mail as compared to non-social media users, according to the data. These people check e-mail up to four times per day.

55% of mobile users check e-mail via their phones and 32% checked e-mail at least 1-3 times per day.

Certainly e-mail is changing and evolving. Isn't everything? For example, the percentage of respondents spending at least 20 minutes in a week on family and friend e-mails fell from 71% in 2009 to 66% in 2010. However, consider that a lot of those communications are very casual, short and lend themselves well to more casual channels such as social and SMS.

The only thing which keeps getting clearer is that we live in a multi-channel world where information and communication crosses a number of channels, reason why we call it cross-channel marketing, and the consumer intuitively uses the channel which best suits and is most convenient for him/her. That being the case, the most effective strategy for right now is simply to be on all those channels so that when the consumer makes that choice, they find you waiting to serve them.

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Communication channels depend on the consumer and marketing is about engaging the cross-channel customer and prospect throughout integrated dialogues that are driven by his/her buying journey, preferences, triggers, signals and behaviour.

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