Report shows e-mail marketers often forget the basics: main challenges and evolutions


Econsultancy this week released their "E-mail Marketing Census 2011", which surveyed 900 e-mail marketers, both in-house and agency. The general message seems to be that e-mail marketers need to focus more on basics. At the top of the list is something we talk about often: testing! Surveys consistently report low percentages of companies doing any kind of testing of their e-mail marketing.

Split testing is a must to improve conversion

In this survey only 32% of the respondents report they are doing regular testing. A quarter of e-mail marketers in the poll reported they do infrequent tests and 13% admit they don't test at all.

It's a head scratcher as to why these numbers on split testing are so consistently low when you consider the mountain of data out there supporting how effective testing is in optimizing campaigns and increasing ROI.

72% of those who do conduct testing responded they test subject lines, with the next most popular being pre-spam testing at 62% and time/day of week at 53%.
Compared to Econsultancy's census from last year, fewer companies are testing landing pages (down 9%) and that's another puzzler since once again, we have a ton of data suggesting that testing and optimizing landing pages result in more conversions. As well, we aren't talking about big changes having to be made to optimize landing pages.

Every time this subject comes up we hear about how small changes (moving or revising call-to-action's for example) can make a big difference in conversions. So, one does have to wonder why there seems to be this lack of initiative to test such things as landing pages for optimization.

Deliverability challenges

Another issue which keeps popping up is deliverability or the lack of it. Based on the survey it appears many companies are just not aware of the scale of the problem with just 12% of respondents being able to specify what percentage of budget was wasted due to non-deliverability.

The figure for agency side respondents to this question was a bit higher at 19%. Both percentages are down from last year's report.

As for the biggest factors in improving deliverability, 64% said clean up-to-date lists, with relevance at 52% and sender reputation at 42%.

The ROI of e-mail marketing and the increase of automation and triggered e-mails

E-mail continues to rank highly in terms of ROI with 72% of companies rating it as 'good' or 'excellent' in this year's survey.

Significantly more companies are leveraging more services offered by their providers, compared to last year's census. Automated campaigns jumped 30%, personalisation is up 26%, measurement and analytics rose 22 points and segmentation up 16%.

According to the census, the key areas for focus in 2011 are: segmentation at 32%, delivering relevant communications at 29%, list/data quality at 26% and measurement and analytics at 25%.

The increasing adoption of marketing automation techniques, triggered e-mails and event-based interactions is good news since it shows e-mail marketers start to look at e-mail marketing from an integrated interactive marketing perspective.

However, there is still a lot of work to move towards a customer-centric and holistic marketing strategy. The report, for instance, also shows that almost half (45%) of companies are managing e-mail and social as two separate marketing channels, thus missing out on important social network integration opportunities.

This is partially due to the limitations of traditional e-mail marketing platforms and, together with the need for integration and better analytics, calls for marketing automation solutions that enable marketers to acquire a single view on their target groups and further enhance scenario-driven cross-channel marketing efforts.

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