With the advent of so many new marketing channels, it’s easy for marketers to question the effectiveness of email marketing — and whether the plethora of new channels makes it harder to attract and sustain interest in an email marketing campaign, especially when it moves from the desktop to the smartphone or tablet computer.
The truth is that it’s easier than ever to use email marketing — and for marketers to sustain subscribers’ attention. “Now” data and “big” data combine to allow marketers to deliver relevant content at the specific moment when people are looking to make decisions. I’ve written before about how powerful it is to reach a subscriber, especially one using a mobile device, while the marketer’s products are still top-of-mind for that customer — it’s like finding the holy grail. And when done well, it keeps subscribers engaged and often willing to spend more.
So why, if email is so very powerful, are open rates declining? It’s easy to read more into these statistics than is actually there. The decline in open rates is because of an overall increase in email volume, and the difficulties this increase can create for emails reaching the inbox. The truth is, more volume equates to more revenue even when overall engagement declines.
With every new channel, though, there’s a lot to learn. Most marketers who have been in business over the past decade are pretty good at knowing how to create engaging emails for the desktop market; but with the current movement to mobile devices, they need to unlearn a lot of what used to work. Let’s face it: Despite all the hoopla about it, all responsive design does is make emails that were designed for desktops “look okay” on a mobile device. And that in turn has slowed marketers down from focusing on designing and testing mobile-only emails.
The reality is that to make any email campaign work, marketers have to test, test, and test some more until they understand how their unique mobile users perform, to grasp which designs and promotions they are likely to find engaging. There are no shortcuts here.
This strategy means rethinking a lot of what marketers think they know about email. Graphics need to be more attention-grabbing than ever, and copy needs to be more concise than ever. Graphics drive action, but only if there’s solid content behind them: The offer is still the focus of the email campaign, and responding to the offer the most important thing the subscriber can do.
With less real estate available on smartphones, a brand’s image strategy changes. What’s going to succeed: when a marketer can communicate value or extend an offer that’s visible and comprehensible at a glance, using a single image with an integrated call to action.
There is no stopping mobile, so marketers need to figure out what types of campaigns will work for them — and they have to do it quickly. With the advent of wearables (smaller screens mean smaller, powerful images with simple strong calls to action), smart marketers will bypass responsive design and create specific mobile device campaigns.
All marketers are learning the value of content marketing, and creating an interaction between email and content marketing that will work on any device is critical. Again, testing is essential to reveal what is effective — and what isn’t.
In addition, there needs to be a significant budget movement to customer acquisition and email list building, With the low cost of email, and more email equating to more revenue, marketers who can build their lists with a clear strategy and targeted budget are the ones who will succeed.
Email is the most profitable of all marketing channels, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Whether designing for desktop or mobile or a wearable, it remains all about testing to crack the code. Every brand needs to persistently segment its email subscriber lists by device type and test variations on campaigns. Focus on a single-image (with integrated call to action) version of a desktop campaign for mobile devices, and learn what works.
The beauty of the Internet is how quickly marketers can go from clueless to brilliant through a regimented testing program.
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