The one constant?
There was a time when we all thought Bebo was invincible, until Myspace took over. And then Facebook stole the show. Twitter chirped onto the scene in 2006, and four years later, we were all talking about a revolutionary square-photo platform, Instagram.
The way we communicate is always evolving, and the growth of online and technological innovation is quicker than ever. In just three years since TikTok’s launch in 2016, it has received over 1.9 billion app downloads, and has 800 million active users worldwide (sensortower.com; March 2020). According to TikTok, 80% of their user base are aged 16-34.
The one thing we can be certain of: all these users have an email address.
There are around 3.9 billion active email users in 2019 - over half the global population - and the number is predicted to grow 3% each year until 2023 (Radicati, 2019). As a comparison, there are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide. The number of social users is impressive, but it’s still fewer users than the number of email accounts.
A 50-year-old invention
Despite having been around for decades, emails have continued to evolve. Whilst it may not have moved in huge leaps like Instagram stories, which grew from zero to over 500 million daily users in the space of two and a half years, email has been steadily churning along since the first ‘electronic mail’ sent in 1971 (yes, it is 50 years old).
The evolution of email has been a slow one; think small improvements over time rather than disruptive innovation. Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer for MIT, was working on a new system of sending messages between computers. In 1971 he initiated the use of the at-sign (@) to separate usernames and machines, and he sent the first-ever email. It said ‘QWERTYUIOP’.
In 1992 the attachment was born, and still uses the same multipurpose internet email extensions (MIME) protocol today. The Domain Name System (DNS) was created in 1996 to block all unsolicited and unwanted emails (i.e. spam). Spam got so out of hand that by 1998 the data protection act was updated - and updated again in 2003, and in 2004 – by which time all marketing emails needed to include sender details, a verified sender IP address, and an opt-out.
Meanwhile, HTML was introduced, vastly improving email aesthetics, allowing custom fonts, colours, graphics. Through the innovation of devices, responsive emails were introduced in 2009, and by 2012, 40% of marketer emails were being opened on smartphones, so mobile-friendly emails were given a lot of relevance.
Putting the ‘mix’ into marketing
Forrester Research reports that 90% of email gets delivered to the intended inbox, whereas only 2% of a company’s Facebook followers see the company’s posts in their news feeds.
Given that email is the fourth largest driver of website traffic, above social and display, this highlights a clear need for any marketing team to include email as a key element of their marketing toolbox. It always surprises me how many marketing teams pour all their efforts into posting daily social media posts, but don’t or won’t have a monthly marketing email.
Not only does email marketing drive more conversions (66%) than any other channel, including social media, online search, and direct mail, they significantly increase website traffic, and average order value from an email sale is more than three times higher than that of social media too.
A business’s aim is to make profit, and emails heavily contribute to that. So why miss out on an opportunity to stay front of mind and drive further purchase with your most loyal, subscribed customers?
Whilst email is definitely not dead, some practices are. Impersonal subject lines, poor email design, templates that aren’t mobile friendly, and sending the same email to your entire email database, have all been relegated to the trash folder. With access to recipients’ historical activity, personal information, and email metrics to test subject lines, monitor open rates and organise effective segmentation lists, personalisation is expected.
A revenue generator, not a cost centre
Campaign Monitor reported a marketing email ROI of $44 for every $1 spent. That indeed is better than most marketing channels that exist today. So here’s to hoping for many more decades of ‘good’ emails and a lot less spam.