Email marketing was one of the earliest forms of online advertising. I remember working on the Brita business at DDB in San Francisco over 15 years ago. We developed their first CRM program, which included an opt-in email newsletter. Compared to now, the emails were pretty basic but even then we knew enough to tailor the content according to the reason they purchased Brita – for taste or for health reasons. Our goal was to be relevant and provide value based on their interests.
Technology has evolved significantly since then and yet some days it seems like it hasn’t, based on the emails I receive from some advertisers. They certainly look a lot better now but it’s surprising how many don’t allow for basic customization. As a result, they are not sending me information I want. A few simple options could turn this around, making the content I receive something I value. I’ll share a recent example from a national retailer in the sports apparel category. They could have allowed me to choose womenswear only or select the sports I’m interested in. Instead, I received email after email with the stuff I wanted to hear about buried in all the stuff they wanted to tell me about. So what happened? I unsubscribed. End of useless interruption for me. End of opportunity for them.
Unlike other online advertising, email is a format that consumers actually like. Findings from a recent global study by Rakuten Marketing revealed that consumers see emails as the second most valued online ad format (only coupon links are more valued). This makes sense when you consider that 80% of U.S. consumers stated that ads are of value when they align with their needs. In addition, 80% said advertising is acceptable when content is useful and doesn’t interrupt their online experience. Done well, email is a great advertising opportunity.
So, how can you make the most of email marketing? Customization is key. This is easy and should be the norm, given how far technology has advanced since my days on Brita. And yet, of the 2,500 people surveyed online, 80% said that online advertising has not improved over time, on any device or platform. This opinion is even stronger among women, who were 13% more likely than men to say it’s worse. The biggest issue U.S. consumers expressed with online advertising is frequency, with 61% saying they are too frequent. At minimum, you should provide consumers with frequency options. Then, give them choices to customize the content you provide. When they get to choose, you are much more likely to gain and retain a coveted place in their InBox.
Whether you decide to use email marketing or other online advertising formats, always be relevant and respectful. As the saying goes, “we have the technology.” Make sure you use it to create a better online marketing experience so you win over customers and grow your business.
I have a curious mind and many interests. I like to spend time musing about things marketing-related, as well as how technology impacts our world.