Palo Alto – March 29, 2021 – For years, people have been saying that email is dying out.
And it’s easy to see why.
With so many other ways to reach customers — like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the like — many marketers and business owners wonder, is it still worth sending email? But as Mark Twain said regarding a false obituary printed in London in 1897, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
The stats make clear that email isn’t going anywhere.
912,909 emails are sent every second, meaning over 3 million emails per hour. With over 2.6 billion active users and over 4.6 billion email accounts in operation, email is the most widely used communication medium on the internet. And despite the notion that younger users are likely to overlook email in place of shiny new social networking apps, more users ages 12–17 are using email than are using either Snapchat or Facebook.
Oh, and when it comes to marketing, more than 60% of customers say they would prefer to be contacted by brands via email.
For this reason, whenever I talk to a CMO or someone running digital marketing, email is always up there as one of the top tools in their arsenal.
But it’s evolving.
Today, more people read email on their phones than on computers. And with recent advances in machine learning, emails must be dynamically customized for each recipient.
Here’s how marketers can make the best use of the classic communication tool today:
Today’s consumers are connected 24/7.
The first email was sent in 1973 — over four decades ago.
By the 80s, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were connecting people across the world. In the 90s, the word “electronic mail” was replaced by “email” in the public lexicon, and internet use was widespread. AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo pumped marketing dollars into increasing accessibility and exposing a vastly wider audience to the benefits of the internet.
Then, in the late 1990s, internet use exploded, growing from 55 million users worldwide in 1997 to 400 million by 1999. By the turn of the millennium, an email address was no longer a luxury — it was the norm.
The age of email had begun.
But a lot has changed since then. Today, 56% of email users prefer opening email on their mobile devices. We have much faster connectivity. And the overall attention span of subscribers has reduced to eight seconds.
In this world of overflowing inboxes, generic emails are almost certain to be lost in the shuffle.
As a marketer, you can’t send the kind of plain, static emails that were the norm in the 90s and expect to capture your customers’ attention. There have been a lot of advancements over the years in what’s aesthetically feasible. Today, you can (and should) be creative. You can create a rich visual experience that wasn’t possible even five years ago because of bandwidth constraints.
As we approach a world where storage is effectively free and bandwidth is unlimited, there are more opportunities than ever — your company would be smart to take advantage.
The experience of email has evolved.
A decade ago, most marketing email blasts were impersonal and, quite frankly, boring.
Today, those same blasts just won’t cut it — consumers expect all emails to be tailored to them. Specifically, they expect to receive emails that relate to how they’ve been interacting with the publication or eCommerce site in the past 24 hours at most. If you’re a content company, your email should reference a recent set of articles that the reader would find interesting based on their interests at that moment in time. If you’re an eCommerce company, you will need to present the consumer with dynamically generated product recommendations. Modern customer engagement products, such as those from my prior company LiftIgniter, leverage the latest in machine learning technology to understand and predict user interests every second of the day.
This personalized experience also needs to be consistent across multiple devices. The fact that people are constantly switching devices means it has never been harder to hold consumers’ attention. A recent study found that 90% of Americans use multiple electronic devices per day, often at the same time. They’ll check Instagram while watching TV or shop online while texting.
This means marketers should not only engage with users across multiple platforms, from web to email to push notifications, but also create an experience that leverages a single source of truth for personalization. Otherwise, the consumer will likely be presented with inconsistent, or worse conflicting, recommendations and feel that that brand doesn’t really understand them.
A personalized, tailored experience helps you cut through the noise.
As an eCommerce marketer or a publisher, you often want to preload and pre-wire the emails that are going out. But this means content gets stale. Your customers don’t want to get an email that has no relevance to the hours they’ve spent shopping and curating their taste.
AI can help you pull fresh and relevant content to them in real-time.
It does this by picking up on very subtle user signals — such as recent articles they’ve read or products they’ve interacted with, their various pathways through your digital experience, and even macro signals on their current environment (time of day, weather, etc.) — entering them into that calculus, and imitating or creating a digital user experience relevant to their present physical and psychographic reality.
At my previous company, LiftIgniter, one of our customers has a popular clothing line known for providing great fashion at an affordable price. In their brick and mortar store as well as on their digital experiences, they used our AI engine to map customers’ style and generate recommendations as they interacted with the brand. If they saw something they like, they can snap a photo of it with the company’s app and save it to their profile so the brand knows their preferences for next time. Then the company can send them emails relevant to their taste.
Today, it’s these types of personalized, real-time recommendations are what’s separating the most successful brands from those that are struggling to get attention. If you want to make the most of the most widely used communication today, you can’t default to the stale email blasts of the past.
You have to make your emails personal, fresh, and relevant.
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