Facebook is now a publicly traded company. No longer is Mark Zuckerberg the friendless whiz kid sitting in a dorm room theorizing cool while banging out code. He's grown up, has lots of friends, and is looking at a $95 billion IPO. If Facebook is officially entering adulthood, where does that leave email?
Using "electronic mail" sounds more akin to wearing electronic adult diapers than utilizing an effective form of communication. On this proverbial timeline of life, is email being relegated to the old folks' home?
As you will see below, email is not entering grandparenthood, nor is it on life support. Email is far from dead, as the blogosphere has been claiming for the past five years. Granted, email is no cyber spring chicken. Literally, it is a spritely 41 years old: the first email was sent in 1971 (1).
Email is just going through a bit of a midlife crisis. Proof?
Several studies reveal email is as alive as ever. Exact Target performed a study in April, 2012, in which 77% of respondents favored email as a means for receiving permission–based promotional messages. Surprisingly, the other channels break down with single–digit percentages: direct mail at 9%; text message and SMS at 5%; and Facebook at 5%. Remarkably, as phone and Facebook use continues to grow, so does the preference to receive permission–based promotional messages via email. Email preference grew from 7% from 72% of respondents in 2008, while preference for direct mail promotions has plummeted from 26% to 9% in the same period (2).
77% of respondents favored email as a means for receiving permission–based promotional messages.
Further driving the nail into the coffin of the email–is–dead rumor, 87% of North American respondents surveyed in the Epsilon Global Consumer Email Study, found via Marketing Charts, claimed email is their online communication channel of choice (3).
Can Email Make You Money?
Okay, you say, so it's not dead. But, will it make me any money? Exact Target conducted a study looking at that, too. The results suggest that email drives more return on investment (ROI) than any other marketing route. This includes PPC (pay–per–click) advertising and social media. Furthermore, in a survey by Econsultancy, conducted in 2011, 72% of responding advertisers described email ROI as good or excellent (4).
Midlife Crisis? But The Kids Still Love It
If email is going through its midlife crisis, does that mean it's only popular with the middle–aged? Surprise! It does not. According to Marketing Vox, a study conducted by the Participatory Marketing Network (PMN), in partnership with Pace University's Lubin School of Business' IDM Lab, revealed that Gen Y's spent an average of 33 hours per month on social network sites, as compared to 31 hours for email. It is incredibly surprising that there is only a two–hour difference amongst this age group, given the hype behind social media (5). Young people responding to the study made one thing abundantly clear: social networks are for communicating with friends and family. It is not a place where they want to be hit with marketing messages.
Young people responding to the study made one thing abundantly clear: social networks are for communicating with friends and family (not marketing).
The point is made: cyber age 40 is the new 20. Email has plenty of life left. But how does one use it properly? Dissected into sections, it must: (1) be mobile– device compatible; (2) have a familiar preview; (3) have effective design; (4) be targeted, personalized and relevant; (5) have proper text–to–image ratio; (6) have effective calls to action.
A survey conducted by Return Path, an email delivery firm, suggests that the majority of emails will be viewed on mobile devices by summer 2012. Citing the survey, Marketing Vox states: "It will be a quiet shift, but a huge one" (6). Direct Marketing News also references the survey, stating that the survey, "which Return Path compiled by examining 500 different clients from Oct. 2011 to Mar. 2012,
the company concluded that mobile email views increased 82.4% year–over–year from Mar. 2011 through Mar. 2012, and that 88% of people check their email via mobile device daily" (7).
Be Prepared for the Shift
If your marketing efforts are not prepared for this shift, you will likely find yourself in a precarious position. Your website and emails must be optimized for mobile device viewing, which includes image and text sizing. If an email and/or website is not compatible with a viewer's mobile device, you may forever lose that viewer.