Email is the oldest form of online social media, and it’s not going to disappear anytime soon. Though you may be tempted to marginalize email in your 2014 marketing campaigns and focus on social media instead, be warned: There are still over twice as many email user accounts than Facebook accounts. In fact, the number of email users is virtually the same as the number of Internet users. The bottom line is that email is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and it should still figure prominently in your 2014 marketing campaigns.
As technology marches forward, it seems social media grabs most of the headlines. Every year we see another Tumblr or Delicious or StumbleUpon, each with its own secret sauce of new whiz-bang technology. By comparison, email, with its 40+ year-old technology, may smell like the mothballs in your grandmother’s closet.
But before you rush out the door to attend the funeral for email, keep in mind that email is keeping pace with the times. New technology is being deployed to keep it vibrant, fresh and relevant. Consider the following relatively recent developments:
- API: An Application Programming Interface (API) allows you to access email tools programmatically. You are not tied to the email vendor’s user interface; on the contrary, you can make your email operations respond quickly to changing dynamics in the field. For example, as an external marketing analysis tool identifies customers that have a high probability of churn, you can send special offers to them automatically.
- Triggers: When customers click on a link within an email, it can trigger follow-up emails and/or raise an “interest score” within a customer scoring database.
- Subject Line Action Buttons: A subject line action button is an ordinary looking button that is embedded directly in the subject line within an email list. The button allows a reader to take action without ever opening the associated email message, helping increase customer interaction.
- Email Management Tools: As cloud computing grows to ubiquity, email applications get pulled into centralized application servers, like Constant Contact, Aweber or MailChimp. There are other packages higher up in the food chain that combine customer tracking and analytics, such as Marketo and Eloqua. Additionally, these tools make it easy to produce mobile-friendly email; that is, email that renders effectively on smaller mobile screens.
- Metrics: The buzz word these days is “Big Data.” Huge online databases not only hold all your data but also provide a large amount of business analytics. Expect this trend to continue ramping up in 2014, sweeping your email campaign metrics into a cloud of business analytics. These gigantic online resources will track critical metrics for each of your email campaigns, including Open Rate, Click-Through Rate, Landing Page Bounce Rate and so on. In 2014, you’ll get closer to answering the question, “How much did this email campaign move the needle?”
No doubt social media will continue to grow influence with your customers over 2014, but email campaigns should not be ignored. It will continue to provide the most bang for the buck when it comes to engaging directly with your customers online. New advances in technology are not ignoring email, and smart marketers are ready to embrace and fully utilize the new technology associated with it.