04 Aug 583 reasons to wonder: Is e-mail dead or alive?
583. That’s the number of e-mails waiting for me after being out of the office on a vacation where I grudgingly gave up any Internet access. (I know, it was tough, but I survived). In looking at this e-mail overload I got to thinking about how e-mail, one of the early generation web technologies, was faring in this Web 2.0 era.
Questions that came to mind as I cleaned up and reviewed my inbox included: Has the CAN SPAM Act of 2003 helped reduce the among of spam? What are the trends in marketer’s use of e-mail to engage with prospects and customers? Are there variations in how different consumer segments use e-mail to communicate with one another or to receive marketing messages? What impact has wireless and mobile technology had on the use of e-mail? What alternatives to e-mail are consumers and businesses using?
When I looked at my 583 e-mails, I found that around 90 percent of them were what I would classify as spam or unsolicited commercial (UCE) e-mail. I was curious how this compared to industry data, so I took a look at statistics from various sources, including Postini, a company processing e-mails and tracking spam that found 10 out of 12 messages, or 81 percent, were spam; MessageLabs announcing a spam rate of 71.7 percent and an increase in embedded or attached PDF spam, a trend that I can attest to judging by the spam found in my e-mail box; and Softscan, another company tracking spam, reporting that 91.52 percent of all messages in July were spam. Needless to say, this range of reported spam and the new types of attacks did not make me confident that the CAN Spam Act was working or that e-mail was still the best way for businesses to connect with each other or their end customers.
Beyond the impact spam has had on consumer interest in e-mail permission marketing, younger demographic segments are moving beyond e-mail to embrace newer Web 2.0 communications technologies for message sharing. Among the technologies being embraced by younger groups are instant messaging, text messaging, and message sharing in social networks Facebook, MySpace, etc. In support of this trend, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that college students are missing important messages that are being e-mailed to them, leading colleges to modify their communications channels to include social networks, podcasts, RSS feeds, traditional print, and greater use of online learning management systems (LMS) like Desire 2 Learn and Blackboard.
Other ways that e-mail is being eclipsed are through the increasing use of RSS feeds (see No RSS feed? You’re Fired!) for newsletters, promotional offers, and other communication that previously had been disseminated via e-mail. All of these technologies are becoming alternatives to e-mail that astute marketers and business people need to stay on top of if they want to connect with and engage their customers in the manner that they prefer.
Where do marketers stand on e-mail marketing?
Given the continued prevalence of spam, new communications technologies, and consumer preferences in media selection, it’s interesting that marketers continue to embrace e-mail in their online marketing mix. e-Marketer reports on a couple of surveys, including one from Forrester Research that found 83 percent of U.S. marketers use e-mail marketing. Another from Promo Magazine that found 72.6 percent of marketers were using e-mail marketing. This later study found that the top reasons that online marketing was being used were to build the brand (58.9 percent), generate sales (55.1 percent), drive consumers to a Website (54.4 percent), and build loyalty (53.2 percent).
So what should your firm be doing?
Most marketers already have transferred funds to or enhanced their e-marketing budgets as part of their overall marketing mix. For the leading-edge marketer, the trick is to understand your objectives, know your customer, and know how they use technology. From this knowledge, you can find the best combination of e-marketing techniques that will attract prospects and engage customers over the long term.
A lot of this choice is going to depend on the customer segments you are pursuing and their demographic and psychographic characteristics. For many firms, it is going to mean going beyond e-mail or search engine marketing to add newer means of engaging customers like those we’ve been discussing in Buzz Networks over the past several months (podcasts, social networks, RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, mashups, online video, etc). For other firms, it will mean beefing up their traditional e-marketing initiatives to incorporate enhanced and improved processes to overcome current limitations.
Whatever you do, remember that making the right choice is a moving target and that new technologies are constantly being introduced, tested, and adopted – while older ones begin their decline.
Previous articles by Paul Gibler
• Paul Gibler: Online retailing “tango” is adding some steps
• Outflanking the Google, Yahoo, MSN juggernaut
• Paul Gibler: On the case: Web lessons for connecting with customers
• Paul Gibler: Brand protection in the age of customer engagement
• Wireless wizardry coming to the small screen
• Paul Gibler: Podcasts – time, place, and player shifted media
• Paul Gibler: Virtual communities make online connections
• Paul Gibler: Lights, cameras, action: The state of online video
• Paul Gibler: Joining the wiki wacki world
• Paul Gibler: Would you like your music (and data) mashed?
• Paul Gibler: Cutting through the blog fog
• Paul Gibler: No RSS feed? You’re fired!
• Paul Gibler: Social computing in the Web 2.0 era
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
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