Tried And True, But Not Tired: Email Marketing Now

In recent years, email has been seen as the quiet workhorse, the tried-and-true unsung hero of the interactive marketing world. But just because something is tried-and-true doesn’t mean there’s not change afoot.

Yes, some things stay the same. A Pew Internet survey earlier this year found email continues to be one of the most popular activities online, despite newer innovations in personal communication like Facebook and Twitter. Ninety-two percent of Internet users surveyed by Pew reported using email. The only other activity that came close was search, which was used by the same number of folks.

What has changed somewhat is that email has become a habit for more people. Today, 61% of online adults check their email on a typical day. Back in 2002, only 49% used email in a typical day. Also, more people overall use email. In January of 2002, 55% of all Americans said they used email. That number grew to 70% in the latest survey.

What has changed most dramatically, though, is where people check their email. This deserves, and is likely getting, a lot of attention from marketers in 2011, and its significance will only grow in 2012.

Mobile Booms

Email opens on mobile devices have increased 150% over the past six months, according to email marketing technology provider Litmus, while desktop opens have remained about the same. Webmail opens have dropped 20% over the same period.

Image via Litmus

Return Path saw more modest growth in mobile, only showing a 34% increase between April and September of 2011. The email firm also saw both webmail and desktop decreasing. IPad opens showed the most dramatic growth – 73% – in Return Path’s data.

When it comes to smartphones, Litmus found that Apple’s iPhone accounts for the majority of the opens (80%), with Android trailing (19%) and Blackberry representing just a small fraction (1%).

Image via Litmus

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, where people use email depends on when it is. Desktop email usage dipped dramatically on weekends, while mobile soared. Webmail also saw gains on the weekends. Return Path researchers noted that these patterns may differ for certain mailers – for example, a company targeting teens would be unlikely to see as much of a change between weekends and weekdays.

Taking Action

So, what can marketers do about these trends? First is recognizing that their emails are being read on different clients, so design should be mobile and touchscreen friendly.

In a recent report, Responsys made a few recommendations for making emails more easily viewable on these platforms:

  • Including preheader text and “View on mobile” links
  • Using single-column designs
  • Reducing the width of email templates to 640 pixels or less
  • Avoiding font sizes under 10pt
  • Using 10 to 15 pixels of padding around calls-to-action

Designing emails along these lines would be especially important for those sent on weekends or holidays, when mobile devices are most commonly used. Perhaps adding a phone number to your call center would be wise, to take advantage of click-to-call functionality on many devices.

Landing pages, too, need to be designed with mobile in mind, especially if you’re looking for an action or transaction to result. There’s nothing more frustrating to a consumer than clicking through to a mobile-unfriendly website where you can’t get anything accomplished.

Forrester Research believes that buyers will embrace mobile commerce in the years to come, topping $31 billion in five years. The growth in tablet adoption will also increase this trend. Already, 47% of tablet owners have shopped and purchased on their devices.

Embracing The Future

Forrester predicts that email marketing will see a 10% compounded annual growth rate over the next five years, in part because it will tie together other programs launched on social and mobile platforms. Additionally, marketers will invest more by creating targeted campaigns that target the right people at the right time. That targeting will be driven by investments in email analytics in the next five years.

What’s the takeaway here? Email may be tried and true, but it’s by no means tired and tame. Keeping up with innovations in platforms and technologies will have a big impact on marketers’ success as the environment changes.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Email Marketing Column


About The Author: is executive features editor of Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. She’s a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported on, written about and worked in digital media and marketing for more than 10 years. She is a previous managing editor of ClickZ and has worked on the other side of digital publishing, helping independent publishers monetize their sites in her work at Federated Media Publishing.

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  • Asad Wahab

    If you look keenly at the data you provided, you will see that the “percentages” are curtaining real figures. I mean in you should have included one graph that shows how many people use it in comparison to other techniques and where is the usage graph of email marketing going in comparison to the rest.

    I feel like you are digging graves by talking about email marketing…At least for small and medium businesses, I don’t think your this article is any helpful at all. 

  • Rolv Heggenhougen

    Maybe one should look at another marketing opportunity and that is the emails we all
    send from our corporate email addresses every day. I represent a company that
    has developed a solution for just those emails and thus this post.

    The basic idea behind WRAPmail is to utilize the facts that all businesses have
    websites and employees that send emails every day. These emails can become
    complete marketing tools and help promote, brand, sell and cross-sell in
    addition to drive traffic to the website and conduct research. WRAPmail is
    available for free at

    WRAPmail also helps search for missing children with every email sent by incorporating
    an optional RSS feed from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children


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