Oct 25, 2013 11:38:00 AM

Is E-mail Marketing Dead?

Posted by Laura Halliwell

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On May 29, Google revealed a brand new format for Gmail – tabbed folders that automatically sort e-mails into one three main categories:

Primary (your main inbox), Promo (promotional offers) and Social (notifications from social platforms). With one quick move, retailers no longer had the front-and-center inbox placement they had once enjoyed, and the marketing community nearly went mad with speculation.

Would this change drastically lower the effectiveness of e-mail marketing, or kill it off altogether? Would potential customers still open the promotional messages now that they’d been separated from the other mail?

What about short-term sales websites like OneDressaDay.com? Would their customers still see their timely updates and releases?

Given that 80% of marketers had said they would invest more in e-mail in 2013, there are a lot of stakeholders in the success or failure of the tactic. So what is the outcome?

Gauging the Impact

While doomsday predictors continue to laud the changes as the end of e-mail marketing as we know it, the truth is not nearly so dire.

In a major study (12.5 billion e-mails, 2 billion unique opens) by MailChimp, open rates saw a marked decrease by approximately 1%. Yes, it is a reduction, it’s far from dramatic. There’s reason to have a healthy concern, but no, this is not demise of e-mail marketing.

Users Access E-mail in Different Ways

While it’s true that much of the world uses Gmail as a mail client, few tend to open those e-mails within Gmail itself.

Just 19% of e-mail is opened within Gmail’s web platform, where tabbed browsing exists. Over a third of Gmail’s incoming mail is opened via Apple’s iPhone app, where tabbed browsing does not apply, and more than 50% of Gmail’s incoming mail is opened in platforms like Outlook or Thunderbird where tabbed browsing cannot be enforced.

The Power to Change

In addition to the ability to opt out of tabbed e-mailing, loyal customers also have the option to move your messages from the promotions tab into their primary inbox on their own. That means those who are truly loyal or interested in what you’re sending won’t suddenly stop seeing what you’re sending.

Could the Change be Positive?

There’s an argument to be made that the change might actually help those who are sending out quality communications. Tabbed browsing allows a potential customer to view promotional e-mails at a point where they may be in a better mood to buy.

And rather than contend with all the other e-mails in a person’s inbox, your promotional messaging may have greater prominence among a smaller group of other promotional items.

What Should Businesses Do?

The answer is not to panic, and it’s certainly not abandon e-mail marketing.

While some businesses have taken to e-mailing clients asking them to move their e-mails back to the inbox or explaining how, visitors may be tired of receiving those instructions and you may actually accomplish the opposite.

Instead, continue to focus your e-mail marketing on quality communications. Craft compelling subject lines and put the content first; your best bet is to make users WANT to open what you’re sending. 

No, the e-mail apocalypse is not nigh, but the game is changing. This is just another situation to evolve along with. Keep your eye on your open rates, gauge the impacts of your efforts and make smart decisions surrounding the content and frequency with which you e-mail your leads and customers.

And avoid unhealthy hysteria – the sky isn’t falling just yet.

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Topics: Internet Marketing, Marketing Agency, Paid Search Marketing (PPC)

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