To answer this, it’s worth considering a variety of factors and statistics which will help to build a more accurate assessment of the email marketing landscape. As mentioned above, the pandemic has meant that the way businesses function has changed and with that, marketing strategies have had to adapt to the current climate. More people are working remotely, and more businesses are going digital. However, now industries are recovering and investing more into digital marketing, could this be a positive for email marketing or will it suffer from the increased competition and popularity of other channels? Well, the answer’s actually a bit of both.
For almost 2 years, the UK was in a near constant state of lockdown which led to many industries losing their pre-pandemic levels of income, forcing businesses to temporarily close or furlough staff. Now the restrictions have lifted and businesses, for the most part, are able to function normally again. However, due to the lack of revenue being made during the pandemic, many businesses have been forced into budget cuts. These cuts may be spread across the board, or focused onto a particular aspect of the business, whether it’s looking for cheaper supply chains or transportation of product. Marketing is another area that can be impacted by these cutbacks in cost; many businesses may look to change their marketing strategy, whether it’s reducing their marketing budget, number of employees, or looking into using different marketing agencies.
When reducing the costs of a marketing strategy, the individual channels may be scrutinised in order to find cheaper alternatives. Email marketing involves paid, often subscription based platforms that can be relatively expensive depending on the size and needs of the business. These costs may be the reason a smaller business may decide to look for cheaper alternatives that might involve a limited number of emails that can be sent, or perhaps focusing their marketing efforts on other channels like social media. Alternatively, these budget cuts may have led to marketing teams being reduced in staff, meaning there’s less time for consistent, structured email campaigns.
Another result of the pandemic on email marketing is the increased popularity of other channels, specifically social media. During lockdowns, social media was thriving as people turned to their phones for connecting with others and entertainment. This meant that social media marketing and advertising became lucrative opportunities for businesses to promote their brand. The major plus for social media marketing over email is the outreach; email marketing is limited to contacts that need to give their permission in order to engage with them, whereas social media can attract potential customers from anywhere and everywhere. The use of hashtags and targeted advertising means social media posts or stories can be tailored towards a specific target audience.
While email is still the main form of communication for workplaces, it is worth mentioning that we are recently seeing an increase in smaller, agile businesses also using instant messaging platforms like Whatsapp for faster and more responsive communication. Whatsapp Business launched back in 2018 and is growing in popularity. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that in the next few years, some of the major social media companies launch their own instant messaging services designed specifically for business-use.
Spam & Security
As email clients continue to develop and improve, so does their security. When an email campaign is created, the platforms will now include a spam-check to help decrease the risk of email campaigns being flagged as spam. Unfortunately, these spam-checks aren’t always accurate. The major email clients such as Gmail and Outlook have become incredibly strict on the security and privacy of inboxes. It’s also worth noting the increased prevalence of third party email filtering and firewalls that provide an extra layer of inbox protection too, making the job for emailer marketers even more challenging. If an email is received from an external source, it will be scanned meticulously in order to determine whether the contents are harmful or malicious. Due to email campaigns often containing images, and multiple outbound links, they’re often flagged as spam or being potentially harmful if opened. There are great guides out there which give advice on how to avoid these spam filters, which we’d recommend to anyone working in email marketing. Some of these tips are as simple as not using all capitals in subject lines, and not oversaturating your emails with keywords.
Reliability of Open Rates
As with any marketing channel, the reporting of data used to visualise your success is critical. Whether it’s tracking social media engagement or how many monthly blog readers, measuring the effectiveness of a marketing campaign will determine whether or not the strategy being used needs to be adjusted. For email marketing, the most common metrics to measure are open rate and click rate. It’s important to know how many people are opening your emails and clicking any links that may lead to a sale or registration etc. Over the past few months, we have seen a shift in the reliability of these metrics. Back in September 2021, Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) was released and it had a big impact on email marketing. For any user with MPP, the emails they receive will be pre-loaded for security, which will often count as an open within the email marketing platforms. Therefore it’s been found that open rates in general have increased, but these can’t be entirely trusted due to the popularity of Apple products and Apple Mail.
Another factor which can lead to unreliable open rates is the email filtering and firewalls products we talked about earlier, which are able to download images from an email in order to scan them for any harmful malware for example. This, again, will count as an open on the email marketing platforms, further affecting their reliability. If these issues persist or continue to grow, it may lead to businesses moving away from email marketing, or at least reducing the quantity of email campaigns being sent.
Due to the vast number of email clients available, as well as the individual platforms that they exist on, each email campaign often has issues with formatting for the individual recipient. The variation really is huge, due to:
- Numerous email clients (Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, Yahoo!)
- Operating systems (Windows, IOS, Android)
- Browsers (computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, smart watches)
- Applications (desktop, mobile phones, tablets)
Because of all this variation, ensuring an email campaign is correctly formatted for each individual platform becomes tricky, and often time consuming. Elements such as images, icons and objects can often become stretched or misaligned. Some email marketing platforms will include a tool that tests the compatibility with different major email clients, however from our experience, their accuracy is questionable. Depending on the nature of the campaign and how important correct formatting is, these edits to campaigns can significantly increase the time it takes to get them sent out. For businesses operating in a time-critical manner, this can be the difference between campaign success and failure.
Email marketing is still one of the most widely used marketing channels, and there’s no reason to assume that it won’t stay this way for years to come. Even with the challenges mentioned above, there are still billions of people using email on a daily basis, and it’s the major method of communication for most businesses. Email marketing platforms will continue to grow and update in order to stay competitive and ensure email campaigns can be sent with the best chance of success. Furthermore, we also mentioned that even with the current challenges that email marketing is facing, there are still ways they can be overcome by carefully constructing the campaigns and avoiding mistakes which could lead to them being flagged by spam filters. It’d require something catastrophic for email campaigns to ever stop being a viable option for marketing- but whether their popularity remains the same, we’ll have to wait and see.
Inflowing is a B2B marketing agency. We help B2B organisations do meaningful things with marketing. Whether that’s getting more leads, more visibility, or supporting their sales teams.
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