The Engagement Gap in Email Marketing

 Email is an inexpensive marketing channel for sending targeted messages. Another strength of email is that it can be used to meet a variety of marketing objectives - creating awareness for a new product, building brand or corporate image, and of course, generating sales. Permission-based marketing is one of the most important innovations in the marketing industry in the last fifteen years. While email marketing offers many advantages, work remains to be done to make email a more meaningful communication channel for buyers.

A recent study by Epsilon and the Email Institute reveals that there is great opportunity for email marketers to improve their efforts to engage people in their opt-in programs. Inactive subscribers, people who join an email list but do not open or click through messages, make up a large segment in the typical email program. Two pieces of evidence are:
  1. 66% of new subscribers to email lists had no opens or clicks in the previous quarter.
  2. 49% of long-time subscribers were inactive for the previous 12 months
 The latter stat on long-term relationship deterioration is not too surprising. After all, our interests change, particularly as we are exposed to new brands and options. But, if two-thirds of those people who sign up to receive communication never open the messages, the impact that email marketing is capable of attaining will not be realized.

 The results of the Epsilon study should be taken as a challenge by email marketers to close the engagement gap. Unlike other media that is characterized by audiences avoiding marketing messages, the concept of permission-based email is based on the audience saying "I want to hear from you." It is up to marketers to make communications compelling so that messages are worth the recipient's time to open. Among ways to increase relevance are:
  1. Do not overdo it! One of the main reasons people opt out of permission email programs is that they tire of frequent messages.
  2. Be timely - Triggered emails, or communication spurred by a particular behavior, have the effect of serving as a nudge or prompt to action. Examples include a welcome email containing an offer for new members and e-commerce triggered emails that follow up on abandoned shopping carts are two examples of interacting with people at very different stages of the buying process.
  3. Be relevant - I cringe when I hear marketers talk about email "blasts" - as a consumer, do you want to be blasted? Relevance is correlated with #1; email messages can be personalized to a person's characteristics and tailored to appeal to their interests. Avoid thinking of email as merely a cost-effective substitute to traditional mass media for broadcasting messages .
Email marketing is a valuable tool in the IMC toolkit for building relationships and spurring sales. Take on the challenge of narrowing the engagement gap in 2013 by employing a strategy of timely, relevant messaging... that is timely and relevant to customers, not your marketing priorities.