SEMA News—July 2011

E-mail Marketing

Despite New Contenders, Still a Stalwart

By Joe Dysart


Despite intense competition from social media heavyweights, such as Facebook and Twitter, e-mail remains a formidable marketing stalwart, according to a new study released in May by Market Tools.
Courtesy Shutterstock

Despite intense competition from social media heavyweights, such as Facebook and Twitter, e-mail remains a formidable marketing stalwart, according to a new study released in May by Market Tools. The researchers found that e-mail use was actually up among 45% of the 1,268 professionals and students over 18 who were interviewed for the study. And only a few—4%—said that their use of e-mail had decreased over the 12-month period included in the study.

“We see evidence every day that e-mail is still a key means of communication,” said Takeshi Numoto, a vice president at Microsoft, which commissioned the Market Tools report.

Not surprisingly, some of the heaviest use of e-mail occurs at work, where 96% of respondents said that they believe e-mail use will hold steady or even increase during the next five years. More than half (53%) saw e-mail as the most effective method of communication in the workplace, and they expected that perception to remain the same or be even more heavily weighted in e-mail’s favor during the next five years.

“Just as e-mail didn’t kill the telephone and video didn’t kill the radio, newer messaging tools won’t kill e-mail,” Numoto explained. “In fact, the survey tells us that the overall volume of communication is increasing.”

Even so, social media is proving to be a serious contender. A full 28% of respondents said that their use of social media increased over the 12-month study period, and another 65% said their reliance on social media had remained about the same.

“The real debate is not whether we’ll use e-mail in the future, but what are the best tools for a given conversation,” Numoto said. “If I need a quick response from a customer or colleague, I might first pick up my phone or send a text message. If I want to share something with several people, I might use my Facebook account. If I have a longer message to send or need a record of the conversation, e-mail gives me that virtual paper trail. Increasing choice in our communication tool set is helping us all become more productive.”

During the coming years, both casual and business users will need a tool to bring together all forms of communications in one interface, including e-mail, calendar, voicemail, social media, text and instant messaging. As far as Microsoft is concerned, that interface should be its Outlook e-mail program, which already collates many of those communications.

“Outlook is increasingly becoming that communications hub for so many people,” Numoto said. “It not only enables you to access all of your e-mail accounts and schedules, but also gives you social media updates from friends and colleagues, text messages and voicemails in one place.”

The findings in the Market Tools study have been buttressed by other e-mail studies released in 2011, which also found that e-mail marketing is still a reliable performer and, in some instances, is becoming even more pervasive than commonly perceived. For example, Epsilon and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) released a “Q4 2010 North America E-mail Trends and Benchmarks Results” study that found conversion rates in marketing e-mails—solicitations to buy goods and services or perform some other marketing-oriented affirmation—were actually up 16.1% over the same period in 2009.

“Double-digit increases in e-mail volume, conversion rates, median order size and revenue per e-mail confirm what the DMA has heard elsewhere,” said Yoram Wurmser, DMA’s director of marketing and media insights. “Companies in the 2010 holiday season invested more in e-mail marketing and saw better results after two difficult years.”

Other stats that emerged from the study were also encouraging. Open rates for marketing e-mails remained fairly steady for 2009 and 2010 at 22.1%. And messages categorized as “service” messages had the highest open rates, clocking in at 38.2% while boasting click-through rates on links embedded inside of the e-mails at 8%.

“Response rates remained quite stable, again proving that e-mail marketing is an effective tool to reach people while they are in the market for a particular product or service,” said Kevin Mabley, a senior vice president at Epsilon. “E-mail marketing drives consumer behavior, builds brands and increases revenue. We recommend that e-mail marketers track behaviors and analyze campaigns in order to continue to improve performance and create deeper connections with consumers.”


E-mail remains a stalwart medium of web communications, according to Microsoft’s Takeshi Numoto.  

More positive developments for e-mail also emerged in a report released by ExactTarget entitled “Subscribers, Fans and Followers: The Social Break-Up” ( It found that 93% of U.S. Internet users get a least one permission-based e-mail each day.

Overall, ExactTarget found that 95% of U.S. online consumers use e-mail; 83% check their e-mail at least once per day; and 64% said that they check their e-mail several times per day. e-Marketers will also be cheered to learn that 70% of e-mail users always open e-mails from their favorite companies, according to the study.

“Best practices for e-mail marketing can be summarized in one sentence,” said David Hallerman, a principal analyst at eMarketer and author of a new report entitled “10 Best Practices for E-mail Marketing (
emarketer_2000793). “Get accurate and detailed data from people who want to hear from you, then automate the numerous steps involved in sending them relevant messages.”

Specific tactics Hallerman recommended include the following:

  • Ongoing steps to ensure that effective e-mails are delivered to the recipient’s inbox at a time when they might be read.
  • Finding a balance between outsourcing the e-mail process and keeping it in-house.
  • Making the most of automation to customize and trigger e-mails based on a recipient’s activities and interests.
  • Optimizing e-mails and landing pages for multiple devices, notably mobile.
  • Convincing recipients to share their e-mails with others.
  • Testing campaign aspects to boost e-mail open rates, clicks and other factors—and continually retesting.

“Not only does e-mail usage remain a prime activity among Internet users of all ages, but it also allows marketers to contact their target audiences with timing and personalized details that social sites cannot match,” Hallerman said. “And the rise of mobile usage helps marketers reach their customers via e-mail more than before, since many people use those devices to check e-mail much more frequently than they might have in the past.”

Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan, New York.
Contact: 631/256-6602;; or

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