SEMA News—December 2014

By Joe Dysart

The New Sexy

E-Mail Retains the Title

Social media is now a serious player in employee recruitment, in many cases significantly reducing the cost per hire for companies while simultaneously bringing in higher-quality talent, according to many recruiters.While digital marketing always seems to have its own version of the “It Girl” each year, one thing has remained constant for nearly 30 years: E-mail is still the new sexy. According to a barrage of studies released during the past year, e-mail marketing still surpasses all others in the digital realm when it comes to return on investment (ROI) and increasing sales. And companies still see e-mail marketing as a stalwart when they’re looking to hang on to customers, build loyalty and increase website traffic.

“Marketers love e-mail for its retention, sales and loyalty influence,” said Shar VanBoskirk, lead author on “The Forrester Wave: E-Mail Marketing Vendors, Q3 2014,” report released by the market research company Forrester.

Digital marketing guru Econsultancy, for example, found that e-mail marketing is seen as the best channel for ROI among the companies it surveyed, with 68% of respondents rating the medium as “good” or “excellent.” Moreover, revenue from e-mail marketing actually jumped 28% in 2014, according to Econsultancy’s, E-Mail Marketing Industry Census 2014, with 23% of all sales from respondents originating from e-mail, up 10% from the year prior.

Meanwhile, digital marketing services provider Sitecore found similar results in its 2014 study, “Uncovering the Realities of Today’s Digital Marketing Landscape.” Of the companies it surveyed, 73% said that they’re investing more in digital marketing in coming months. And all told, respondents estimated that they devoted 85% of their marketing efforts in e-mail.

Not surprisingly, much of the action in e-mail marketing has switched to mobile. According to the Knotice Mobile E-Mail Opens Report for the first two quarters of 2013, 48% of all e-mails are now opened on mobile devices.

E-mail ad exchange LiveIntent found similar insights in its 2014 study. Its researchers found that 25% of every mobile hour is spent using e-mail, and e-mail openings and sales conversions for those under 45 are higher on mobile devices than on traditional desktops. Indeed, LiveIntent predicted that mobile will become the dominant e-mail device by 2015—the place where more than 50% of all e-mails will be opened.

As you might suspect, Apple dominates the mobile space. According to LiveIntent, 41% of all mobile e-mails are opened on Apple devices. And on smartphones, 83% of all e-mails are opened on iPhones.

“The results of this study should be exciting news to marketers everywhere,” said Matt Keiser, LiveIntent’s CEO. “You already have an effective mobile campaign: your e-mail campaign.

Over the long run, mobile also seems to hold users’ interest throughout the day, according to the LiveIntent study. While e-mail openings on desktop PCs experience a burst between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., robust activity in e-mail openings on mobile devices occurs during the same period but also continues into the late evening—as late as 10:00 p.m., according to Keiser.

Companies serious about e-mail marketing are most interested in using the medium for retaining current customers: About 87% of companies list retention as their top goal, according to a survey included in the Forrester report. E-mail marketers also see the medium as a way to build loyalty (76%), increase traffic to their websites (61%) and build overall brand awareness (53%), according to Forrester’s report.

If you’re looking to beef up your own e-mail marketing in light of e-mail’s continued allure, a good study of the service providers available was released in the aforementioned “The Forrester Wave: E-Mail Marketing Vendors, Q3 2014.” Among the 33 service providers evaluated, Forrester found that two—Strongview and Epsilon—were tops, and two more—Salesforce ExactTarget and Oracle Responsys—were a
close second.

“As in years past, we focused our 2014 evaluation of current capabilities on areas of differentiation, including campaign management, dynamic content, analytics and reporting, data model, professional services, globalization and support for mobile and social media,” said Forrester’s VanBoskirk. She also said that service providers that earned topped marks excelled at positioning their services where Forrester believes e-mail marketing is heading and enjoyed high customer retention and high customer satisfaction rates.

VanBoskirk also noted that heavy hitters in e-mail marketing are always looking for new innovations in the technology, but they look most closely for service providers that hit home runs in core functions, such as data security, account management, ease of use and database support.

“This doesn’t mean that marketers don’t value integrated marketing solutions,” VanBoskirk said. “But it does mean that they want e-mail best practices—as well as multi-channel communications—that can boost results.”

E-mail marketers also have some interesting plans. According to VanBoskirk, 66% of them want to get more involved in micro-segment e-mail marketing, and 58% want to start sending interactive e-mails, in which customers can buy things or perform other transactions right inside an e-mail.

Most strikingly, the migration to mobile has had a major impact on the way e-mail marketers design their e-mails. A full 71% of the 89 e-mail marketers Forrester surveyed said that they were already sending responsive e-mails—which auto-resize an e-mail depending on the size of the screen the e-mail is being viewed on. Another 27% plan on moving to responsive design.

Specifically, here are Forrester’s recommendations on what it sees as e-mail marketing’s top service providers:

Strongview and Epsilon Are Tops: Amid the 33 service providers Forrester evaluated, it liked these two companies best. Strongview’s showing in the leader category this year is attributed to its strong functionality, scalable technology platform and capable professional services, while Epsilon got high marks for a revamped platform and the ability to closely collaborate with customers.

Salesforce ExactTarget and Oracle Responsys Came in Second: Both firms impress again in this review for their segmentation, campaign testing and campaign orchestration functionality, VanBoskirk said.

Yesmail Interactive and Silverpop Pull up Third: Yesmail still needs to refine the campaign management aspects of its services, VanBoskirk said. And while Silverpop excels in mobile and social media, its other e-mail marketing services lack luster, she said.

Also-Rans: Acxiom, Experian Marketing Services and Zeta Interactive fall into this final category, in the Forrester report. All trail the other competitors.

Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.

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