Marketers shouldn’t count out email—not by a long shot. Thanks to mobile-responsive design and advances in personalization, email has retained its importance for brand-building, even among tech- and social-savvy Millennials, according to a new Adobe Campaign survey of 400 U.S. white-collar workers.
That said, marketers must walk a fine line to avoid the Spam folder.
Relevance and personalization have become guiding principles for effective email as data-driven marketing becomes the norm, and the rise of mobile communication has made email more accessible to consumers who now seemingly live on their phones. Email is as important as face-to-face communication for consumers, according to the Adobe survey. (Note: Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company.) Almost half of the respondents said they think their use of email in both work and personal communications will increase over the next two years.
The survey found nine out of 10 consumers constantly check their personal email from work and their work email at home; on average, they spend over six hours each week day on email. They check even while handling other tasks, such as watching TV (70%), lounging in bed (52%), vacationing (50%), talking on the phone (43%), and using the bathroom (42%). Alarmingly, 18% check while driving.
Surprisingly, the coveted Millennial consumer is even more email-dependent than the average adult. This is likely due to their mobile use; 88% of Millennials check email on smartphones, compared to 76% who use desktop or laptop computers.
“Mobile is certainly the most important driver of e-mail growth among Millennials,” said Luiz Maykot, data science analyst at Adobe. “Smartphones are making us more and more connected to our e-mail accounts, and marketers should ensure that they are putting enough resources to get email right.”
Having grown up with texting and email, Millennials are less receptive to direct mail and telemarketing messages, said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Index (ADI). Marketers should have multiple channels going at once to reach them, mindful of context and content, she said.
"The great news about email is that it is typically the easiest to personalize since you know who the recipient is. Millennials are looking for that personalized, relevant, and very well-targeted email and are extremely quick to scan for and delete anything that isn’t relevant," she said. "Raise the bar on conversion and personalization if you haven’t already done so and then invest more in email."
Fine Email Line
All that said, Americans have a love-hate relationship with email that marketers need to consider. Twenty-four percent of adults think they check email too much, and four out of 10 have reacted by going on email vacations, not checking their inboxes for an average of five days.
Marketers also have to manage the difference between engagement and spam, according to the survey’s findings. More than one-third of respondents (34%) said they have created new email addresses to get away from spam messages, so relevance and personalization are increasingly important.
The report also gauges the relationship between email use and consumers’ lifetime value, suggesting the customer experience—especially on mobile—ought to be top-of-mind. Fifty-eight percent of consumers said email was their preferred channel to receive marketing offers from brands, but 39% said they wanted to receive fewer emails and 32% said they wanted fewer repetitive emails.
“We are scanning and deleting very quickly nowadays. When we see the same email sender in our box every day, we scan it out very quickly as not relevant. After all, who could be sending me something relevant every single day?” Gaffney said. “The fine line marketers walk is how to break through the clutter without turning on the delete auto-reflex. This, again, comes back to personalization and timing.”
ADI analysis found that loyal customers who spend more and make repeat purchases on websites are twice as likely to have arrived via email than through other marketing channels. Mobile has the potential to amplify that effect: While mobile emails drive more than one-third of website visits, they convert at a lower rate than desktop emails, which suggests room for growth.
Marketers must stitch together databases that merge desktop and mobile users into a single profile to better optimize those channels. Many users will start their journeys on mobile and end on a desktop, so doing so is more important than ever, Gaffney said.
“Getting mobile right is the most important task for marketers right now, but it is a challenge,” Maykot added. The technical challenge of mobile optimization and cross-device compatibility requires a significant amount of resources, and then there is the challenge of the user experience, he said.
The survey found emails have to go beyond leveraging responsive design; they must to be optimized for mobile. The key consumer annoyances with email are all magnified on mobile channels: having to scroll too long to read an email was a top peeve, mentioned by 28% of respondents, while 24% said layouts that are not optimized for mobile are irritating, and 21% said an image that loads too slowly is a turnoff.
“Mobile is a completely different experience for a consumer than a desktop or laptop,” Maykot said, and it is not a matter of fitting the content to a smaller screen. “It is about adjusting your content for people who will be having lunch, walking, watching a movie, and, yes, maybe even driving as they interact with your content.”
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Adobe Digital Insights publishes research on digital marketing and other topics of interest to senior marketing and e-commerce executives across industries. Research is based on the analysis of select, anonymous, and aggregated data from more than 5,000 companies worldwide that use the Adobe Digital Marketing Cloud to obtain real-time data and analysis of activity on websites, social media, and advertising.
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