Don't Count Out Email Yet

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Email marketing has come a long way from spamming (and irritating) consumers with mass messages that are quickly deleted. Thanks to advances in technology, marketers can target potential customers with email messages that are personalized and trackable. Plus, many email marketing services today offer solutions that include social media integration, consumer tracking, segmentation, and marketing automation.

"Email marketing technologies have evolved from point solutions into comprehensive systems that allow organizations to integrate with social media campaigns, track consumer behavior, and engage current and potential clients with tailored and customized interactions," said George Goodall, senior analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, in a statement. "With these advancements, the average ROI of email marketing initiatives is a striking 256 percent, and only four percent of users say no benefits are attained."

A 2011 report by Forrester Research shows that consumer attitudes toward email marketing have also changed in the past four years. Consumers delete fewer promotional email messages without reading them and are more likely to forward such messages to others, according to the report.

Just 10 percent of consumers say they have separate email accounts created for receiving email advertisements, down from the 15 percent who said so in 2008. Fifty-nine percent of the survey respondents said they delete most email messages without reading them, down from 63 percent in 2008 and 73 percent in 2006.

The percentage of consumers who often buy things advertised via email has hovered around 5 percent for the past four years. In 2006, 5 percent of consumers said they often bought things advertised via email. That level rose slightly to 6 percent in 2008 and dropped to 4 percent in 2010.

A rising number of consumers are even sharing promotional email with others. In 2011, 12 percent of the respondents said they sometimes forward promotional email, up from 10 percent in 2008 and 9 percent in 2006.

Part of the reason email continues to be a viable marketing approach is that it is ubiquitous and increasingly easy to personalize, notes Bryan Brown, director of product strategy at Silverpop, an email marketing services provider.

"Email is here to stay," he says. "Everyone has an email address, and it's becoming easier than ever to tailor an email to a person's specific interests instead of just sending one general email."

And while many companies are looking to marketing through social media, Brown says email has an advantage: "While social media drives conversations, email drives conversion rates."

In addition to advanced features, email is attractive to marketers simply because it is fast and affordable.

Ali Din, the vice president of marketing at dinCloud, a cloud services provider of hosted virtual desktops, says his company has incorporated email marketing as part of its core marketing plans. The company uses salesFusion as its email services provider and plans to increase its email outreach.

"Email is the most common form of communication today," Din notes. "It allows us to send information in a variety of formats [like] still images, video, words, and audio, to convey a message. It is quick, flexible, and immediate and can allow instant response and feedback through replies and tracking. Also, email is low cost."

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