Email Marketing: Getting From ‘I Think’ to ‘I Know’

“For the coming year, businesses will test their strategies, which incorporate phone, email and online interactions, as well as a layer of analysis to provide the enterprise with a single view of the customer.” 

“2001: A Look at the Technology Future,” InfoWorld, December 18, 2000

Fifteen years later, and marketers have almost achieved this prediction. Yet we still face some of the same challenges today that we did then: disconnected dots between customer touch points—which now include vast amounts of fragmented campaign data.

But ultimately, there is gold in this multichannel and multicampaign data, once we collect and analyze it—and as we approach this “single view of the customer,” which of these approaches is the most effective for reaching and communicating with the customer?

The answer: Each point (channel and campaign) of customer interaction matters. When considered together, they can provide the information necessary to make one particular channel even stronger: email marketing.

In fact, just the act of capturing an email address is critical: Once you have that, a customer becomes marketable, as email sits at the heart of creating the identity of a customer. Once you have this key identifier, you can begin to associate all the other touch points with this specific customer.

Once a unique customer identity is established, the data analysis journey begins: analyzing multichannel interactions and, ultimately, increasing the value of each customer throughout the life cycle.

In short, email is the trusted link that is helping connect the disparate data collected in other channels. This link to a single identity can ultimately increase customer loyalty, through additional marketing emails as well as web, mobile, direct mail, and in-store interactions.

Email Marketing Still Matters—Yet Not How You’d Expect

The phrase “email marketing is dead” (in quotes) generates a whopping 44,000 results from Google. Yet the stats belie this commonly held belief: Email marketing is still in use by a whopping 82 percent of B2B and B2C companies. Much like the Mark Twain quote regarding a mistaken report of his death, rumors of email’s death have been exaggerated.

While social media and branded mobile apps now occupy much of the shiny object syndrome for marketers, good old email marketing continues to engage customers and prospects (in fact, according to McKinsey, it’s 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter).

But this isn’t an either/or choice. Email marketing works best when it’s driven by customer data collected and analyzed across all channels. And the more we know our customers, the better these email life cycle campaigns can deliver results.

According to the DMA, more than 75 percent of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns, such as a recent customer purchase (“Thank you for purchasing these shoes on our website … here are some suggestions on socks that could go with them!”) or travel based on GPS data from another app (“We see you’re in Nashville this weekend—and so is your favorite hockey team! Here’s information on taking in a game.”).

Email service providers can help brands glean more additional information from marketing emails: how long they were opened, where they did it, what made them respond, etc. While this is useful data, this is just a starting point; email now does so much more.

Email—It’s Not Just for Sending Messages Anymore

The latest developments for email marketing take this a step further—email isn’t a communications tool, it’s the foundation for identifying, managing and extending customer relationships.

When capturing a customer’s email address, brands don’t just capture the requisite customer information (name, address, etc.). Once a retailer has an email address, the identity of a customer begins to take shape and this youname@email.com (or, likely in the future, a XXX-XXX-XXXX mobile number) can act as the central link that connects email interactions with those across other channels and data sources: e-commerce, web, in-store, mobile devices, and, most importantly, CRM platforms where often all of this detailed customer data lives. 

The result? Silos of separate data are now joined, and the long-dreamed-of single view of the customer, throughout the path to purchase, is here. Marketers can undertake powerful multichannel analysis to see what truly makes customers loyal customers, extending the value of all data, across all channels.

It’s the next level of customer analysis, coupled with what we already have in data sources, that makes us truly know our customers. This building block has ensured that the future of 2001 is here today, as email evolves to keep apace with the dynamism of web and mobile apps, and provide crucial information for CRM systems.

Augie MacCurrach is the CEO of Boston-based Customer Portfolios. You can follow his company at @bestcustomers on Twitter.


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