Is there still room for innovation in email marketing?

22 full years


The year is 1994. Everybody’s rushing to the cinema to see The Lion King and Forrest Gump. We listen to Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”. Kids are putting the first Playstation on their Santa’s list.

And modern Email Marketing appears.

Of course, there was a before-1994. After all, the first email was sent in 1971, and the first spam appeared only a few years later, in 1978. The first website was there on 1991, and the first ad banner in 1993. But all this is quite of a prehistory for email marketing.

2 events will make it emerge in 1994:

The rise of e-commerce, following the creation of eBay and Amazon.

The release of 3 game changing services:

AOL: internet access for everyone

Hotmail: free email address for everyone

Yahoo: first global search engine.

From there, email marketing will evolve a lot until our present days:

The first email campaigner in 1999

The rise of the spam filters in 2003, making us rethink the way we were designing emails

Responsive design appears as a way to render email properly on all type of platforms.And that is just a bit of all the transformations Email Marketing underwent.

Looking back at this bumping and somehow already old road, one can’t prevent himself from thinking: will the future of this channel still bring that many innovations, or are we slowly reaching the limits of Email Marketing?

Two crucial questions

Stopping innovation on email marketing would only be the outcome of two possible conclusions:

1. We don’t need email anymore because we have a better channel ready to replace it.

2. We are already doing so good that we don’t need to innovate any more.Let’s have a closer look at both of them:

1. Compared to Email, Direct mail is too expensive, Telemarketing too intrusive and plain text SMS lack impact in the communication. Notifications on our mobile phones are interesting, but volatile. Social Ads will certainly end up being an alternative, but they just don’t provide enough personalization yet. And personalized retargeted banners are sometimes creepy as can be.

So, in 2016, if we search for a not expensive channel that is both highly personalizable and not perceived as intrusive, Email still doesn’t have any credible alternative.

2. Let’s be realistic: when we send an email to our own email database (people that asked to receive our communications), we usually manage to make on average 25% of the recipients open our message, of which 25% are going to click. That is a global efficiency of 6%. Yes, we can certainly do better. To motivate ourselves, let’s remember that the first steam train engines had an efficiency of 5,4%, while modern magnetic trains have an efficiency of 95%.

So it’s clear, having no alternative yet and a huge room for improvement, we need to continue innovating in Email Marketing.

Working as a Digital Consultant at Dun & Bradstreet, talking to about a hundred clients and prospects per year, I’ve been able to list their frustrations and expectations regarding the current state of email marketing.

In my next article, I’ll give you the requirements of the Email Marketing of the Future.

Florent Diverchy

Digital Consultant


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