On March 10, 2020
Long, long ago in a decade far, far away, people used to get excited about receiving emails. Whereas snail mail was seen as a burden of bills and useless coupons, email was a novelty, something fun to try when you got your first ‘personal computer’. Thirty years later, the craze has worn off. Fewer people are opening corporate emails than ever before with no turnaround in sight. In a world moving at the speed of instant messenger, emails just seem slow and the inbox of spam never ending. With 2020 already roaring, the question is more relevant than ever – is email dead?
The short answer is while it’s not flatlining yet, it’s close enough that companies of all industries and sizes need to critically evaluate email’s continued relevance for their needs. In 2018, Campaign Monitor analyzed billions of emails sent across millions of campaigns sent through its platform and found the average open rate, across all industries, was a mere 17.92%. To put that in perspective, that means for every 100 people who received an email from a company, a whopping 82 recipients never even opened the email. That wasn’t even the most chilling stat from their research: the same study found an average click-through rate (CTR) of just 2.69%. “That’s just an average,” you say. “My industry has to perform better than that, right?” If so, not by much. The industry with the highest average CTR was the “agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting” industry with an average CTR of 3.66%. (For the other side of the spectrum, the “Food & Beverage” industry’s CTR came in last at 1.69%.) Consider the time and energy your team is putting into your email marketing strategy. If only 2% of recipients are clicking through, is it really worth it?
But if email is dead, where do we go from here? Is it back to direct mail and telemarketing? Hardly. Messaging is the new kid on the block, and the numbers to prove it are like CPR to a struggling marketing strategy. Research shows chatbots have a 70-80% open rate and a click rate of 15-60%. Even on the low end, that’s still a 400% increase in clicks compared to email. Why is conversational marketing outperforming email to such an incredible extent? One of the primary reasons is intent. Individuals typically interact with a chat solution as a result of direct user actions – whether they’re looking for assistance or responding to a chat prompt. They are ready for a productive dialogue and ready to take action (in other words, a company’s dream state of being for a consumer). By contrast, the vast majority of corporate emails are unsolicited and mass distributed. They aren’t personal, the recipient usually didn’t ask for it and they show up in a user’s inbox whether they’re looking at it or not. When they finally do open their inbox, it often all comes down to a well-crafted subject line to determine if your email falls in the 17.92% that are opened or the 82.08% that aren’t. No pressure.
Forgive the idiom, but the numbers don’t lie: emails essentially have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. The way consumers want to interact with companies and brands has shifted to more closely resemble the way they interact with family and friends – via conversational platforms that hold a dialogue in real time. Has your marketing strategy shifted with them? If you answered no, but you aren’t seeing the types of return on your email marketing investments that you want to see (or even that you used to see) maybe it’s time to consider the impact conversation marketing could have on your business.