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The last decade has truly been the era of social media ascendancy. According to statistics from Statista, in 2007, only 22% of people in the UK had a social media profile. In 2017, 76% of us do – and as the pre-computer generation dwindles, it’s safe to presume that in another decade, that figure will have climbed steeply.

So, it would be easy to presume that social media is the place to focus all your advertising and promotion. You may think that email, surely, has had its day – especially as a marketing tool.

Not so. New research by email marketing platform provider Dotmailer reveals that email is still a powerful marketing tool – if you’re aware of what customers want.


The Prize

Dotmailer’s research indicates that online customers have got wise to the intricacies of online shopping and email subscriptions. The study revealed that 80% of respondents were happy to do extensive research to get the best deal on a product and that customers aren’t above entering fake and multiple details to get the deals.

39% of online shoppers sign up to mailing lists specifically to get a better deal, while 30% wait for online sales days such as Cyber Monday. 17% compare carts on multiple websites and abandon those which give them poorer deals and 6% play the system by setting up different customer accounts with alternative email addresses.

Despite these wily customer tricks, on average, businesses surveyed in the Direct Marketing Association’s Marketer Email Tracking Study estimated they get a £30 return for every £1 spent on email marketing.

Yet it seems they could be making more.


The Problem

It appears marketing emails aren’t always singing the song customers want to hear.

Only 32% said they regularly click on email offers and 8% admitted they had created an account purely for the discount incentive, to get a discount, but cancelled it soon after.

52% of customers surveyed felt that brand emails rarely targeted their situation and a worrying 81% felt that most of the emails they receive from businesses are spam. Yet 61% said they are keen to receive emails, providing they’re relevant.

Skip Fidura, Client Services Director at Dotmailer, said: “The call to action for brands is clear – as consumers are becoming increasingly savvy, businesses must respond in kind. Email remains a highly effective tool, however, ensuring emails are relevant and personalised will ensure consumers don’t disregard brands.

“People will always try and game the system, and it is up to businesses to face the challenge by providing incentives and communications that will keep the customer engaged. The prevalence of email throughout our lives shows how crucial it is as a channel, but brands need to understand how to make the most of it to glean the best results.”


The Solution

Clues to how to solve this customer disconnect can be found in the DMA’s study, which indicated big differences between what customers want in brand emails and what marketers and businesses think they want.

So, what content do customers want in an email? Here were their top 5 from the DMA Study – and in brackets, what percentage of marketers believed these types of content were effective:

It’s clear from this that marketers have been seriously underestimating the lure of free delivery and free gifts – and failing to recognise the value customers put on loyalty rewards.

What, then, did the marketers surveyed believe were their 5 most effective types of content – and how many customers agreed?


It’s clear that if you want the success of your email marketing to continue and grow, you need to focus more on discounts and freebies – particularly free delivery – and far less on exclusive content.

With so many customers seeing much of their promotional email as spam, perhaps it’s a good idea to cut back on the emails containing new product information and competitions, too.

Happy marketing!

About The Author

Kara Copple

An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.

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