3 Reasons for Email Marketing Fails

As I mentioned in my last post, new research reveals how 74% of us want emails from brands we know and 60% want emails from brands we don’t know.
The stats were gleaned from 1072 consumers, a reasonably statistically significant number. If they’re right, your email marketing should be delivering a healthy return on investment. But what if it isn’t? You’re not alone. While 84% of marketers use email, only 36% say it’s their best-performing channel. It’s obvious something’s going wrong.

Puzzles in email marketing land

Why aren’t people clicking on the links in your email marketing messages, assuming you’ve managed to persuade your audience to open them in the first place? If that’s you, there’s help at hand. Fresh findings from the DMA and dotmailer give us some clues about what’s going on.

Smartphone email conversions lag behind desktops and laptops

First, it looks like a cultural change is required at the consumer end. People are increasingly using their mobiles to handle emails, but they’re still not buying via their phones. Most of us still do the actual purchasing bit on laptops and desktops.
Why? The survey doesn’t say, but I reckon it could have a lot to do with the fact that a smartphone virtual keyboard, with the best will in the world, isn’t as easy and comfortable to use as a regular keyboard. It’s a size thing.
There’s more. It’s essential to make your website display and work perfectly on a small screen as well as a regular-size one, of course. But the results are rarely as good as the big screen experience. Google’s Ebay app, for example, does what it says on the tin but it’s ridiculously fiddly, more pain than pleasure.
Small screens are perfect for the exploration side of things, but when we want to settle down and buy, perhaps we prefer a richer, more satisfying and leisurely big screen experience? It’s an interesting thought.

What do most people do when they open emails?

Second, while plenty of people say they often interact directly with the email offer, either opening it, saving it to look at later or thinking about the information it contained later, many of us are responding to email marketing in an entirely different way. Instead of clicking on a link in an email marketing message:

  • 47% of those surveyed would go to the company website via another route, for example via Google, compared to 35% in 2014
  • 40% would go direct to the online shop via their browser, up 10% on last year
  • 23% would visit a price comparison site first, 8% up on 2014

It appears more and more of us are reading emails but deciding not to click on the links they contain, interacting with the brand in a completely different way instead.
How come? It might be that people in general are broadly internet-savvy, more aware they can access information in a number of ways, with the confidence needed to do it. Maybe, in future, emails opened on mobiles are more likely to act as reminders you exist, as inspiration to catch up with you rather than a direct sales vehicle. Branding, if you like. If the trend continues next year, we’ll know more.
In the meantime, one thing is a given. The more compelling, interesting, entertaining, well written and direct marketing-focused your email marketing messages are, the more people will click on the in-message links. That side of things is a no-brainer.

An ‘overwhelming’ desire for interesting subject lines

Third, as the study says, “Overwhelmingly, consumers want ‘interesting subject lines’ in their emails. While brands are investing in clever new technologies to pick data apart, personalise and automate emails, customers or potential customers want more.”
No surprises there. Marketers need to think more about consumers want, less about leveraging the consumer data they collect.

Lessons learned

My take on things? The study seems to suggest, overall, that email marketing success is about putting people first, whatever medium they use to open messages. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Maximise mobile sites for sales conversion – You can make your mobile website as attractive and easy to use as you like, but a proportion of people might always prefer a relaxing buying experience sitting comfortably at a bigger screen. Only time will tell. In the meantime, have you maximised your mobile site for sales conversion or could it be better?
  • Integrate your marketing messages – The more avenues we give people to access information about our businesses, the more avenues people will use. Just because you approach people by email it doesn’t automatically mean they’ll engage with you via the same medium, which makes integrated marketing more important than ever.
  • Put humans first, data second – You can harvest all the data in the world but if you’re sending out boring, badly-written and ill-thought-through messages your email marketing will never work, no matter how tightly you target it or how cleverly you manipulate the data. Put people first, data second. Otherwise you’re fiddling while Rome burns.


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