Email marketing may not be seen as the most exciting channel – it is often referred to as a little tired and uninspiring – but nevertheless it remains central to many brands’ communications strategies. And while some predicted its demise a few years ago when social media became increasingly dominant, its death is by no means imminent.
In fact, thanks to the arrival of new technologies, which are making it “more interesting and engaging”, email is experiencing something of a revival, according to Saul Lopes, customer lifecycle lead at Virgin Holidays.
“It is becoming cool again,” he says. “Email is generating a lot of money and, in my opinion, it is having a rebirth; many companies are rethinking it.”
Given return on investment for email increased from an estimated £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017, according to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 2018 report, it’s no wonder 86% of marketers say it is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to their multichannel marketing strategy.
In fact, 73% of marketers rate email as the number one digital channel for ROI, according to a separate study by Marketing Week’s sister brand Econsultancy, which also suggests email marketing generates around £29bn of retail sales annually in the UK, excluding offline sales influenced by email.
Successful email marketing campaigns
Lopes says email plays a “huge role” in Virgin Holidays’ marketing strategy as it is the second largest revenue driver after PPC.
The brand uses email to increase sales at all points on the customer journey – pre-booking, post-booking and post-holiday. This wide remit means the key aim is to “manage customer interactions of the whole journey rather than a marketing or service touchpoint.” As a result, it has a different strategy for each stage of the customer journey and “email marketing takes on a different type of beast in each of those strategies”.
Lopes led the team that won the email category at Marketing Week’s Masters of Marketing Award in 2017. The brand worked with artificial intelligence firm Phrasee to “create better subject lines in order to have better reach” and tech company Movable Ink to “turbocharge content” by using real-time data such as live weather feeds, pricing and numbers of people looking at certain offers. It also installed Adobe Campaign to centralise and coordinate communications across teams and channels.
The contextual email campaign, which aimed to be “visually appealing but also timely, relevant and valuable to each unique email recipient” in order to convert website visits into bookings, led to a 31% increase in site traffic. Awareness through emails opened, meanwhile, grew by 65% compared with the previous sales period, and total margin from CRM communications increased by 37% to £10.6m of revenue.
Cancer Research UK also uses email at every stage of the customer journey. Sarah Pickersgill, head of fundraising products and communities marketing at the charity says email is “an important part” of its marketing plan as it allows the organisation to easily communicate with supporters about its work.
It is used throughout the whole customer journey, “from acquisition to loyalty communications” and is particularly valuable for speaking to supporters once the charity knows supporters are doing something to raise money.
We work hard to perfect the tricky blend between personalising our inspiring email content so that it’s relevant to the user, without making our members feel targeted.
Ollie Miles, Secret Escapes
While email campaigns are “great for keeping supporters updated on a huge variety of subjects, ultimately all contact has to be relevant to that person,” says Pickersgill. “There has to be a specific need, as opposed to sending an email without a defined aim.”
The charity actively measures email open and click rates, as well as technical aspects of how emails were delivered and consumed.
At Virgin Holidays, success is measured in a number of ways. “In marketing comms, we measure success using our attribution model and how much incremental marketing it generates. We look at all the marketing touchpoints and how they…