Every now and again, I come across a Marketing ‘Guru’ or Digital Agency who makes a bold claim about Emails being on their way out. They say that Emails are becoming less used by people, making them a less reliable method of marketing.
Today I want to completely dispute this wild claim, and explain just why I disagree that this is the case. This is entirely my own opinion, but I know there are many more in the marketing space who disagree.
Before I dig into why I believe emails are not dying, I want to look at why this claim is even being made. It’s not uncommon for wild claims to be made by politicians, businesses and others that are purely to push their own agenda.
And it’s no different in this case. The gurus and agencies that have been making this claim are not doing it out of the goodness of their own heart. Oh no, whilst they may be warning their clients and audience of what is coming so they can prepare, it’s not at all a charitable act.
You see, along with the claim these gurus are also claiming that certain other alternatives (a loose term in this case) are slowly replacing email. Again, they’re not saying this to help. Because they then go on to “kindly” offer to help their clients and their audience into how they can learn to use these alternatives.
The biggest example is chatbots, in particular, chatbots available with Facebooks Messenger. In short, these allow businesses to build up a list of people on their Messenger chatbot, where they can send out automatic mass private messages much like Emails. At a click of a button, tens of thousands of messages can be sent.
But what they’re claiming makes chatbots the superior method, is that the open rate is much higher than emails. I’ve used chatbots and emails, and it’s true that the open rate of a message via a chatbot is vastly higher than an email ever would be.
BUT, that doesn’t make it a viable replacement of Email. And let me tell you why…
Chatbots are limited to the users on the associated platform, in this case, Facebook Messenger. Sure, Facebook and its private messaging service Messenger have billions of users, it doesn’t have everyone. Sure, not every single person on the planet has an email, but It’s an undisputed fact that more people have an email than have a Facebook profile.
PLUS, there is also an issue with the quality of the lists. Due to increased regulation in recent years, such as GDPR in Europe, it’s become harder for businesses to legally acquire somebody’s email address, and even harder for them to then go on to use the email to market to.
Chatbots, on the other hand, are fairly new, so have much less control right now. That means it’s easier to get people onto a chatbot list, all they have to do is click a little link on Facebook. And Marketing is just not about sheer numbers anymore.
Often it’s better to have 1,000 high-quality people on your list than 10,000 people. By quality, I mean how likely they are to buy from you or interact with you and how well they know you. The less that has to be done to acquire an addition to the list, the less the quality will be, strictly speaking. This is not an exact science, however.
So, chatbots aside, what else could kill off email? After all, Email isn’t just simply going to die by itself, something needs to come along that meets peoples needs much better.
There have been a few contenders knocking around, but none that are really standing out these days:
- Texts — this is slowly increasing, and much like chatbots, they have a vastly superior open rate than emails. But, unlike chatbots, they’re harder to acquire than an email address. This may sound like a confliction of what I wrote a few paragraphs ago, about less is more. But you need to strike up the right balance between not too many, and not too few.
- Direct mail — This is an interesting one, and I’m going to be writing a whole blog on the return and rise of direct mail in the coming weeks. In many ways, direct mail has started to increase, albeit slowly. It really started declining about two decades ago, but in the face of impersonal and privacy breaking alternatives, it’s coming back!
- PPC Ads — this is, in my absolute honest opinion, is the only real contender to email that exists in 2019. The targeting abilities offered by PPC Ads, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Google, Youtube, etc — allows for such precision advertising. Plus, you can upload your audience data and target ads only to them. So instead of emailing your database of 20,000, you can run ads to them instead of across multiple platforms. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I earlier say that a disadvantage of chatbots and social media is not everyone is on it? It’s true, absolutely! But, if you run ads across multiple platforms, you’ll be able to target 95%+ of your list. And even if they’re not on Facebook, or Twitter, or Linkedin. Most will at some point be on Youtube or searching certain terms of Google.
But, PPC Ads are still a stretch. There is just not a viable alternative to email in 2019. Maybe one day, something will be invented that can universally outdo emails — but that is a long way away. Even when a challenger is born, it will take years to beat email — they’re relied on so much.
Let me be clear, Email is far from immune and perfect. The open rates of emails have plummeted in recent years, as there are so many companies using email to market to people these days. If you get an open rate of 20% or more, you’re having a good day!
But it’s still a high performing method of marketing, that has many more years left in it. So don’t panic just yet and instead focus on optimizing your emails through testing and measuring, and in the meantime using a combination of other methods such as PPC Ads, even direct mail.
And most importantly, don’t be tricked and sold into an amazing new marketing method that’s going to “kill off email in 5 years” because right now, that doesn’t exist. As with every marketing method, email will absolutely die one day. One day…