Right now, in marketing, there’s a raging debate on the effectiveness of email. A quick Google search produces article after article proclaiming, “Email is dead! How will we replace it?” Counter-articles are just as adamant that email marketing is the way forward, and with a few tips, avoidance of pitfalls, and some careful content building, you, too, can conquer the mountain of email strategy and win.

What’s the answer to the email question?

Only time will tell, but there’s no secret email marketing is changing. Newsletter subscribers these days can recognize a canned mass email at fifty paces, and the more personal the email, the more engagement the sender gets. A greeting beginning an email with, “Hello, Mr. Anderson,” is widely known to be coded, and therefore, not personal at all. People open email from companies they’re interested in for various reasons, mainly to learn of discounts and specials, or to receive coupons for products they already know and love. Or they’ve fallen in love with the brand’s voice, or with the person who represents the business.

However, clicks to open are dropping as more consumers are adopting an Inbox Zero mentality, and the click-through rates are sinking faster. Why?

Mobile Optimization Is Still Not a Priority

One theory is that companies aren’t keeping up with mobile optimization formats that make it easier for consumers to read email on their devices. According to Litmus, mobile email opens are on the rise at 54%, while desktop email opens have fallen to 16%. Not only are smartphones here to stay, they’ve almost completely replaced flip phones as the world demands more and more information at our fingertips. If you’re not optimizing your email campaign for mobile devices, you’re getting left behind.

With powerful computers in our pockets, consumers are more information- and research-driven than ever before, and between opening an email to read about a product from the seller or searching out products themselves to compare pros and cons from other voices of authority (such as other consumers who’ve purchased the product, or neutral review sites), they tend to believe targeted emails as less trustworthy than what they can find on their own.

Email Data Is Overwhelming

A survey conducted by Constant Contact in 2016 shows 49% of small businesses are not using email marketing data in their email campaigns because they don’t know where to begin. So their subject lines aren’t generating enough interest for people to open the email. They’re not optimizing for mobile devices to increase their open rates. They’re not personalizing the email enough for the subscriber to get a warm, fuzzy feeling instead of a sales pitch. They’re not segmenting their email campaigns to tailor to certain subscriber characteristics, and they’re not doing A/B testing to determine which formats and content generate better follow-through.

The result is people click the unsubscribe button, are opening the emails less frequently before dumping them in the bin, or are ignoring signing up for newsletters altogether to avoid dealing with sifting through their inboxes.

Alternative Apps Are On The Rise

A few attempts have been made to replace email, such as Slack, a team communication platform that uses channels to more specifically target communication by project, where messages, face-to-face calls, and file sharing can be done all in one place. Basecamp is another option for real-time communication. Will they stick in their current form or mature into something more powerful? Again, time will tell.

Many people leverage more than just email for their communications needs: texting, social media, direct messaging services, and video calling. These are all ways of avoiding email, and in the last few years, email engagement has fallen. However, with an increasing number of apps all vying for attention, consumers can feel overwhelmed with all the places they should check to keep up-to-date with their interests. This company’s Twitter feed is more valuable than their Facebook page, but that company’s Instagram showcases their products better, and in truth, consumers are getting exhausted, desensitized to the messages they see hundreds of times a day. Chasing information, even as accessible as it is, wears thin.

Don’t Abandon Your Email Strategy!

Then again, perhaps that’s more reason for email to work both for consumers and businesses, with some changes to strategy so everybody’s happier. According to Forrester, people are two times likelier to sign up for your newsletter than they are to interact on Facebook.

Marketing Sherpa says 61% of consumers like getting weekly promo emails because they provide value customers don’t have to seek out, and 38% of those people would like more frequent deals in their inboxes.

Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, the bigger picture is that email has not gone obsolete as of 2017, and with judicious changes to tracking email campaign data, personalization and better considered subject lines, subscriber segmentation and more, small businesses (and even large ones) can still take advantage of email as a marketing tool. It’s increasingly clear that where you reach your customers is less of a consideration than how you reach them.


Create a marketing plan that does more than just rely on your email subscriber list. Schedule a 30-minute call with us to talk about your options. 

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