The Rumors of Email's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

It seems like there are signs of an email marketing renaissance left, right, and center these days. First, the industry has enjoyed significant growth this year. Every vendor I speak with in the space except for one or two is posting record numbers — whether they sell data, technology, or services. And many vendors have been swallowed up by larger multi-channel CRM or DM companies for nice prices.

Every marketer or publisher I speak with is investing more money into their email programs, and they are seeing stellar returns. In fact, their most persistent complaint is that they can’t get enough good names on their lists fast enough.

But beyond those signs, the much-maligned email channel has finally garnered some positive press of late. First, as, Ellen Byron wrote on November 23 in her Wall Street Journal article entitled “Email Ads Grow Up – Department Stores Discover Devoted Fashion Fans Read Messages in Their Inboxes,” consumers are beginning to much more easily separate spam from commercial email they want, one consumer even going so far as to call emails she receives from retailers “like a quick shopping trip…a guilty pleasure.”

Byron also went on to quantify what some mailers are doing to tilt the balance of their marketing spend ever so slightly in the direction of email. For example, The Gap is diverting over $26mm that they spent last holiday season on TV towards online and magazine. Analysts point out that no matter how much marketers spend on their email programs, it’s still a small fraction of what it costs to create and insert a big print or broadcast spot.

And today, email industry guru Bill McCloskey wrote an admittedly self/industry-serving piece about how he is seeing the signs of this email renaissance moving into 2006 as well, starting with the fact that trade associations like the ESPC and the DMA are doing more to step up to the plate in terms of defending and promoting the email channel with the press and consumers. He also cites the fact that consumers are getting more used to spam and mentally separating out good email from bad email as a reason for the comeback. McCloskey even goes so far as to say that “email will surpass search in the battle for marketers’ hearts and minds.”

It’s nice to see the media tide turning here towards a more rational, balanced position on email. It’s not just about spam and scams — it’s about the power, customization, and intimacy of the channel!

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