What’s the Future of E-Mail Marketing?

e-mail communicationsOver the past several years, I’ve begun to hear increasing rumblings about how e-mail is a now-mature communications method that’ll eventually go the way of the FAX machine. 

But I’m not at all sure I believe that.  I think it’s more likely that e-mail’s future will look … a lot like it does today. 

No doubt, texting and direct messaging have cut into some of the bread-and-butter aspects of e-mail communications.  But what about e-mail marketing?  Could we see a similar phenomenon happening?

Recently, I read the comments of e-communications specialist Loren McDonald on this very topic.  McDonald, who is vice president of industry relations at digital marketing technology firm Silverpop, makes an important point concerning the “building blocks” that have to be in place before e-mail marketing will be seriously threatened by alternative MarComm means.

McDonald speaks about the challenge of an “addressable audience” when it comes to alternative channels:  “Regardless of a competing channel’s popularity, marketers must be able to deliver a comparable or replacement message to an individual.  This is where many channels fall short,” he contends.

Loren McDonald
Loren McDonald

McDonald notes that most marketers possess vastly more permission-based e-mail addresses than they do mobile phone numbers with permission to text.  It’s the same story when comparing e-mail addresses to the percentage of their database that have liked their company’s Facebook page.

And there’s more:  For mobile apps, what portion of the typical company’s database has downloaded it and authorized notifications?  The inevitable response:  How low can you go?

McDonald’s point is that for these alternative channels to gain true significance, they need to achieve a certain critical mass in terms of adoption rates – thereby allowing marketers to reach their customers and prospects in a comparable manner as they can via e-mail (as well as at a comparable cost).

Looking into his own crystal ball, McDonald feels fairly confident making three predictions concerning the future of e-mail marketing:

  • He predicts that content-focused newsletters will remain relevant and popular, particularly for B-to-B companies and publishers.  That’s because marketers can push multiple newsletter articles within a single marketing touch, while publishers can attract ads and sponsorships for their e-newsletters (i.e. they’re moneymakers for them).
  • For broadcast/promotional messages, most consumers will continue to prefer e-mail delivery.  “Will mobile app users [really] want their smartphones to ping them all day long whenever a message arrives — and then have to click attain to view it?”, he asks rhetorically.
  • Transactional and triggered messages will be e-mail’s primary challengers in McDonald’s view – especially for bulletin-type messages such as breaking news headlines, weather alerts, flight delay announcements, “flash” promotions and sales, and order confirmations linked to in-app landing pages.

And even on this third prediction, McDonald doesn’t see the transition happening all that quickly.

I find myself in general agreement with Loren McDonald’s prognostications.  Do you have some differing views?  If so, please share them with other readers here.

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