The Enigma of Email Marketing

by Victor Green
3 mins read

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, Steve Olenski came to the conclusion that email marketing is an enigma: something that is “mysterious, puzzling or difficult to understand”. Coming from a guy who writes almost exclusively about content marketing for the major publications, this in itself is an enigma. Steve is basically telling us that he knows everything there is to know about email marketing, but he doesn’t really get it – and neither can you.


Steve’s reasoning comes from the fact that while open rates for emails are the highest they’ve been for at least two years, the non-bounce rates were also the lowest they’ve been in this same time period. More people are opening the emails when they are actually reaching their inbox, even though not as many are getting there. Another puzzling fact about email marketing is that while ROI is estimated to be a whopping 122%, which is insanely higher than all other channels, the CPA for email is the lowest of all the channels. Marketers are making most of their money from their email efforts, while spending the least.

Delving Even Further

The confusion goes even further when you look at open rates vs. conversions. Everyone knows that mobile is a key player in the marketing world and have all the plans to focus on this strategy, but while the majority of emails are opened on mobile devices as opposed to other devices, the majority of conversions happen at the desktop level. People are opening your emails on their phones, but they aren’t buying until they get home, or they aren’t purchasing at all after opening from a mobile device.

Mobile Is Hurting Your Email Marketing Strategy

According to the Email Marketing Benchmarks 2016 survey, your emails are being killed off because of mobile. 45% of consumers unsubscribed to a brand’s emails simply because it didn’t display well on their smartphones. Another 35% unsubscribed because the mobile app didn’t work well. And another 34% marked it as spam at the point where it didn’t display well or work well on their smartphones. The message is consistent here: if your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, they are getting sent to the trash bin, never to return to that consumer’s inbox again. So while your emails are being opened on mobile devices (win!), customers aren’t buying because they really can’t read them (lose!).

Mobile-Optimized Emails For The Win

The message couldn’t be clearer and louder: in 2016 emails MUST be optimized for mobile. It is all well and great to sink your resources and budget into the content and analytics, but if you don’t account for optimizing for mobile in that strategy, you might as well throw those dollars into the fire. Steve suggests that marketers need to increase their efforts on responsive design of emails that are “mobile-aware”.Because your return on investment is so high compared to the other channels, it would be well worth-it to invest those extra dollars into your email marketing efforts. Taking away from direct mail, social media or paid search could possibly bring you higher revenues and end this conundrum (or enigma) that Steve says is so prevalent in 2016 regarding email marketing. It really doesn’t have to be this confusing.

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