2012 Email Evolution Conference: Email Isn’t Dead; It’s Just Evolving

The conference kicked off its Thursday session with a substantive and thought-provoking keynote from Jessica Harley, VP of Customer Marketing at Gilt Groupe. While her presentation touched on many aspects of Gilt’s email marketing efforts, the most notable theme was that we — as marketers generally and email marketers specifically — can’t think about email marketing in a vacuum. In that email marketing vacuum, response rates appear to be declining and social seems to be gaining precedence. But outside that vacuum, email continues to play a vital role in driving engagement and conversions.

Expanding outside the vacuum enables email marketers to recognize that conversions and email’s impact may be felt in ways that aren’t captured by traditional measures. In Harley’s experience at Gilt, customers may look at emails on a mobile device but then convert indirectly on the same day via the web or via an App. In this scenario, the email is the trigger to go to those transactional channels. Therefore, we need to evaluate email performance not always on an immediate basis — how many viewers or clickers did the email drive in the first day or two — but with a longer term view. And if we think of emails as doing more than driving a single transactional response, we need to extend our measurement, for example, whether a series of emails over time produce a more engaged, higher value customer population.

In EMI’s presentation with State Street, I expanded on this theme: consider thinking of email in the context of all the other response channels. Since our objective as marketers is to drive engagement and transactions, it’s important to remember that email is but one means to that end. For certain customers at certain points in the decision-making process, email might not be as effective a means as direct mail or calling.