Did someone just kill email marketing (again)?

Does email marketing belong to the past, or have we only scratched on the surface what this ‘old fashion’ sales channel can do?
Well, fact is that its position on the Iron Throne of the ROI
Kingdoms has been unchallenged for many years, and the trend is not changing. In fact, we see the opposite and every year email marketing is continuing to increase its gap to other sales

Sheryl Sandberg, COO for Facebook, declared the end of email already 2010. And she was not alone. The phrase “Email is dead” became a popular term, but now it’s remembered more as the symbol of over enthusiastic performance marketers with overconfidence in what social media can do.


The King of ROI Kings is here to stay for years to come, despite what your social media expert tells you in his PowerPoint presentation, or what (biased) top executives such as Sheryl Sandberg predicts.

Econsultancy perform an annual study asking companies to rate their sales channel’s effectiveness, and the 2016 report confirms this trend and place email marketing as the most effective sales channel. 3 out of 4 (73%) companies rate email marketing as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in terms of ROI (up from 66% in 2015)


So how does that convert to actual dollars? For every dollar spent on email marketing, the average return is a staggering $381. Yes, that’s a 3800% ROI. Up from 2400% reported in 2013.

Email vs. Social

Endless of times have I had marketing campaigns on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and as many times have the result (ROI) been shockingly bad. I have trialled designing the campaigns myself, and I have outsourced it to several external social media expert agencies, but always to my disappointment.

Social platforms can play an important role when used together with email, for retargeting and by the capability of getting a lookalikeaudience as what you have in your email lists. But as a standalone sales channel it falls short.

I have gathered some key facts about email vs social media, if I haven’t convinced you yet on what sales channel to focus on in your next marketing budget.

– Email marketing have the highest conversions of all marketing channel, including search engine marketing and social media2.
– Email outperforms Facebook and Twitter in acquiring new customers by 40 times3.
– It’s a 3 times higher likelihood that an email subscriber share your content via social media than visitors from other sources5.
– You are 6 times more likely to get a click from an email compared to a tweet6.
– Almost ¾ (72%) prefer to get promotional content through email, while 17% prefer social media7
– Your message is 5 time more likely to be seen in an email than on Facebook8
– 4.24% of your email traffic end up buying something compared to 2.49% from search engines and 0.59% from social media2.
– 90% of emails are delivered to the recipient’s inbox, but only 2% of your Facebook fans see your posts in their news feed9

How can you reach 3800% ROI?

How come email marketing is such a dominant sales channel, and what do you as an email marketer need to do, to reach or even exceed these levels?

I have put together some best practices that any email marketer need to consider before going ahead designing an email marketing program:

The 21st century is Mobile

With mobile devices having for good overtaken desktops as the numbers one device to open an email on, we’re moving into a new fast pace era distinguished by new innovative ways of using email marketing.  The time when marketers struggled with low engagement on handheld devices has passed since long, now do we not only see high open rates but in fact one third of total email clicks are from a mobile device4.

However, you cannot rely on high engagement from mobile openers unless you adopt your mails to look good on mobile devices.Your email needs to be mobile responsive. This means you need to code your email to be mobile responsive using special HTML techniques. The result is that the email can adopt to the screen size it’s being opened on. This can include resizing of images and tables, and hiding/stacking/expanding/collapsing content to accommodate for different devices. As an example, more than often an email becomes too long on a mobile device, hence removing content will often increase the Click-Through-Rate.

Inbox placement and Google vs. the Email marketer

Getting into the inbox without ending up in spam filters is not always easy for bulk sends. There are various strategies to ensure that you end up in the inbox, including IP and domain rating, linking, keep bounces and unsubscribes to a minimum, configure a correct return-path, reply-to and from address, optimal image hosting, text versus image ratio, content, subject line, etc. However, what I wanted to put focus on in this article is the market leading email provider: Gmail. Or more specifically, Gmail’s email tabs.

When Google started with their infamous tabs: Primary, Social, and Promotions, people (again!) anticipated it was the beginning of the end for email marketing. I remember myself sitting in meetings discussing how to overcome this new threat and the panic was not far away. After an initial decrease in Open Rates we soon came to learn that people still open your emails, and instead of having everything mixed up in one place, people interested in promotions now knew where to find it. In addition, you can also train your recipients to manually move the email to the Primary tab, so future emails end up there.

Hence, don’t stress too much about it, Google tabs is not such a bad thing after all.

Understand what drives high Open Rates

I wish it was as simple as a great subject line equal high open rate. Although, it’s of course a major contributor, you need to understand what you should not write before you go ahead and think of what to write. You risk ending up in spam filters if you use excessive amounts of special letters, CAPITAL LETTERS, and use high risk words such as “free”, “win”, “earn”, “$$$”, etc.

Further, the more information you have about your recipient, the more you can personalize the subject line. If you know the first name, use it, if you know their last name, use it as well. If you know their interest, use it. If you know there behaviour – yes – make sure to use it when deciding what to send. It’s very valuable behavioural information to know what sort of emails a specific recipient normally open, and what emails they leave unread. This is invaluable information that must be used to increase user engagement and interaction.

An important fact to remember here though is that users predominantly open an email based on the sender name, so you need a brand that the user recognise. Hence, you need a strategy for how to handle all these aspects, including personalized content.

Good news though, any email platform nowadays can facilitate the use of such basic dynamic content based on user demographics.

Another important thing to remember: be sure to know what your competitors are doing, and make sure to not only do it better, but also differently. MailChimp’s report, based on 24 billion email sends, reveals that using first name in the subject line positively affects the Open Rate. And this is exactly what most companies do. However, people are getting used to it so the effect is only marginal. Instead, consider using first name and last name, since this has proved to be the most effective combination.


You need to stand out from the competition in your inbox. You have around 0.5-3 seconds to convince a person to open your email. It’s not an easy task. Once you succeed, you have a higher likelihood to succeed again. Once you get a recipient to open your mails, you just need to make sure they actually click through as well.

Understand what drives high Click-Through Rates

An email is not the place where sales take place, and it is not even the place where you will convince the user to buy a product by listing all the benefits. Getting people to open an email doesn’t add much value unless they also click through (speaking about marketing emails, not e.g. newsletters or service information emails). It’s where you land after clicking an email that will convert an interest to sale.

The subject line is to get your attention, the email itself is to convince the recipient that you have a need, and the landing page is going to sort the how, when and why.

A mail is too short to have any detailed description and unique selling points, this we leave for the landing page and the web designer to figure out how to convert our precious traffic.

Consider a female shopper walking down a street, she pass 30 stores in only a few minutes, and then decide to enter one store. What made this person enter? Maybe she was entices by display items in the window? Maybe she had been in the store before, knowing she like their products. Maybe a friend recommended the store. The same goes for an email. That very first appearancethe 0.5-3 seconds – you will only see things such as a brand name, posters, and actual building, all this is equivalent to a subject line. It needs to get your attention, and give a very first understanding what to expect from the store. If you stop and look further – i.e. actually open the mail – you can see a couple of nice display items in the window, maybe you see a message about a sales promotion that is going on. This is not where the actual sale takes place, it’s to get you eager to actually enter the store. Now, when you actually clicked trough that email you will end up in the store. And if your expectations are met from what you saw in that window, there’s a high likelihood that you will end up buying something as well.

That 5 minute stroll along the street is exactly what’s going on in your inbox every time you open your inbox. It’s a war between all email marketers, it’s a war for attention. Your attention. This attention seeking war is going on right in front of your eyes, every day, 365 days a year. The result is that the majority of emails will never be read.


To conclude, email marketing is one of the oldest online marketing channels we have, but it continues to outperform all other channels by far in terms of ROI, eCPM, conversion rate, and engagement.

Email marketing is easy to learn, but hard to master.

And it’s certainly not dead. It’s just about to start warming up.


About the author
Anders Hampf
Senior Online Marketing Manager
Anders has been working with online marketing for the last decade and is specialized in online monetization and email marketing. He has helped numerous companies to monetize their sites and come up with customized solution for his clients.anders-hampf-bnw


  1. DMA National Client Email Report 2015:
  2. Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly (EQ): http://info.monetate.com/CREQ_Research.html?utm_source=M-PR-EQ-Q113
  3. Campaign Monitor – Email Marketing New Rules: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/email-marketing-new-rules/
  4. Campaign Monitor – Email Marketing Trends: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/email-marketing-trends/
  5. QuickSprout – 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My First Blog: https://www.quicksprout.com/2013/04/04/11-things-i-wish-i-knew-before-i-started-my-first-blog/
  6. Campaign Monitor – Email Marketing vs. Social Media: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2014/07/email-marketing-vs-social-media/
  7. MarketingSherpa – EXCERPT BMR 2013 Email Marketing:https://www.marketingsherpa.com/data/public/reports/benchmark-reports/EXCERPT-BMR-2013-Email-Marketing.pdf

  1. Radicati – Email Statistics Report 2013-2017 Executive Summary: http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Email-Statistics-Report-2013-2017-Executive-Summary.pdf
  2. Forrester Research – Facebook Has Finally Killed Organic Reach What Should Marketers Do Next: http://blogs.forrester.com/nate_elliott/14-11-17-facebook_has_finally_killed_organic_reach_what_should_marketers_do_next