To mail or not to mail? That is the question

  • On May 7, 2019
  • In blog

To mail or not to mail? That is the question

With the rise in changing regulation severely restricting what can and can’t be sent to our inboxes it is little wonder marketers have begun to question the suitability of email as part of customer contact strategy. Since GDPR came into effect in May 2018 we here at Paperplanes have noted an increasing number of brands seeking new ways to reach customers. Some of these brands look for alternatives due to concerns that the ‘legitimate interest’ angle won’t provide sufficient reason to continue ongoing communication to customers that haven’t specifically given consent. For these brands a capability like ours offers a compelling solution. It provides the same level of personalisation and responsiveness as email but has the added benefit of being delivered via a less heavily regulated channel than digital.

Much thought and consideration has already been given to GDPR and how changes to legal requirements impacts the reliance on email for reaching customers. However outside of legislative concerns are there wider questions that need to be asked about the overall effectiveness of email in general?

The more we work with CRM managers across all verticals and categories the more it becomes clear that email albeit a cost effective way to reach customers also comes with issues. Some of the main challenges fall into three main areas.

Too many of my customers are ignoring emails. Regardless of creative type, time spent in perfecting the targeting and the consideration made on optimising the time and date of sending far too many customers are still not responding to what is hitting their inboxes. Why is this the case? Even if 10% of all those targeted go on to make that incremental purchase or complete their booking what happens to the other 90%? We can go back and forth as to probable reasons but the pure and simple fact is that whatever has been sent was not compelling enough to inspire the customer to complete the desired action or get the customers attention.

Conversion benchmarks once established are hard to beat. It is no surprise to anyone that a sound application of targeting as well as sending emails in a timely and responsive manner drives stronger performance. A blanket non-targeted campaign will not drive the same result as a well targeted follow up. However even when our efforts are perfectly automated and tailored to personalised perfection it becomes increasingly difficult to then improve responses further. In desperation this can lead to the application of heavy discounting and/or ‘batched blasts’ being sent to squeeze as much value as possible. This very rarely results in the desired effect though.

The sales impact of sending an email quickly tails off. Especially with abandoned cart recovery and communications that require an immeasurable response. The general rule of thumb appears to be that if a customer doesn’t respond in the first 48 hours you have probably lost the response forever. Is this really surprising when you think of it? Emails are either instantly deleted or of read they don’t hang around for long so they become very quickly forgotten.

The more we begin to establish partnerships with CRM mangers the more it becomes clear that despite these challenges there are two main reasons emails continues to be used.

  1. They allow fast follow up
  2. Cost to send is next to nothing therefore a fiscally efficient option

No one is disputing the above two factors are good reasons as to why some form of email communication should be utilised. The average attention span of a human being in 2019 is even less than what it was ten years ago, especially considering the rise in adaptation of devices such as smartphones providing technological distraction. And why shouldn’t marketers look to optimise channels that don’t cost an arm and leg to reach customers?

But please remember that email like all good things in life should be used in moderation. As competent customer marketers we cannot ignore the fact that the utilisation of email albeit cost effective is far from perfect. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of bombarding our customers with email for the sake of squeezing a few extra pennies purely on the basis that it costs next to nothing to send. We need to put more effort placing ourselves into our customers shoes. Just because you can send an email quickly doesn’t mean it should be sent.

And please bear in mind that there are other alternatives out there that don’t need to completely replace your email strategy, rather complement it. I am not a proponent of the complete abdication of email. It has a place in all customer journeys but it should be used in a smart and intelligent way. If email is used in a correct manner a capability like Paperplanes can then be used to follow up with those who do not engage or respond to drive further value in a way that won’t annoy or frustrate customers.

Programmatic Direct Mail provides a solution to the all three of the common three marketers face with email that we outlined above. It will incentivise more customers to respond, our campaigns can be optimised constantly for continued improvement on benchmarks and we have also found longer lasting impacts on sales up to 30 days after we have sent as our personalised mail pieces keep your brand in your customers home for longer. Of course there is an extra cost associated with direct mail to account for production that you wouldn’t pay on email. However our ROI is stronger and one well tailored message on Direct Mail will be most effective than 20 email blasts to the same customer.

GDPR might have brought added attention to the use of email but as outlined for other reasons attention on the proper use of the channel was well overdue. So the next time you are thinking of how best to engage with your customers don’t forget to drop us a note at Paperplanes and we’ll be sure to email you to follow up in timely, responsive and efficient manner 😉

Tags: direct mail, email


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