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The Future of E-mail Marketing

Many online retailers are already well-versed in e-mail marketing, making it easy for some to focus on newer innovations in online marketing such as social media and search engine marketing. With the attention and budget focused elsewhere to keep up with competitors, how can retailers make the most of their e-mail marketing efforts? What can be done to keep up with current industry trends?

To answer these questions and more, I sat down with our Senior Solutions Architect and e-mail marketing veteran, Jeff Murray:

E-mail marketing is one of the oldest forms of online marketing, having existed now for well over a decade. What in your opinion are the e-mail marketing concepts which have changed dramatically over this period of time and the concepts which have stayed relatively the same?

This depends greatly on the retailer and their tendencies with e-mail marketing. Believe it or not, despite some of the advancements in e-mail marketing some retailers continue to use “batch and blast” methods where they send the same broadcasted message to their entire e-mail list. Many retailers though have moved away from this method and are using the recent abundance of analytics to increase their e-mail success rates. Methods include:

  • A/B testing – Retailers will create two different variations of their e-mails (from small subject line changes to entirely different e-mails) and test each e-mail with a small sub-segment of their list. The e-mail which performs the best within the sub-segment will be sent to their entire list.
  • Dynamic content – These e-mails are sent with more of an emphasis on the e-mail instead of the consumer. With the ability to embed interactive and video content into e-mails it creates a richer experience for subscribers.
  • Behavioral retargeting – While these tactics have been used by larger retailers for years, behavioral retargeting tools are now available to smaller and mid-sized retailers at an affordable cost. Automated and customized, these e-mails can reach consumers with relevant products they are interested in and can even be tailored to demographics such as gender.


Although new communication tools (Social Media, SMS, SEM etc.) are available for retailers to reach consumers with their message, the vast majority of online retailers still use e-mail marketing with some of these retailers under the belief that e-mail marketing has not yet reached its full potential. In which areas do you think e-mail marketing will continue to evolve over the next 5 years to reach its potential? 

The evolution of new communications tools has, to some, spelled an early death to e-mail but let me remind you that you still need an e-mail address to sign up for many social media accounts. E-mail marketing to this date still is one of the best ROI investments marketing teams can make due to its strong conversion rates and the fact consumers have actually become more open to receiving e-mail marketing in recent years.


It’s no secret web-based e-mail usage has been in decline, especially with younger generations as many conversations now take place on social media and through SMS. How does this shift in communication change the strategy of e-mail marketers to not only reach these customers but also engage them through this channel?

One of the keys to reaching this age demographic is the personalization and customization of messaging. In the era of social media the voice of this demographic can be heard on an individualistic level and they expect retailers to communicate with them and understand them in the same way – not only on social channels but also with e-mail marketing. Establishing a trusting relationship with this age demographic is essential and can be done by using new automation tools to show that you “get them” by presenting relevant products and offers, which should result in an increase in open rates.

Somewhat surprisingly, it’s been shown young consumers actually prefer to receive marketing e-mails over being marketed to in other channels as they view social networks as “fun” and e-mail as a place to view product content and deals on their own terms.


The e-mail data breach of Epsilon last year raised privacy concerns regarding e-mail marketing. What measures are being taken within the e-mail marketing industry to protect the personal information of consumers?

When the data breach of Epsilon occurred it was a “wake up” call to the e-mail marketing industry. Many e-mail service providers have increased their own security measures to minimize the chances of data being compromised but ultimately retailers bear the responsibility for the data they hold regarding their customers. As e-mail segmentation and customization has evolved more customer data (date of birth, gender, etc.) is being stored on e-mail servers whereas a decade ago it was only e-mail addresses. Protecting customer data has always been important but it is more important now than ever before simply because of this reason alone.

Thanks Jeff for taking the time to sit down and chat! It appears as though retailers who are having the most success are the ones who are moving away from the traditional “batch and blast” methods and are focusing on testing and personalizing e-mail communication with their customers. As more data and information exists it makes choices easier for retailers to make the most of their e-mail marketing efforts.


Have a question for Jeff? Feel free to leave a comment below!