Dela Quist: Why so many CMO’s underestimate Email Marketing


“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a voice.” Stephen Few

This is an article that wrote itself. It started out as a rant about the relentless negativity surrounding the email channel and how everyone under estimates its importance to the digital ecosystem. As I started to put it together, I began to wonder why this was so and I guess it has become a story about the power of visualization and why perception is everything!

An otherwise informative infographic by Domo Inc showing how much data is generated by us every minute is typical of the problem. The numbers are incredible. Every 60 seconds 3.6m Google searches are made and 15.2 m text messages sent! Domo, Inc however seemed to miss an obvious truth. Email DWARFS all the other channels!

They focussed on Spam (as do many marketers) - the email component of the amount of data generated by Spam, rather than the number of legitimate Business & Consumer [Personal] Emails. I decided to redress this by creating a corrective version using less hysterical data from the Radicati Group.

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More legitimate email is sent every minute of every day than everything else you see in the infographic. Put together!

When shared, it generated quite a few comments, but what I found interesting was this. Something I found self-evident seemed to come as a surprise to people. That got me wondering if the problem was one of presentation, so I started to think how I could present the numbers better.

Everyone knows email is big right? The problem is very few people seem to be able to comprehend how BIG, it’s a bit like seeing an elephant up close for the first time. You know elephants are big but when you get close to one for the first time, you immediately say OMFG that’s HUGE! Like elephants Email is so big it is hard to comprehend.

Together with my data team we started to brainstorm ways of presenting the data in a better way. To begin with, and this is something we did a few years back, we created a visualization where the world represented all digital channels showing how many countries email would be, compared with say Google search. However, we then hit an unexpected visualization problem - the way the map of the world is presented.

Now everyone knows Africa is big. Some people also know that the map of the world is not drawn to scale, but even those who know both those things (myself included) are still surprised when they see how many and which countries would all actually fit into Africa. When it comes to understanding numbers, that shows the power and importance of visualization.

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In the end we decided the best way to present the sheer scale of email visually would be to use the United States as the reference point. What we couldn’t agree on was which way to present the data;

Option 1: Showing how much of the US would be occupied by Email (All Digital as the US)

Option 2: Showing how easily the other channels fitted into Email (Email as the US)

So, we decided to share both and let you guys decide.

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This version shows how much of Digital consists of Email - in Red. WhatsApp is Light Green, Text messages Purple.

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This version shows all the other channels fitting into Email. Light Green represents WhatsApp and Purple represents Text messages. Lilac is all the space left over. Facebook is Dark Blue and Google Search is the Darker Green in both.

Email is just too BIG to die!

The scale of Email and the reach it represents is obvious when you see it this way. When you stop to think about it, it’s because Email is the webs only universal application. Not having an email address is the digital equivalent of being homeless. You cannot buy anything online (with one exception mobile micropayments in less developed countries), use IOS or Android, even Windows, so no smartphones or Apps, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Spotify, Netflix or iPlayer. The list is endless. Email drives more traffic around the web than everything else put together. If you assume a click rate of 3%, Email delivers 4.3bn clicks a day. Yet many CMO’s invest significantly more time, effort and resource into Instagram than Email (Washington DC in both versions). That’s crazy!

Furthermore, digital marketers need to take into account that email has effects beyond open and click rates. Email creates brand impressions by its mere presence in an inbox, not only when they’re opened or when links are clicked. Emails not opened are in no way wasted, every Subject Line tells a story. Ten years ago, most people checked their personal emails on a desktop computer a few times a day at most. Today, however, the explosion in smartphone ownership means that consumers have their emails delivered instantly to their pockets. People are checking their emails all the time. Each time they do it reinforce subconscious brand connections previously made.

According to recent research conducted by Zettasphere, 83% of consumers say that email is the best way to communicate with them. Social media is a distant second, cited by 38%. This is not new.

It is my view anyone who underestimates the importance of Email does so at their peril – here’s 10 reasons why

  1. Without an email address, you do not exist online. An email address is as vital to a digital citizen as their social security number or having a home address.
  2. Email is the cheapest way of receiving marketing messages that has ever existed companies that use it well will be more competitive.
  3. Email is far and away the preferred route by which consumers would like businesses to contact them.
  4. Email allows every brand to create its own direct to market media channel (all they need is to deliver value).
  5. Email is the only channel where consumers have true power – it’s the only channel they can opt out of.
  6. The mere presence of Email Subject Line in the inbox is extremely effective at delivering brand recognition and sales in other channels through nudge effect.
  7. Even though most thinking about email marketing is negative the channel still manages to deliver remarkable results.
  8. Unlike anonymous web analytics and behavioural targeting, email is the one online channel that’s attributable. You don’t just know what, you know precisely who.
  9. Click Fraud is almost unheard of in Email the channel is a bot free zone.
  10. The average ESP (just one of them) drives more traffic per month to brand’s websites than Facebook does in the whole of the UK.