Email marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses email as a means of communicating commercial or fundraising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing.
However, the term is usually used to refer to:
- sending emails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of an advertiser with its current or previous customers and to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business.
- sending emails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately.
- adding advertisements to emails sent by other companies to their customers.
Researchers estimate that United States firms alone spent US$400 million on email marketing in 2006.
Email marketing is popular with companies for several reasons:
- A mailing list provides the ability to distribute information to a wide range of specific, potential customers at a relatively low cost.
- Compared to other media investments such as direct mail or printed newsletters, e-mail is less expensive.
- An exact return on investment can be tracked (“track to basket”) and has proven to be high when done properly. E-mail marketing is often reported as second only to search marketing as the most effective online marketing tactic.
- The delivery time for an e-mail message is short (i.e., seconds or minutes) as compared to a mailed advertisement (i.e., one or more days).
- An advertiser is able to “push” the message to its audience, as opposed to website-based advertising, which relies on a customer to visit that website.
- Email messages are easy to track. An advertiser can track users via autoresponders, web bugs, bounce messages, unsubscribe requests, read receipts, click-throughs, etc. These mechanisms can be used to measure open rates, positive or negative responses, and to correlate sales with marketing.
- Advertisers can generate repeat business affordably and automatically.
- Advertisers can reach substantial numbers of e-mail subscribers who have opted in (i.e., consented) to receive email communications on subjects of interest to them.
- Over half of Internet users check or send e-mail on a typical day.
- Specific types of interaction with messages can trigger (1) other messages to be delivered automatically, or (2) other events, such as updating the profile of the recipient to indicate a specific interest category.
- Email marketing is paper-free (i.e., “green”).
- Tracking and response metrics enables tuning and optimisation of the Email marketing channel by a process of testing different variants and calculation of statistically signficant results.