Why Email Reigns Supreme Over Social Media

An avalanche of media attention has been focused on the alleged marketing juggernaut of Facebook, Google + and Twitter.

Facebook has 1.5 billion users and a devoted following – the average American user spends 40 minutes daily on the platform. They spend around 20 minutes in the gym.

Google +, not nearly as potent, still has a commanding audience of millions. Twitter signs up 135,000 new users daily and experiences 2.1 billion searches of its content every day.

Yet despite these impressive statistics, the amazing reach and high activity of social media users, these platforms perform poorly as marketing vehicles when compared to email. The oldest form of social media, email still packs a punch and commands the largest audience of any social media; it is also the most likely to see conversions to sales.

Why Email Reigns Supreme Over Social Media

In January, McKinsey & Co. released a study of social media that imparted some astonishing insights into how well email continues to perform. Let’s take a closer look at the data.

  • Email scores second in U.S. customer acquisition by channel. After organic search, which brings in 16 percent of customers, email rolls in at 7 percent.
  • Customer acquisition from email continues to grow. From 2010 to 2013, email’s reach grew from 2 percent to 7 percent. In contrast, Facebook and Twitter stayed relatively flat at less than 1 percent. 
  • For customer acquisition, email is 40 times more effective than Facebook or Twitter. More people are using those social media platforms, of course, so attention must be paid to them. Dumping email, however, for an all-social-media program would be a bad idea.
  • Email use has declined by 20 percent from 2008 to 2012. That doesn’t mean email is dying, it just means people are receiving fewer of them, which can be a good thing. Spam doesn’t work.

Despite the good news for email marketing, McKinsey has several suggestions for making the most of the channel. A product pitch should take users to a specific landing page, not a generic home page.

More than 45 percent of email is opened on mobile devices, making mobile-responsive websites a necessity for connection with customers. Google reports that 61 percent of people who encounter problems accessing mobile sites leave immediately; of those, 40 percent head for a competitor’s offering.

McKinsey suggests having market staffers share successes and failures in the email channel. One apparel company has a program that looks at hits and misses each month. By focusing on what works, its e-commerce channel looks to double revenue without increasing the number of emails sent.

Finally, the strength of email is its ability to make it personal. By making it more personal and more conversational, sales increase. McKinsey encourages creating a targeting methodology that sends the right message to the right individual.

“Although it’s a lot of work, it drives real returns: one financial institution increased revenue from target segments by 20 percent by using life-cycle events to trigger personalized e-mails to existing customers; home-goods retailer Williams-Sonoma reported a tenfold improvement in response rates by adopting personalized e-mail offerings based on individuals’ on-site and catalog shopping behavior,” McKinsey reports.

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