eMail Marketing bad Customer Experience, unless Personalized


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Last Friday, I got 37 marketing emails in a day, from people trying to sell me conference and events to a condo in Bangkok. I did what I always do with marketing emails – marked them as ‘Junk’. And that was even before reading their content…..

But it made me wonder why do people still send marketing emails?

Reduced Mind Share and Time Share

In this age of microblogging and two-second bites, almost no one has the attention span, or time, to read more than a few sentences.

– Tim Frick, Author of “Return on Engagement”

An average human being today gets up to 121 emails a day. My boss gets over 400 and that is just in this office mailbox. With advent of smart phones, IM apps on phones like WhatsApp,Skype for Business and Social media like Twitter, YouTube Instagram, Yammer and LinkedIn people are getting distracted into more and more communication channels. The amount of productive time in a day is still the same. Consequentially, everyone has lesser time for emails, let alone promotional ones.

Bottom of the Barrel
While there are some statistics proving that eMail marketing has one of the highest ROI, it is most likely because of the reduced costs of email-address acquisitions and sending an email. Along with ever increasing penetration of Internet due to smart phones explosion, more and more first time users of emails are coming onboard. But these are one-off transactions with the long tail. Neither the engagement is strong enough to make them loyal, nor their buying capacity high enough to sustain a long-term return.

Annoyance Factor
So while the Internet newbies may be responding to eMail marketing for the first time, the Annoyance factor for the remaining 97%+ population is high. It is so high that I have stopped using certain popular brands like, just because they sent too many useless emails.

OnDemand Information – Push versus Pull

Understand why and how your audience uses technology and then start trying to align your communication efforts

– Brian Reich & Dan Soloman, Authors of Media Rules

Most people especially the Gen Y, Z and most Gen X consume information in almost real-time and on-demand. They show up at a location and then decide where to eat or find out the promotions in the neighbourhood malls. They decide on which brand, which product to buy and then look for the best deal. eMail marketing is a “Spray and Pray” strategy where you are hoping to reach a small percentage of consumers who may need what you are selling at that very moment (at the risk of annoying everyone else). Push notifications and retargeting strategies are, hence, much better use of your dime and consumers time, with much lower risk of annoyance.

Conversion versus Experience – Personalization
While most eMail marketers focus on conversion, they forget the experience part of it. Is it really something that the consumers want from you? And yes, they may subscribed to your newsletter but what would their experience be like when they open your email

Make the Customer the hero of your story

– Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

So while conversion is important, marketers should not do it at the expense of Consumer Experience. In this day and age of sophisticated technology, personalization is the key to any communication between the consumer and your organization.

eMail Strategy Versus Channel Strategy
eMail is just one of the channels to reach out to your consumer. And while conversion is important, Net Promoter Score may be even more important for long-term sustenance of your business. So have a channel strategy for communicating with your consumers

People Shop and learn in a whole new way compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adapt or risk extinction

– Brian Halligan, CEO, Hubspot

Social Media, retargeting, search engine optimisation, content marketing, personalised communications, push notifications, consumer analytics – all the tools offered by technology today, need to be orchestrated into a marketing symphony for the maximum impact.

Rear View versus looking ahead
Finally, while eMails were a novelty in the 90s and early 2000s, times have moved on. People are relying lesser on emails today than they have ever before. With the advent of smartphones, wearables and smart watches, reading screens are getting smaller and engagement needs to be strategized at a much more sophisticated level than ever before. Consumer journeys, customer experience and personalization are the key to engaging the modern consumer whose loyalty is most fickle.

The attention economy is not growing, which means we have to grab the attention that someone else has today

– Brent Leary, Co-Founder, CRM Essential

Long term loyalty and CRM strategies are evolving at an ever rapid pace and so are the tools to engage with your consumer. eMail is now like the Tonsil Guillotine in a surgeon’s toolbox. It may get the job done but may cause lot of hemorrhaging and not as effective as the modern alternatives.

So rather than just looking at what has worked in the past, marketers should constantly focus ahead on what could ‘wow’ their consumers today, using the technology and tools which are as latest as possible. Because like the timeless remark of the great Benjamin Franklin,

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing

Abhishek Singh
Currently, Abhishek holds the responsibility for conceptualizing, implementing and managing the IT product strategies for Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve, in the Digital space. Prior to this, several years at Singapore Airlines as well as his years of entrepreneurship ingrained in him the importance of customer experience.


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