With many marketers now relying on social networks to reach their consumers, little has been said about some of the most cost-effective and simple advertising channels – email and direct mail marketing. 

A little over a year ago, before GDPR was launched in May 2018, there was speculation that the new regulations would have a detriment on marketers’ email lists, permanently damaging return-on investment-rates attributed to future campaigns. 

Users were bombarded with emails asking them to stay subscribed, and the fact that so many chose to stay opted in after being prompted confirmed how valuable email still was for brands.

GDPR didn’t adversely affect email ROI; instead, it helped brands cleanse their email lists from unengaged users, resulting in higher open and click rates.

In fact, email campaigns have achieved higher ROI rates than social media marketing (30%-32% vs. 15%-17%).

According to Campaign Monitor, the average email open rate has reached 18%, with the non-for profit and agriculture and forestry industries being the highest performers at 20%.

The continued success of email marketing is mainly attributed to the growing importance of smartphones, used by 89% of internet users to access the internet for an average of 3 hours and 23 minutes every day.

But it’s also due to the proliferation of technological solutions like MailChimp and Intercom, which allow for easy customer interactions and help small businesses and direct-to-consumer brands to reach vast numbers of their audience quickly, at low cost. 

This blog evaluates the effectiveness of email marketing relative to other brand discovery channels and takes a look at the defining characteristics of people who read branded emails and newsletters. 

Are company emails effective for brand discovery? 

At the very start of the purchase journey, when consumers are still discovering new products or services, emails or letters from companies rank 19th out of the 30 brand discovery sources we currently track. 

Globally, 16% of online adults find out about new brands and products via branded emails or letters, rising to 22% in Latin America. 

Although the figure is relatively low compared to channels like TV and social media ads, which solicit the attention of 35% and 28% of consumers respectively, the impact of branded emails is on par with other high-profile marketing tactics, like outdoor advertising (17%), cinema ads (14%) and even personalized purchase recommendations on websites (16%).

Branded emails are proven to be more effective than some social media marketing techniques like influencer marketing, with just 14% of internet users saying they find out about new brands via celebrity endorsements.  

Company emails and mailshots

Although Latin America is the region where email marketing seems most fruitful, the two markets where company emails work especially well are in Europe, namely Romania (33%) and Austria (26%). 

Internet users in Romania are twice as likely as all digital adults around the world to find out about new brands via these channels. 

In fact, Romania is the only one among our 45 tracked markets that features ‘emails or letters from companies’ in the top 3 brand discovery sources.

APAC, on the other hand, lies at the bottom of the email marketing bandwagon, with other methods such as cinema ads and blog posts attracting more user attention.

But the primary reason why company emails usually lag behind other sources of brand discovery on a global level isn’t because they’re ineffective; it’s because people would have to know the brand to subscribe to its newsletter, rather than them being introduced to the brand via an email.

That’s why it’s perhaps more important to understand who the people that interact with the content of these emails are, if brands want to target them effectively. 

Who reads branded emails and what makes them tick?

The true power of email marketing can only be realized if we move beyond the first stage of the purchase journey and see what proportion of consumers actually interact with the content of the emails brands send.

46% of internet users that find out about brands and products via emails or letters from companies have also read a branded email in the past month.

Branded email readers are most likely to work full-time (52%) be male (53%) in their mid-thirties and married (48%) with at least one child (54%).

They’re affluent and well-educated, with just over a third having completed a higher education degree. This audience is also 23% more likely than average to have senior decision-making power in the workplace (12% do).

As such, readers who engage with branded emails tend to be quite digitally-oriented and tech-savvy users.

They are 26% more likely to fall into our technophile attitudinal segment, meaning they’re more likely to say that having the latest technological products is very important to them (53% say that), refer to themselves as constantly connected online (66%) and say that the internet makes them feel closer to people (65%).

On the web, they’re most likely to be engaging in business-related networking and research and they also love to stay informed about local issues and political affairs.

Brands that want to engage this audience will have to stay relevant with current happenings in the world, providing these consumers with valuable knowledge that they haven’t already come across in their day-to-day browsing. 

What content do brands need for successful email marketing?

Apart from being cost-effective, email marketing benefits from being a less intrusive format than ads. It bypasses ad-blockers, with interactive content at the center of its success.

Company email readers love to interact with all forms of branded content.

They’re 20% more likely to be content networkers¹ on social media and we can see this reflected more broadly in their interactions with brands.

Engagement with branded content

Almost 3 in 10 of this audience have engaged with a branded app in the past month, and they’re 52% more likely than the average online adult to have used an augmented reality (AR) app in the same period.

Brands that want to engage email readers can think about incorporating AR features into their marketing emails.

With Apple’s latest ARKit 3 Reality Composer, marketers can now link an email image to a 3D object, and by using the camera, place it in real life.

In that way, emails can come to life by immersing users in the content, while simultaneously providing a 360-degree view of products.

Retailers are increasingly using this kind of technology to show consumers how products would look on them, in a bid to help them to make an online purchase with confidence, without needing to visit a store’s physical location.

With just under 4 in 10 email brand readers watching branded videos, other entertainment techniques like incorporating animated GIFs and videos in emails are also likely to prove themselves as fruitful touchpoints for engagement.

Consumers want to make informed purchase decisions, and video is the best-placed format for demonstrating what the consumers are after.

Video is found to increase open rates by 19% and click-through rates by as much as 65%.

Behind-the-scenes videos like showcasing the making of a product for example, could be a successful tactic for converting branded email readers into loyal consumers and even brand ambassadors.

This is because these consumers are much more likely to promote a brand if they have insider knowledge about it or if they’ve been given access to exclusive content.

In fact, having access to exclusive content and services is what differentiates these consumers the most from the general online population when it comes to completing a purchase. Our research shows email readers are 50% more likely to buy a product if brands tap into this consumer desire.

But, brands can’t forget that this is an audience that likes to stay informed.

Marketers that want to target this group successfully and increase the number of people engaging with their emails should strive to keep consumers up to date with the latest news and products, while at the same time, act as a trusted source of information. 

¹Content networkers are internet users who use social media to find funny/entertaining content; use social media to watch/follow sports events; follow vloggers on social media.

Never miss a post

By subscribing you confirm you’re happy for us to send you our latest articles.

You’ve read our blog, now see our platform

Every business has questions about its audiences, GWI has answers. Powered by consistent, global research, our platform is an on-demand window into their world.