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The inevitable demise of mass email

Posted by Lauren Ruckheim on August 26, 2015


Almost 44 years ago, Ray Tomlinson sent out the first email ever that consisted of the random letters “QWERTYUIOP.” Since then, email marketing has come a long way.

Today there are over 4 billion email accounts, with 23% of them dedicated to businesses.

Email marketing today has become one of the most crowded marketing channels. It is estimated that 200 billion emails will be sent out this year alone, with a continued growth of 3-5% every year.

With such a plethora of emails, engaging consumers with email is becoming more and more difficult. In fact, 65% of marketers say breaking through cluttered inboxes and generating click-throughs are their biggest challenges, according to Jacobs & Clevenger’s “2013 Marketing Trends Study.”

With all this in mind, it is not shocking that many email marketing tactics are becoming extinct. One such strategy is mass email. According to iContact, mass emails generally have low conversion rates, no follow-up and create minimal to no lead generation, since they have no defined target audience.

As consumers continue to disregard most emails that are not customized to their interests, new email marketing tactics that allow for personalization and customization are quickly becoming the most effective way to reach the inbox.

Looking beyond the outdated days of mass email, this article will examine new email marketing strategies that successfully target the consumer’s growing desire for customized content.

Email segmentation

One of the greatest struggles with sending mass email is truly understanding the audience. Mass email sends to a large group of recipients who may or may not have any commonalities. List segmentation allows businesses to understand their audience by dividing their email database into multiple lists, each with a specific demographic or characteristic in mind.

Today, list segmentation has almost completely replaced generic mass emails. The number of marketers that do not segment emails at all is down to 3%, with a steady increase in marketers that apply segmentation over the last three years, as reported by the Direct Marketing Association.Sign up now for your FREE email marketing assessment.

When segmenting lists, the easiest place to begin is to establish buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional representations of a company’s ideal customer. Businesses can create anywhere from two to 25 buyer personas, each targeting a specific demographic. Once buyer personas are established, companies can divide up email contacts into segmented lists based on each persona.

In addition to utilizing buyer personas, organizations can segment lists based off the consumer’s stage in the buying cycle. This enables companies to create different lists for prospects, leads and current customers and customize content based on the audience’s specific buying needs.

For example, when sending out an email, content that is of interest to leads will be dramatically different than content for current customers. A lead may be interested in a free download or consultation, whereas a customer would be more interested in new services or products a company is now offering.

According to MailChimp, segmented email campaigns get 14.72% more opens and 62.84% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns. As a result, segmenting emails have made mass emails a thing of the past.

Personalize emails

Once a database has been segmented, businesses can focus on adding a personal touch to their emails based off the designated audience. Personalization can include:

  • Defining topics that are relevant to the audience
  • Planning content that will be well received by the audience
  • Streamlining messaging and tone of voice
  • Targeting email offers and calls-to-action

Adding personalization significantly increases the success of emails. In fact, personalized emails are shown to have 25% higher open rates and 51% higher click rates, according to Experian.

From the subject line to the headline and body copy, there are many opportunities in which personalization can be added to an email. For example, simply adding personalized information to the body of an email significantly improves click-through rates. According to the 2014 Science of Email Marketing Report, implementing the first name in an email increases click-through rates from about 5.8% to 7%.

In addition, since the subject line is generally the first piece of content the audience sees when receiving an email, adding personalized information to the subject line can be very beneficial. Research shows that emails with personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened then non-personalized ones.

Lastly, including information that is tailored to the consumer’s interests within the body of an email is a great way to improve customer engagement with emails. According to Monetate, 75% of U.S. consumers like it when brands send them personalized messages and offers. Therefore, implementing personalized offers or calls-to-action has quickly become a popular strategy to replace mass email.

Trigger emails

Beyond simply segmenting emails, triggered emails or automated emails provide businesses with an additional opportunity to add customization. Triggered emails are sent in response to a specific action from the consumer. Such actions could include visiting a landing page, downloading an ebook, making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter or webinar.

Trigger emails are powerful marketing tactics, since they not only offer personalization but are also time-sensitive. Based off the consumer’s action, businesses can customize trigger emails in a way that helps define the next step for the consumer. Customization techniques for trigger emails include providing relevant calls-to-action, related content, follow-up information and more.

For example, including related content in a trigger email is a great way to keep the consumer interacting with the company. If a client downloads an ebook, customizing the trigger email with recommended content like a blog article or webinar on the same topic is a great way to keep the consumer interested.

Additionally, sending follow-up content to a purchase or download is a great way to tailor content to the user’s interests. Such content could include recommended purchases or downloads based off previous activities.

Triggered email open rates are 49.6% higher than mass emails and continue to outperform, with click rates 135.8% higher than mass emails, according to Epilson. Therefore, utilizing trigger email can significantly improve email marketing strategies.

The individuals receiving triggered emails are already hand raisers, having completed some action that opts into the communication. It’s up to a smart marketer to take advantage of this opportunity in the most strategic way possible.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 77% of ROI comes from segmented, targeted and triggered campaigns. With that said, it is no surprise that email segmentation, personalization and trigger emails have quickly replaced generic mass emails. To learn how to optimize your email performance and take email marketing efforts to a more effective level, take our free email marketing assessment to discover how to improve email effectiveness.

Topics: Email Marketing

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