Email marketing is not, never has been and never will be sexy. Year in and year out we hear about its eventual demise.  Yet, each year retail marketers are reminded that email marketing drives the highest ROI of all digital marketing channels and that shoppers prefer email above all other channels for direct communication from brands.

So, what do most marketers try? They try to make email sexy. Email marketers position their under appreciated art form in new ways. There really is no need. Email isn’t sexy. It’s practical, efficient and profitable. In fact, in a new video series, Joel Book, Senior Director of Digital Marketing Insight at Salesforce, highlights how getting back to basics with email drives profitability and engagement for retailers and consumer brands. The approach is supported by feedback from thousands of consumers. The Salesforce Connected Shopper Report shows that shoppers prefer to receive personalized recommended and offers via email - 79% like product recommendations and 64% enjoy personalized offers.

Salesforce is fortunate to have Joel. He has forgotten more about digital direct marketing than most know.  His experience connecting the tried and true practices of traditional direct marketing with digital direct marketing comes through in every one of his presentations. Many of the techniques that smart marketers use have their origins in direct marketing. These techniques have been adapted and amplified in the digital realm. Joel really ties that together.

In the video series, Joel frames the retail email marketers day to day dilemma with two simple phrases: all digital marketing is direct marketing; and we are in the business of serving, not selling. The fundamental premise about email that gets lost in the pursuit of sexy is this: personalized, timely and relevant messages targeted to where the customer is in the lifecycle drives results. Email marketing, as the primary driver of ROI and preferred form of communication, should be used to deliver across the entire customer lifecycle - not just at conversion.

Joel doesn’t just talk stats and figures. He dives deep and provides real life examples of email marketing’s impact for retail brands at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Each stage: Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase, Onboarding, Retention and Advocacy is amplified with a brand’s techniques that deliver measurable results. The videos feature 12 real life examples with the majority being retail and direct to consumer brands. He drives home email marketing best practices around:

  • Getting permission and gathering data to engage smartly with shoppers early in the decision process;

  • Optimizing cart recovery programs to convert on the 68% of all carts that are not completed;

  • Growing customer value by personalizing with customers during the critical first 100 days after the first purchase;

  • Thinking strategically about offers and promotions to drive that second purchase;

  • Engaging with customers creatively to re-engage and build advocacy.

The key to the best practices is that they leverage back to basic techniques that leading retailers and direct to consumer brands use to deliver one to one email marketing.  

Joel challenges email marketers to think creatively about asking for more information and using technology to gather deep insights. Salesforce research shows that high performing retail and consumer good marketers are 11.7x more likely than underperformers to use CRM tools extensively to gather insights. The outputs of those deep insights: highly personalized geography based content; advice emails that act to inform and not sell; and invitations to engage with the brand to deliver user-generated content in unique ways.

But, the video series is hardly about email marketing alone. Because no shopper or customer relies only on email. We know that most shopper journeys are done on multiple devices, multiple marketing channels, online and in the store.  The video series ties the email experience to SMS, Mobile Apps and interactions on popular social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Salesforce has tremendous customers who share their incredible stories about how Marketing Cloud helps them reach their customer acquisition, growth, retention, re-engagement and advocacy goals.  The customers featured leverage email studio’s open and flexible data model, extensive personalization and artificial intelligence capabilities. They use the marketing cloud to synchronize their email marketing with the SMS they create, target and send via Mobile Studio. They build out incredibly personalized experiences using Journey Builder. They leverage Einstein to make it all smarter.

In today’s marketing landscape, it’s easy to overlook the tried and true. Marketers are always looking for something new. It’s good to get a refresher on how email delivers throughout the customer lifecycle. It’s good to connect best practices in email to the new channels - including mobile and social.   It’s good to take a step back and re-acquaint with what makes email marketing the digital marketing workhorse.