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The e-mail marketing explosion


Lately there has been an explosion of e-mail marketing which has seen platforms such as NiftyADs, DealzDone, BizList by E-Concept Media, In Touch-Zim and Ahona Innovations appearing on the scene in fairly rapid-fire succession.

By Omen Muza

Since my Googlemail address is in the public domain through this weekly column, I have practically witnessed most, if not all of them, coming into existence. My first impulse when I started receiving e-mail advertisements was to opt-out, but I have since realised that some benefit can be derived from some of them. It’s not all messages that are useful but every now and again, some advertisements actually generate action on my part leading to either an actual sale or at the very least a serious enquiry. I recently bought an additional fixed phone for the office after encountering an e-mail advert on one of these platforms. Lately, I have been thinking about what makes these platforms fairly successful — on any given day, at least 10 advertisements from these platforms land  in my inbox — and this is what I figured out:

E-mail is personal

Unlike other means of advertising such a print, radio and television which are largely impersonal and tend to leave consumers feeling rather like mere statistics, e-mail messages can be highly personalised. And who doesn’t love to hear the sound of their own name?

E-mail is affordable

E-mail marketing platforms don’t take much to set up, and probably the most important input is the mailing list, which however can take some time to build. Other than that, one just needs a computer, internet connectivity, mail management software and one is good to go. Given the relative ease with which the platforms can be set up, the attendant advertising costs tend to be quite affordable, ranging  from as little as $15 to as high as $30 per advertisement or flighting. With this kind of pricing in a liquidity constrained environment, e-mail marketing is not surprisingly under-cutting traditional advertising media and competing head-to-head with them in many respects. Additionally, the companies running these platforms tend to be one-stop-shops, also with the capacity to design the adverts, which means they own both means of production and the distribution channel.

E-mail is fast

In order to place advertisements on these platforms, one does not have to go through a complex and lengthy booking process that is typical of the print media, for instance. Everything can be initiated and concluded from one’s office, pretty quickly and easily. This speed, which is typical of e-mail advertising, lends dynamism to the process of marketing in an equally dynamic retail environment.

E-mail is targeted and effective

Many marketers now worship at the altar of direct marketing and are beginning to realise that it’s far more effective to send their marketing messages to clearly defined or targeted audiences instead of expending resources on a mass market, a significant part of which may not be interested in the underlying messages at all. According to experts, e-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media — nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.

E-mail marketing in the Financial Sector

Although retail and other customer-facing businesses have taken to e-mail marketing like ducks taking to water, the financial sector does not appear to have caught on to this trend in quite a similar manner. I have rarely encountered advertisements from the financial sector, despite the convenience and affordability of e-mail marketing. Though banks have not really embraced the mushrooming e-mail marketing platforms, they have tended to use proprietary e-mail channels such as e-mail signatures to advertise their products and services. Yet others have been using e-mail effectively to distribute in-house newsletters covering product and regulatory developments, although this is largely limited to their existing clients.

Spray and pray

Despite the apparent success of e-mail marketing, it is not without its weaknesses. Probably its foremost weakness is the “spray and pray” approach it tends to rely on. The proprietors of these platforms tend to “harvest” e-mail addresses from any public source they can access, sometimes (if not mostly) without information on what products or services appeal to specific recipients. Ultimately, when the recipients keep being bombarded by messages they have no interest in, it’s easy to view the e-mail advertisements as irritants destined for the “Deleted Items” folder. Another issue I have with these platforms is that they all claim to have tens of thousands of subscribers, and frankly, some of the numbers are incredulous and interestingly, advertisers will never be able to independently verify them. The numbers appear to be principally intended to outdo competitors and lure advertisers. Despite these shortcomings, it is my considered view that e-mail marketing offers a significant opportunity for marketers to reach out to increasingly tech-savvy consumers whose patronage mobile internet is helping to unlock. In some markets, it is estimated that nearly 45% of all marketing e-mails today are opened on a mobile device.

Feedback: omen.muza@gmail.com 
Omen Muza writes in his personal capacity. You can view his LinkedIn profile at zw.linkedin.com/pub/omen-n-muza/30/641/3b8

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