As a channel for customer acquisition, email delivers results 40 times better than Facebook and Twitter combined, according to management consultants McKinsey & Company. More significantly, its efficacy has improved and pulled away from the popular social channels in the last two years.


(Image source: McKinsey & Company)

Organic search remains the run away winner, but even here, email is closing the gap.

The authors, Nora Aufreiter, Julien Boudet, and Vivian Weng however do note that McKinsey’s iConsumer survey picked up a 20 percent decline in e-mail usage between 2008 and 2012 as a share of time spent on communications, however this seems to have had little impact on email’s utility.

Despite this the authors hedge their assessment, “Investments in these new channels are absolutely necessary for marketers to make increasingly sophisticated use of social networks and other channels to engage with consumers and convert interest to sales. However, marketers shouldn’t be too hasty in shifting budgets away from e-mail—they just need to take a few steps to harness the full power of the inbox.”

The paper, which is available on the McKinsey & Company web site offers three pieces of advice;

  • Focus on the journey, not the click:The e-mail is part of a series of interactions with a brand, and marketers should be just as obsessed with where an e-mail sends the user.
  • Share the Lessons: Basically treat every email as an opportunity to learn more about the consumer
  • Get personal: “The best emails feel personal, and they are.”

While the McKinsey paper doesn’t explicity say so, the reality is that in the last few years, the conflation of email and content marketing with big data and the huge improvements wrought by marketing technology automation have given email’s effectiveness a big kick along.

Indeed, there is a hint of this in the report, where the authors note, “Building true customization and targeting abilities is a transformative process that requires specific capabilities and supporting infrastructure. Customer information often lives in different parts of the organization and must be aggregated to create a single view of each consumer. A targeting engine must be built to guide the right message to the right person. And operations need to be ready for the change.”

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