eMarketer’s recently published report, “Email Marketing Benchmarks: Key Data, Trends and Metrics,” concludes that email is still one of the most effective marketing tools, despite all the other channels now competing for the attention of consumers.
The report cites three trends:
- The increasing use of mobile devices for checking email
- The use of personalized and triggered emails
- The use of “Big Data” for creating more targeted email marketing
Most interesting to me were the finding applicable to B2B marketers, particularly in regards to mobile and triggered emails.
In the past, those of us who write about email marketing separated out B2C and B2B issues because they differed. One would typically read an email marketing newsletter or post assuming it addressed B2C only unless stated otherwise. Any advice specific to B2B email marketing would be labeled as such. In our own email marketing blog, we strived to ensure we were offering enough B2B specific content.
These days, many of the challenges apply across the board. This makes sense because businesses are consumers too—real people, whether at home or at work. As consumers’ behaviors and expectations change, so do those of the buyers behind a business. If you’re a consumer who signed up to receive emails from Land’s End because you like their clothing, and you’re also a systems analyst responsible for recommending a new ERP platform for your company, your consumer experiences and preferences would naturally affect your expectations.
Look at the B2B adaption of social media for marketing purposes. If we were so good at keeping our personal/consumer and professional/work mindsets separate, businesses probably wouldn’t have ventured into the social media arena. However, people are people, and as our behaviors and expectations change in one part of our lives (the personal part), that can’t help but affect the other (the professional part).
Having said that, some aspects of B2B email marketing still require a different approach, as this report makes clear, especially in the case of mobile and automated email marketing.
What B2B marketers need to know about mobile email
Obviously, mobile usage continues to grow at a rapid pace. We can see evidence of this everyday both at work and at home, but research also proves it to be true. The eMarketer report states direct digital marketing solutions provider Knotice found in the last quarter of 2010, only 13.36% of communications were opened on mobile devices, but by the second half of 2011 that number had climbed to 27.39%. Now, according to this report, more than one third of emails are opened on a mobile device. According to a BlueHornet study, about two-thirds of US email users had used their mobile device to sort through email before reading it on the desktop.
However, there’s another caveat to this: an open doesn’t guarantee a click, whether it’s an open on a smartphone or a desktop. Although email open rates have gone up, click-through rates (CTRs) have gone down and now average below 5%, according to research from Epsilon and the Email Experience Council (EEC). This decline in open rates might be the result of the increasing the number of emails hitting inboxes. Mobile design has an effect on CTR, too. The BlueHornet study pointed out that 69.7% who received a non-optimized mobile email deleted it.
What B2B marketers need to know about automated email
Despite the overall decline in CTRs, one type of email continues to do well, generating noticeably higher than average click throughs: automated emails (also known as triggered emails). According to the eMarketer report, triggered emails generated a click-through rate of 10.4% (more than twice the average) in the first quarter of 2012. Some businesses have seen conversion rates as high as 50% with these automated messages.
That’s a very compelling argument for making automated emails part of your mix, especially as a B2B marketer today. Research cited in the report indicates the number of B2B emails will increase significantly. “Email research firm The Radicati Group estimates the total number of business emails sent and received daily worldwide will climb from 89 billion in 2012 to 143.8 billion in 2016.”
As a result, B2B marketers will see a lot more competition in the inbox. That’s on top of the competition from other channels—work-related and not. Keep in mind that just because someone is at work or at a desk, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still distracted by attention grabbers like Facebook and Pinterest. And that distraction can happen on any screen too, be it a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone.
The best email marketing continues to evolve and change, whether we’re entrenched in B2C or B2B or both. Take note of the trends called out in reports such as this one. Be relevant and test religiously, whether your audience is at home or on the job.
Marco Marini, CEO