Surviving and Thriving With Email Marketing in the Attention Economy

Despite every new ad channel thriving today, email marketing remains a potent tool that should not be overlooked.

Especially for startups and small businesses looking to grow, email marketing is a way of reaching potentially billions of prospective customers with personalized messaging at a fraction of the cost of most other channels.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s look at the numbers. The latest data shows around 3.9 billion email users worldwide, and 52% check their email every few hours. To put it in perspective, despite what your instinct might tell you, this is a reach three times greater than Facebook and fifteen times greater than Twitter. Not bad at all for such an old marketing channel.

Further, 50% of consumers prefer communicating with brands via email. Other channels trail far behind, with direct mail coming second with 20% and social media channels, phone calls, brand’s mobile apps, and chatbots at the rear. Brands investing wisely in email marketing see the results; in fact, 59% of marketers say email is their most significant source of ROI.

Out With the Old

This is not about your classic blast email marketing, though. Long gone are the days when shooting a barrage of emails to an email list you bought, hoping something sticks, was an effective strategy. No, in the current times, with so many agents competing for the attention economy, you have to do better. A lot better.

The last thing you want is to get lost in all the clutter because you’re just another generic email in a pile. You want recognition and familiarity; your potential customer should feel that you’re catering primarily to their particular needs because you should be. Then your email becomes useful; you’re not just trying to sell something; you’re helping them get exactly what they want when they want it.

The key to success here is personalization. And I’m not talking about basics like name and workplace, but about behaviorally driven, event-triggered, one-to-one messaging with people who have actually interacted with your brand. In other words, it’s not only about knowing who your potential customers are but knowing what they’re thinking every step of the way and acting on that knowledge the very second an opportunity arises.

Research shows that only 2% of first-time site visitors end up converting. That means 98% of first-time visitors are interested in your product but aren’t ready to buy just yet. Some of them will never be, but some of them will, and you can’t afford to lose track of them. Attention spans are ever-shortening, and you have to make sure you’re still in their mind the moment they are ready to buy, or just a tiny nudge away. This is where retargeting comes in.

Retargeting vs. Remarketing vs. Email-based Retargeting

These are very similar terms that are often used interchangeably, but, while very much related, they are not the same.

First, let’s go over the difference between retargeting and remarketing to understand what email-based retargeting is.

Retargeting is when you identify users on your site that have taken some action before leaving empty-handed and attempt to bring them back to buy via display or native ads on other websites or apps. It’s about chasing down users who didn’t convert and moving them up the purchase path.

Remarketing is when you reach out and re-engage with current and past customers via email nurturing campaigns. This would be a more old-school, passive approach, limited to people who have converted in the past and, therefore, unable to reach people who have shown interest but not converted.

Then think of email-based retargeting as a hybrid between the two. It’s when you identify anonymous users on your site, and instead of retargeting them with display ads — or in addition to showing them display ads — you send them an email. In other words, it combines the broad scope and behavior-driven, proactive approach of retargeting with the cost-effectiveness of remarketing.

All of this sounds great. But, you might be thinking, retargeting can only be email-based if you already have email addresses, obviously. So, you’re still left with the problem of how to get those anonymous users emails, anonymous being the keyword here.

Using Identity Resolution

I’ve been obsessed with the identity market for years and have given much thought to this issue. There are not only technical hurdles but also ones related to privacy laws. This is a delicate matter. Last year, I finally figured it out and launched GetEmails to solve this problem for Marketers in a completely legal, cost-effective way.

GetEmails is an identity resolution software that B2C businesses can use to identify up to 35% of anonymous traffic on their website. They can then re-engage those potential buyers with an email marketing campaign that takes advantage of the behavior data recorded for each potential buyer. Sound familiar? Correct, it’s email-based retargeting. These people have not specifically opted to receive your emails, but they have opted into your network to receive emails from your partners. GetEmails is the only identity resolution tool that can do this.

It works by using a simple script to pull info from a database of more than 300 million opted-in emails and connect those unknown visitors to a profile that includes data such as name, email, postal address, and more.

You might think this would never work; people would find these emails intrusive, you’d be flooded with spam complaints, and your email marketing program would ultimately suffer. But that’s not the case. Believe it or not, the stats show average open rates are over 20% and complaint rates less than 0.1%.

The messaging can be anything from “Thanks for stopping by our website” to recovering an abandoned cart — this is probably the most lucrative of all targeted messages. These emails are so targeted and timely that people will actually start expecting them, even if they haven’t subscribed to any lists.

The key is that with email-based retargeting, you combine the power of email marketing with the power of retargeting in one super-power. We might be the first company doing this, but I’m sure we won’t be the last. In today’s saturated attention economy, hyper-personalization is where marketing success lies.

Adam is a tech entrepreneur and Amazon best-selling author. He has founded two tech startups, first Robly Email Marketing in 2014 and most recently GetEmails, which he launched in November 2019.