By Mike Harris, VP EMEA, Monetate,

For years email has been the most effective tool for marketers to drum up business from new and existing customers. Even today it is by far the most effective weapon in a marketer’s armoury, but after years of over-use it is losing some of its impact and many feel its decline is terminal. But don’t be too quick to write off email marketing, there are tried and tested ways to make emails more effective by simply being more creative, relevant and making use of the latest personalisation technology.

Consumers receive a barrage of irrelevant marketing emails on a daily basis; there are few things in modern life that are more annoying or likely to make you think negatively about a brand. All the research suggests consumers are far more likely to unsubscribe than make a purchase when they receive one that is poorly timed or targeted.

The scattergun approach just doesn’t cut it anymore. There is no excuse when marketers have the ability to adjust and personalise emails based on previous purchases, location, time of day or local weather. Customers expect this when they visit a personalised ecommerce site and respond positively, why shouldn’t they expect the same from email.

Long gone are the days when consumers are happy to be encouraged to visit a local store in the UK while on a romantic weekend in Paris. It’s certainly not a way to make customers feel special and appreciated. Personalising those emails at the point of opening and suggesting a store in the Marais district or along the Champs Elysées has been proven to be a far more effective approach.

Extensive testing programmes carried out by ecommerce marketers across the globe have identified five golden rules for making sure email continues to deliver the returns marketers were used to in the halcyon days of email marketing:

1. Get permission – three quarters of consumers (75%) feel that making a purchase is not enough reason to be automatically included on a mailing list. Most people would prefer to be asked whether they would like to receive marketing emails, not automatically added to a list every time they buy something.

2. It has to look good on all devices – 80% of people that receive an email that doesn’t display well on the device their using will delete it, while just under a third (30%) will unsubscribe. It’s important to make sure your marketing emails are intelligently designed and suit mobile, tablet or desktop, depending which device is used by the customer. Remember, more than half (51%) of all emails are opened on mobile.

3. Don’t overdo it – over a third of consumers (35%) unsubscribe primarily because of the frequency of emails, with a quarter (25%) saying the emails were not relevant enough. Two thirds (66%) say poorly personalised emails are just annoying and appear superficial. Making emails relevant and timely is critical.

4. Ask the question “is it worthwhile?” – 80% of people sign up for emails to receive discounts and special offers. As a consumer, if you have been contacted directly you expect something special and different to what you can get by simply browsing the website. You don’t want to open an email and get told something you already know.

5. Make it relevant and personal – Pay attention to time and subject line. More than half (54%) of customers check their email before going to bed and 58% while on holiday. A third (33%) of consumers decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone. Personalising emails when they are opened is a great way to make it relevant - opening an email that refers to a sale that has already ended is a sure-fire way to make people unsubscribe, changing the content to suit the time and location the email is opened will improve the chances of making a sale.