By Tom Sather, Senior Director, Research, Return Path

With 91 percent of consumers checking their email daily email marketing has never been more critical to the success of business growth and is therefore one of the most effective ways to accelerate customer familiarity with a brand. It remains an incredibly productive and profitable channel, especially for those organisations who invest the time to build a contact list of engaged permission-based email subscribers as email marketing has double the sales conversion rate of search or social tools. Marketers view content marketing overall as having the most significant impact on lead generation with 66 percent of consumers making a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message.

The use of mobile devices has risen dramatically recently with 51 percent of emails opened on mobile devices and more consumers use their smartphones for reading email than for making calls*. It is crucial for businesses to leverage the email channel and adopt mobile email optimisation to realise this ROI opportunity.

Initiating subscriber engagement
It isn’t enough to just have an email marketing program though. Marketers, who rely primarily on open rates without incorporating more sophisticated ways to evaluate campaign success, stand to lose significant revenue. On average, subscribers receive 416 commercial messages a month. Email Intelligence uncovers the data and insight that enables email marketers to refine and tailor each email and each campaign they send to achieve the best possible deliverability and subscriber engagement in a heavily saturated market. Marketers need to develop a true understanding of the data they have access to in order to make important decisions about their email marketing campaigns and help understand their subscribers better. It is crucial for email marketers to use this data and have access to competitor insight to make informed, strategic decisions, identify consumer behavior and priorities and drive customer engagement.

Keeping an eye on the competition
One element of email marketing best practice is the importance of monitoring your competition. Having visibility of competitor email marketing campaigns and their success will allow marketers to see exactly how effectively other brands are engaging their audiences. What types of email are they sending and with what frequency? Are their emails engaging subscribers more successfully and driving their bottom line? Digital marketers need to identify how their competitors are leveraging tactics and strategies including newsletters, transactional emails, and account-focused emails to advance their relationship with their subscriber base. However to maximise this insight and to truly outperform competitors, marketers need to use this information to evaluate their tactics and take those learnings to enhance their own campaigns.

How to engage and maintain your audience
It is obvious that underpinning campaign success is the effective use of customer analysis. In order to make the best decisions for subscribers, marketers need to have access to, and the ability to effectively analyse, the right data. With marketers being encouraged to use data from multiple sources to inform an email programme, it becomes increasingly challenging to know which information to use to make intelligent programme decisions. It’s the brands who use data most effectively that are driving more opens, clicks and engagement.

Segmenting data by different criteria can really help marketers gain a wider understanding of their customers’ behaviour and base decisions on the latest information and statistics. This can be anything from a subscriber’s age, location, where and when they signed up for email campaigns through to email preferences and what device they use. Understanding and using this information provides marketers with invaluable data on subscribers, which forms the basis of any email marketing campaign. This then needs to be supplemented with data on timing, engagement and competitor insight to create a best-in-class campaign.

Effective email marketing is dependent on being customer focused. Understanding that it’s all about the customer and not the brand is the first step in effective campaigns that deliver vital ROI. Successful email marketing represents a fair exchange of value between sender and recipient. Ultimately email should give customers more value, and if they feel that they’re getting this, they’re more likely to interact more frequently, and in a positive way. Understanding consumer and subscriber habits will be one of the keys to successful email marketing in 2014 and digital marketers need to access, analyse and use data in order to achieve this.

*Adobe – “2013 Digital Publishing Report: Retail Apps & Buying Habits” (2013)