Grudge Match: Email Marketing Vs. Social Marketing - Where's the Biggest Impact?

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Social media has become the digital marketing darling recently as new platforms have emerged, drawing millions of new users. Naturally, marketers flocked to these platforms for the chance to get their messages in front of these audiences, which mostly skew younger—Generation X, millennials and even the emerging Generation Z.  

At the same time, many marketers also interpreted consumers’ rapid adoption to mean these audiences would abandon email in favour of social media. With only so much budget to go around, many marketers felt compelled to also shift their investments from email to social, essentially chasing the audience.

But despite the heavy investment in social, the reality is that Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Z still use email!  In fact, email remains the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to driving revenue, conversions and ROI. Even as social channels have taken off, evidence shows that these coveted audiences are still using email just as much, especially for brand interaction and transactional engagement.

In fact, email is overwhelmingly preferred over social when it comes to promotional content. It seems younger audiences particularly want to keep ads and brand messages off their social channels, which are reserved for engaging with friends and family. Here, brand messages almost feel like an intrusion, but in email, it feels natural and expected.

And, email is effective for driving engagement with younger audiences. A 2017 cross-generational marketing study by Campaigner found that 22% of millennials were “very likely” to open their emails—much more than older generations, and 73% of millennials identify email as their preferred means of business communication.

And, with the explosion in mobile devices, email is more accessible and easier to consume than ever before for these “mobile first” generations. More email is now read on a mobile device (54%) than on a desktop client, and 49% of teens and millennials (ages 14-34) say they always read email first on a mobile device. And guess what? They prefer email as the primary communication method from companies.

Now that we know email is effective for reaching these audiences, how effective is it for driving business? For etailers, email generates at least 3x higher order value and boasts the highest conversion rate (66%) compared to social, direct mail and other channels.

Add a bit of personalization, and emails perform even better: personalized emails result in over 17% open rate, compared to just over 11% without personalization. And, segmented and targeted messages generate nearly 60% of all revenue.

Perhaps even more valuable, 80% of retailers say that email marketing is the biggest driver of customer retention, nearly double that of the social media, next closest channel at just 44%.

There’s no doubt that social media channels are extremely valuable for engaging with young audiences. But, the data clearly shows that they are in no way a suitable replacement for email, especially for brand marketers and etailers.

Emails are more direct and able to be personalized much more than social media messages. That’s a critical factor when targeting younger audiences, who want to feel special, like every message was created just for them, instead of like just another face in the crowd. Email integrations that enable personalization for optimized targeting are an essential part of any successful digital marketing strategy, leveraging the channel that’s proven to be the most effective for driving revenue.

by Renee Chemel, VP Marketing at PowerInbox

PowerInbox will be exhibiting at YMS NYC on October 3-4, 2017.