Is Email Marketing Still the King of Customer Retention?

Anand Jain, Co-Founder and CSO, CleverTap, lists the advantages that email marketing still has and the points that marketers need to keep in mind while using email for retention marketing.

For a long time, email marketing has been at the top of the list when it comes to marketing tactics. It consistently shows phenomenal ROI – a 2019 study by the Direct Marketing Association found an astonishing 42x return for marketing spend on email. That same report found that:

  • 76% of marketers saw a rise in open rates in the past 12 months,
  • 75% say that click-throughs are higher, and
  • 51% say that ROI has gone up

There’s no question that email is a powerful tool in marketers’ arsenals. But is it still one of the best ways to retain customers? Or are there better tactics?

Email Is Still a Great Way to Reach Customers

In short, the data shows that email is still very effective in delivering marketing messages to people across the age spectrum:

  • Young people still use email all the time despite some marketers thinking this demographic uses social messaging apps more. 91% of people ages 15 to 24 use email.
  • Almost 60% of people check their email before doing anything else online in the morning.
  • Social media engagement rate is about 0.58%, while the open rate of emails averages almost 23%.
  • Consumers prefer email for interacting with brands.

So much of our work and personal communication is built around email. Even with the rise of apps like Slack and WhatsApp, it’s hard to imagine not using email at all. 

And while brands can get great results on social media, it’s becoming more difficult to actually reach customers. Most social networks have become a “pay-to-play” arena, and many social networks come and go.  

It’s hard to beat email when it comes to cost-efficiency, too. A single marketing person or a small team can reach out to hundreds of thousands of customers with a couple of clicks. And with intelligent automation, particularly when it comes to segmenting your audience, it’s possible to make email more conversational, rather than just informative or transactional. 

With all of these advantages, email remains a powerful retention marketing tool. You almost certainly have email addresses for most (if not all) of your customers, so you have everything you need to start using email to its full potential. 

But there’s one thing you should know about using email for retention marketing.

Email Must Be Supplemented

Of course, no company can succeed in a competitive marketplace with a single marketing technique, even if it’s a great one. There are just too many competitors reaching out to your customers. 

That means channels are getting crowded. Inboxes are packed full of marketing messages. Social media is overrun with ads. PPC ads are extremely competitive. 

So, what should you do when you’re trying to engage customers in a retention marketing campaign? 

Go to where you’re the only voice. 

In many cases, that means running retention campaigns directly on user’s mobile devices. In-app and push notifications give you a line directly to your users, where you can deliver retention-focused messages with little competition. And if you use in-app notifications smartly, you have no competition. 

Combine In-App, Push, and Email Marketing for the Best Results

There’s no doubt that email marketing is extremely valuable for retention. But it can be difficult to compete with all the other email marketing going on. 

The solution is simple: combine email marketing, in-app notifications, and push notifications.  

With this combo, you have access to your user wherever they are. If they’re using your app, they’ll see the in-app notification. If they’re doing something else on their phone, they’ll get a push notification. If they’re not using their phone at all, the email will be waiting for them and may still get their attention when they’re at a computer. 

You also have the advantage of reinforcement of the message. If someone sees a notification in your app, then again on their lock screen, and then again in their inbox, they’ll almost certainly internalise the message. That’s powerful. 

Of course, you can combine notifications and email with other kinds of retention marketing, too. You can place ads on Facebook and Google that target current customers of your brand. You can run a display campaign. Sponsor events. Do anything you can to stay top-of-mind with your current customers. 

That’s what keeps customers coming back and increasing your customer lifetime value. The importance of that can’t be overstated. 

Yes, email marketing is still the king of customer retention. But in order for it to effectively reach customers, it needs support from an important all-star cast of communication channels. 


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