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Ask Kara: Is Email Still an Impactful Channel?

By Kara Trivunovic
With new digital tools available to marketers, this question is one that increasingly comes up in conversation. As marketers assess their digital strategy the role of email is changing, particularly as mobile and social channels continue to gain in popularity.  And while to me the answer to this question is an obvious “yes,” it is worth discussing the evolving role that email plays as part of the multichannel marketing mix. 
According to Epsilon’s Digital Shopping Tool Impact Study 2015, which looked at how people are using digital shopping tools in their path to purchase, email continues to dominate in terms of percentage of the population using it. Fifty percent of consumers surveyed reported that they utilize retailer emails and 36 percent said they utilize emails from brands in their path to purchase.
But what may be more compelling to email marketers is the impact that email and other tools have on the purchase behavior of consumers. According to the research, consumers reported that the level of influence retailer and brand emails have on purchase behavior have increased when compared to last year. Additionally, this year there was a dramatic change in the influence levels of brand social and retailer social – underscoring the increasing importance for marketers to understand how and when consumers are using each channel in relation to one another.  
For example, email tends to be a more consistent channel that consumers can rely on for product information, relevant offers and transactional information.  But as my colleague Kim Finnerty, senior vice president, research & insights at Epsilon pointed out, “social media by its nature involves distraction and nonlinear interaction and may be seen as unpredictable by both marketers and shoppers. However, the study shows that social media becomes both useful and influential precisely because there are so many ways to interact with it. Social as part of the shopping journey improves the experience and informs the purchase decision.”
The impact of social doesn’t take away from the effectiveness of email but it brings to light the importance of understanding how email is evolving alongside new tools and channels. Is email still an effective channel? Absolutely. Now email marketers need to think about how they can understand the communication preferences of their customers to enhance their email marketing strategy in order to continue to increase the effectiveness of the channel.
Kara Trivunovic is vice president, digital solutions for marketing-services provider Epsilon. If you have any questions about email marketing you would like Kara to answer, email them to her at You can remain anonymous.

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