Email marketing is the act of sending a commercial message, typically to a group of people, using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. It usually involves using email to send advertisements, request business, or solicit sales or donations, and is meant to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness. Marketing emails can be sent to a purchased lead list or a current customer database. The term usually refers to sending email messages with the purpose of enhancing a merchant's relationship with current or previous customers, encouraging customer loyalty and repeat business, acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately, and sharing third-party ads.
Email marketing has evolved rapidly alongside the technological growth of the 21st century. Prior to this growth, when emails were novelties to the majority of customers, email marketing was not as effective. In 1978, Gary Thuerk of Digital Equipment Corporation(DEC) sent out the first mass email to approximately 400 potential clients via the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). He claims that this resulted in $13 million worth of sales in DEC products,and highlighted the potential of marketing through mass emails.
However, as email marketing developed as an effective means of direct communication, in the 1990s, users increasingly began referring to it as "spam", and began blocking out content from emails with filters and blocking programs. In order to effectively communicate a message through email, marketers had to develop a way of pushing content through to the end user, without being cut out by automatic filters and spam removing software.
Historically, it has been difficult to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns because target markets cannot be adequately defined. Email marketing carries the benefit of allowing marketers to identify returns on investment and measure and improve efficiency. Email marketing allows marketers to see feedback from users in real time, and to monitor how effective their campaign is in achieving market penetration, revealing a communication channel's scope. At the same time, however, it also means that the more personal nature of certain advertising methods, such as television advertisements, cannot be captured.
Email marketing can be carried out through different types of emails:
Transactional emails are usually triggered based on a customer's action with a company. To be qualified as transactional or relationship messages, these communications' primary purpose must be "to facilitate, complete, or confirm a commercial transaction that the recipient has previously agreed to enter into with the sender" along with a few other narrow definitions of transactional messaging. Triggered transactional messages include dropped basket messages, password reset emails, purchase or order confirmation emails, order status emails, reorder emails, and email receipts.
The primary purpose of a transactional email is to convey information regarding the action that triggered it. But, due to their high open rates (51.3% compared to 36.6% for email newsletters), transactional emails are an opportunity to introduce or extend the email relationship with customers or subscribers; to anticipate and answer questions; or to cross-sell or up-sell products or services.
Many email newsletter software vendors offer transactional email support, which gives companies the ability to include promotional messages within the body of transactional emails. There are also software vendors that offer specialized transactional email marketing services, which include providing targeted and personalized transactional email messages and running specific marketing campaigns (such as customer referral programs).
Direct email involves sending an email solely to communicate a promotional message (for example, a special offer or a product catalog). Companies usually collect a list of customer or prospect email addresses to send direct promotional messages to, or they rent a list of email addresses from service companies.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using email marketing in comparison to traditional advertising mail.
Email marketing is popular with companies for several reasons:
Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms and websites to promote a product or service. Although the terms e-marketing and digital marketing are still dominant in academia, social media marketing is becoming more popular for both practitioners and researchers. Most social media platforms have built-in data analytics tools, which enable companies to track the progress, success, and engagement of ad campaigns.
Referral marketing is the method of promoting products or services to new customers through referrals, usually word of mouth. Such referrals often happen spontaneously but businesses can influence this through appropriate strategies.