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Although an increased number of marketers say their email marketing effectiveness is holding steady this year compared to the last, fewer are seeing even a slight increase in its effectiveness. Some 43% of the almost 300 marketers across a range of sectors say their email effectiveness has not changed, compared to 37% last year. Meanwhile, 28% say they have seen a slight increase (down from 36% in 2018), per a new report [download page] from DemandMetric and Return Path from Validity.

It might be easy to assume that this performance plateau is due to the fact that email is a long-established channel. However, there are some key differences between sectors, as well as some emerging challenges that are worth noting. Here are some key findings from the report.

Email Marketing Objectives Differ for B2B and B2C

Overall, when asked to list their top three email marketing objectives, respondents cited communicating with customers (74%), building brand awareness (64%) and communicating with prospects (63%).

However, when these figures are broken down between B2B and B2C marketers, some differences emerge. While communicating with customers remains a key element of both groups’ email endeavors (74% B2B, 78% B2C), email marketers targeting consumers are twice as likely to cite generating revenue (80%) as an objective (their leading one overall) than their business-focused peers (41%). Conversely, B2B marketers (73%) are far more likely than their B2C counterparts (54%) to say they use email to communicate with prospects.

Indeed, these sector-based differences speak to how these groups use email differently. Longer B2B sales cycles mean that email is a potent tool for lead generation and nurturing, while for B2C marketers email is more entrenched in a battle with social media as a messaging channel.

Deliverability Become A Greater Issue; Getting Attention Still Tough

Regardless of the objective, email marketers still need to get their emails into the inbox before they can achieve any other goal. Getting emails seen is a basic but pressing challenge considering that consumers say that few brand emails are even interesting enough to open.

This is reflected by the top email marketing challenge among respondents, among whom almost half (45%) listed competition for attention in the inbox. On the bright side, this percentage has fallen from 54% last year.

By contrast, the most significant rise year-over-year has come in the challenge of email deliverability. While one-quarter (25%) of marketers listed this as a challenge in 2018, more than one-third (37%) of marketers now find it a problem.

The rise in this challenge is also reflected by the growth in the use of email deliverability optimization, suggesting that marketers are tackling this growing issue head-on. About half (51%) of the marketers surveyed say that email deliverability optimization is one of the tactics they are using, compared to only 36% last year.

Furthermore, those with an average open rate of 16% or more are more likely to focus on this tactic (69%) than the remainder (51%), suggesting a possible correlation between the use of deliverability optimization tools and above-average open rates.

Other Key Highlights

  • The use of A/B testing also increased in adoption this year, up to half (50%) of respondents from 39% last year.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of email marketers are removing “bounced” emails from their databases, while some are also using tech to remove invalid email addresses (31%) as well as to validate email addresses.
  • The number of email marketers who have no formal subject line optimization process in place has increased to 33% (compared to 26% last year).
  • There are indications that responsive email adoption is still only slowly occurring, and in this study 3 in 5 email marketers reported knowing which mobile device their subscribers use.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Report findings are based on an online survey of 293 marketers working in B2B (30%), B2C (22%), mixed B2B/B2C (40%) and non-profit (8%) organizations.

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