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Marketers continue to focus on subscriber engagement as their top email priority, as they have for some time now. Indeed, new research from Ascend2 [download page] finds that improving engagement is the top priority for an email marketing strategy among survey respondents, even as it’s deemed one of the most challenging barriers to success.

Beyond improving email engagement, marketers identified increased sales revenue (48%) and improved quality of leads (45%) as top priorities for an email strategy.

Of those, improving the quality of the leads created via email appears to be the biggest challenge, followed closely by increasing engagement.

It’s interesting to see the emphasis placed on sales revenue, as measurement of actions taken later in the email engagement pipeline seems to be a low priority. Just 11% of respondents said that they primarily measure sales revenue from email marketing, with far more (43%) instead focusing on early pipeline engagement metrics such as opens and clicks.

Nevertheless, revenue may be an area where marketers could well see improvements, as recent data shows that email-driven conversion rates (measured as orders per click) on mobile devices are finally matching those on desktops.

The good news is that about 8 in 10 respondents – who were fairly evenly distributed among B2C, B2B and equal B2B/B2C companies – feel that their email marketing strategy is at least somewhat successful at achieving their top priorities. The less optimistic news is that marketers aren’t quite as confident in their email as their SEO strategies: a similar report released late last year by Ascend2 found 95% of respondents believing that their SEO strategy was effective at achieving the objectives they had laid out.

Still, respondents to this latest survey overwhelmingly feel that their tactical effectiveness is improving marginally (52%) or significantly (34%). Notably, among those tactics, marketers were more likely to tab single-topic email campaigns (46%) than automated/event-triggered email campaigns (37%) as being effective for them.

That’s despite several indications that triggered emails return far higher response rates (the engagement metrics that marketers are most focused on) than business-as-usual emails.

On an encouraging note, both single-topic email campaigns and automated emails seem to require a relatively small effort (resource time and expense) relative to other campaign types, with integrated social media campaigns consuming the most bandwidth.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 273 marketers from companies that target B2B (43%), B2C (36%) and B2B and B2C equally (21%). The largest proportion (49%) of respondents came from companies with 50-500 employees.

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