The intimacy of email channels

It’s direct. It’s authentic. And in a time of upheaval, it’s often the only channel to quickly connect with customers.

SUBJECT: A message from our CEO

There’s a good chance you received an email in your inbox with that subject line or something like it in 2020.

Brands faced a sort of reckoning last year: Multiple events (when it rains, it pours) took place that just couldn’t go ignored. Not only was there a global pandemic, but there were also historic social justice protests. The days of remaining insentient from social issues faded from view: As we learn in our feature on purpose-driven marketing, the consumer of today expects to hear from brands on important topics. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 86% of customers expect CEOs to speak out on the impact of the pandemic, job automation, societal issues or local community issues.

In 2020, brands needed a way to deliver timely updates to customers with a human touch. Email proved to be the right—and often only—channel for the job. On the Epsilon PeopleCloud Messaging platform, we saw the volume send-to-open ratio increase 22% from February to March and April. This timing was right in the thick of pandemic confusion and anxiety. It stands to reason that consumers appreciate timely messaging during times like these. Quick but thoughtful responses to major events create trust between consumer and brand. There are many reasons email consistently delivers intimate messages to customers:

It’s flexible.

As opposed to content like e-books and videos that can take weeks or months to develop, email is a channel marketers can use to very quickly respond to anything.

Being quick to respond shows consumers you care, and helps to create a relationship of trust between brand and consumer.

It’s relevant.

Email acts as a connective tissue between brand and consumer. It keeps people easily informed (i.e., at the top of the inbox), helps brands maintain that one-to-one connection and doesn’t feel like mass communication.

This is especially true for brands that invest in personalization. Brands that can personalize their messaging at scale are able to connect with consumers on an even more intimate level, offering timely notices that align with consumers on a one-to-one level. Consumers appreciate the more intimate approach: Our research shows that 80% of consumers are more willing to do business with a company that provides personalized experiences, and 90% find personalization appealing.

It’s for the person, not the brand.

Email allows brands to message those who actively engage and opt in to receive information. Brands lose that level of intimacy and connection when relying on channels like display or social—rather than the whole internet seeing a display ad, an email is in your inbox, for your eyes only. And consumers can choose to engage on their time.

These benefits made email indispensable, and other marketers agree. In an Epsilon survey, we found clients strongly agree that email was their most important marketing channel during COVID-19.

With honest communication comes brand loyalty

Email is intimate, but there’s something a lot of marketers forget to factor into the equation: customer loyalty.

More than ever, customers are consciously choosing who they give their business to, and a lot of it hinges on how brands responded to situations like the pandemic or social justice movements, and how they treated their customers. As eMarketer notes, “Consumers increasingly expect email marketing to take the lead on communicating brands’ stances on important issues. A strong email marketing program conveys what a brand is and isn’t, as opposed to being just a vehicle for offering deals and discounts.”

I tell my clients this all the time: Effective email communication—the kind that leverages the channel’s capacity for intimacy between brand and consumer—is central to your loyalty strategy. When customers feel like they’re being spoken to as real people with thoughts, concerns and feelings—not just credit card owners—loyalty will blossom.

For more content like this, download the full second issue of CORE here. 

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