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Email: The chameleon marketing channel

8 June 2015
by Force24

We hear time and again that email is dead. But according to Radicatti Group, there are over 4.1 billion email accounts and this figure is predicted to reach 5.2 billion by 2018 which is a growth of more than 26%. But this isn’t just empty mailboxes; 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a direct result of an email marketing message according to research by the Direct Marketing Association.

But the trouble is, we as marketers are guilty of thinking that the email marketing channel is mutually exclusive of any other. But when you look at detailed analytics, journey flows and user behaviour, email is consistently the channel which assist conversions.

Email is a chameleon channel, changing and morphing to reflect the channel it wants to impersonate.

Email: The DM Channel

Email traditionally has been seen as a Direct Marketing channel.

Characteristics include; a personalised communication, a bought list of targeted addresses, a direct route to buyer and back to brand giving it highly measurable results allowing you to inform your next campaign.

Typically Direct Marketing means:

List Volume X expected response rate = Result.

Result X Revenue - Cost  = ROI

If you can do the sums – as you can with email – it must be a direct channel. 

Email: The Display Channel

Much like broadcast and advertising both on and offline, email can be the promotion you skim past, but which resonates with your subconscious.

Characteristics include; frequent opportunity to see, but no attention truly paid to the advert. Much like a billboard you drive past every day on the way to work.

This style of email works well for branding exercises but have very little scope for measuring the effect. It may not even get opened, but just the placement in the inbox is all that the recipient needs to remind them of your brand.

The benefit of email over other more frequently used marketing channels like billboard ads, is that there is an opportunity for someone to engage. While in this instance its unlikely, the opportunity is there. If they do, as a marketer, you have far more value at your fingertips than you do off the back of an ad.

Email: The Transactional Channel

Let me first clarify the term ‘transactional’. By this, we mean the type of communication that isn’t selling. Instead it is informing. For instance, its telling you when you can expect your delivery to arrive, or notifying you of a required account action.

Characteristics include; an almost-guaranteed delivery of the communication. For transactional email, its critical that the message gets delivered, into the inbox.

The channel must be safe, secure, stable. 

Email: The Omnichannel

Omnichannel marketing is creeping up the list of priorities for global marketers, particularly those who operate B&M and Online.

Unbelievably, 52% of Americans user their devices while browsing in-store in order to research the product online (Src: Convince and Convert). So now more than ever, its crucial that a shoppers experience between on and offline is seamless.

Characteristics include; clever location targeting, smart vouchers and bar codes to encourage walk-ins and purchases on the shop floor as well as online.

Email: Mobile marketing, direct to your prospects pocket

How can you get more personal, more direct, more ‘on the radar’ than having a direct line through to your hottest prospects pocket?! According to Forrester, 72% of US online adults send or receive personal emails via smartphone at least weekly.

Email marketing IS mobile marketing. And mobile marketing is only growing. As 70% of mobile searches led to online action within an hour, its clear that marketing to a mobile is sure to assist a conversion.

Characteristics include; short, snappy comms to encourage click-through, detailed subject lines which can be read and understood in seconds, less images to make downloading via 3G or 4G quick.

Email: The Salesman

In the past, marketers would pass a contact submission to the sales department, and leave them to it, happy that they got a conversion, blissfully unaware of its poor quality and lack of readiness to buy.

Now, not only does marketing support the sales process with integrated communications alongside the contact they are having with the sales person, but we have in many cases removed the need for sales entirely.

Nurturing, learning and understanding about the business and the client can now all be done by marketing automation, using the learning from data requested and data gathered through intelligence.

Characteristics include; one-to-one, carefully thought through personal communications, messages only when the recipient is ready to receive them and tailored to their browsing history, acquisition method or behaviour.


Email is certainly not dead. In fact it has merely become a part of the engine that is digital marketing. Assisting sales right from the start: from awareness and interest, through to creating the desire and ultimately converting the action.

As marketers, we must stop putting email in a box (excuse the pun!) labelling it as one thing, and instead recognise its versatility; not only co-existing with other channels, but mirror those channels’ goals and assisting at every stage of the funnel.


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