July 2021 - Email Marketing | Email

Email as a Marketing Tool

How can commercial senders of email get the most out of email as a marketing tool? Maike Marx reports from the CSA Digital Email Summit 2021.

Email as a Marketing Tool

© Michail_Petrov-96 | istockphoto.com

What do commercial senders of email need to know in order to get the most out of email as a communication and marketing tool? The CSA Digital Email Summit 2021 answered this question and more in a series of webinars. Maike Marx reports here on some of the key takeaways.

How we communicate has changed over the last few years; instead of picking up the phone, we send instant messages on any number of channels. Since the start of the pandemic, instead of meeting colleagues and customers, we make video calls and sit through video conferences. Teams write little novels in group chats to coordinate and exchange information and post messages in any number of communication and project management tools to keep everyone up to date. Email has become the dominant medium in commercial communication but is now rarely used for interpersonal communication. Yet…

Email is at the heart of people’s digital lives 

According to Marcel Becker, Director Product at Verizon Media, and Christian Schäfer-Lorenz, Head of Product Management Applications for 1&1 Mail & Media GmbH, 97% of all email is commercial. Almost three-quarters of consumers (72%) prefer email for brand-to-consumer (B2C) communication. An average consumer makes at least three online orders per month, uses more than ten subscription services, spends more than two hours a day on social media and streaming platforms. 39% have even met their partner online. 
Email connects us to services, allows us to communicate, and keeps the history of all our interactions. Homework, latest orders, insurance, Covid test, offers, and more - all of this has dominated email communication over the past year. But 50% of the email received is unwanted – it’s spam or is perceived to be spam. 

Email was built for personal communication, not as an information hub for our digital lives

The volume of emails is increasing, and users are suffering from email fatigue and find it hard to find particular emails. 93% of emails comes from machines from automated processes. To manage this volume of emails, users also need assistance and automation, like the smart inbox offered by 1&1. Its goal is to provide an overview of users’ mailboxes. The smart inbox is divided into five categories: general, social media, newsletter, order, and contracts. In the newsletter folder, 1&1 offers a link to unsubscribe from the newsletter directly without leaving the mailbox. In the order folder, all emails related to order confirmation, shipping confirmations, return emails, or current shipping state are stored. There is even the possibility to set a reminder so that you can cancel contracts on time from within the contract folder.

The similar smart inbox offered by Verizon Media goes a step further. It even pulls in information from other sources like the favorite grocery store across the street – if there is a deal, it’s displayed right there in the inbox.

Senders and receivers need to work together to help consumers manage the flood of emails. Tools such as schema.org, BIMI, and AMP can be used by senders and brands to help create a better experience for customers, as Marcel Becker, Verizon, Clea Moore, and Heather Goff, Oracle, explain in How to Build a Bridge – A Sender’s and Receiver’s Perspective.

Email marketing education is worth it

In her webinar on 26 May, Lauren Meyer, EVP of Product Marketing & Brand Strategy of SocketLabs, shared tactics for effectively educating key decision-makers (or customers) on the true value that can be unlocked by essential email industry best practices and making deliverability, compliance, and security a priority. 

Email consistently outperforms other marketing channels. Despite the high revenue potential of effective email marketing, not everyone in the company is aware of best practices and of how good email marketing strategies impact revenue.  Educating management and key staff throughout the organization is crucial to leveraging the potential of email marketing.

Email is constantly evolving. New technologies and forms of security, new forms of abuse to fight against, and new tactics for growth hacking make it difficult to keep the whole team up to date. So how can you effectively educate the company’s key decision-makers on the value and potential of email marketing? Meyer suggests focusing on data. Tie everything to revenue that can be made for your company or your client. Highlight cost savings or any promising trends you see in performance, wherever you can, whenever you can, using whatever data you have access to. It is important to avoid getting too technical; use plain language, analogies, and simple explanations.

Track your competitors’ emails to help you improve your own deliverability

In developing your own email marketing strategy, it can be helpful to look to and learn from competitors. You most likely already track other companies’ websites and social media channels to ensure you keep up with key competitors in your field of business but are you tracking via email as well? Jessica Hill, Customer Success Manager of SparkPost, is convinced that – if you use the right tools – you can track their engagement metrics, subject lines, email design, market segmentation, and sending frequencies. The key benefit is learning from your competitors’ successes and mistakes and using that information to optimize your marketing programs. 
Email is a key communication platform for businesses to engage with their customers. Not only can you see examples of other companies’ products and pricing, but you can also gain valuable insights into how successful their email campaigns are in getting customer engagement.
Tools that track email can give you insights into your competitors’ campaign volumes and frequencies, customer engagement, campaign segmentation, subject lines, and email design. Such tools use, e.g., seed lists to sign up to competitors’ newsletters and analyze the data gathered, and then use complex algorithms to fill in the gaps.

What does data on your competitor’s emails campaign tell you?

How big is your competitor‘s Mailable Audience? This reveals the number of potential customer impressions and can expose underperformance in relation to competitors of comparable size and market footprint. Knowing how often and when campaigns are sent feeds critical knowledge of the extent, nature, and timing of competitive email programming and also identifies strategy/program gaps and opportunities. The email list size per campaign shows your competitor’s campaign reach

How often does a campaign touch the customer? This reflects competitive contact strategies; too large a number creates retention risk, too small a number suggests an opportunity for increased contact. Knowing whether their campaigns are targeted at customers suggests a degree of sophistication in audience selection. It is meaningful in relation to a relatively large number of deployed campaigns versus relatively small overall send volumes.

How are their read/open rates compared to yours? It is always useful to know when and to what extent your competitors are doing anything better than you are. How many of their customers are also yours? This reveals which other brands are competing with you for attention in your customers’ inboxes.

This knowledge adds value to your marketing by helping you develop your USP – improving your proposition and content. Not only can this data help you improve SEO & targeting, but it also may identify gaps in competitor product ranges that you can fill.

Other helpful metrics and tools for competitive tracking

Monitor competitors’ social media mentions for what customers say about them and their products. Monitoring website backlinks can help predict rankings increase and inspiration for PR campaigns and predict rankings. Monitoring keyword rankings will tell you which search queries competitors rank for and highlight any increase/decrease in rankings. Monitoring on-page changes gives you insights into landing page improvements and SEO optimization that might give you ideas for how to improve your own website. Getting insights into any pay-per-click (PPC) advertising your competitors do can give you data on successful keywords others are investing in and the types of PPC ads they are buying.

With its continued status as the key commercial communication channel, companies with data-led email marketing strategies can make the very most of email as a marketing tool.


Maike Marx studied Media Management at the Rheinische Fachhochschule in Cologne and became part of the Certified Senders Alliance in 2014. Since 2020, as Marketing & Event Manager, she has been mainly responsible for the organization of all events and trade fairs, especially the annual international CSA Email Summit, which is one of the most successful eco event formats. Besides her passion of organizing trade fairs and events, Maike is the first contact person for all questions and requests of the CSA certified senders.