The Evolution of Email Marketing

The Evolution of Email Marketing

How many emails does the typical email user receive in one day?

Thanks to email marketing, the number reaches as high as 123 easily. That’s over 100 emails received, and most people send nowhere near that amount of emails, even over a week’s time.

Email marketing has gone through many iterations and stages over the years, and it has changed rapidly since the start of email decades ago.

Companies learned to optimize the potential present in email while not overwhelming customers, how to tell their stories well, and even how to keep a customer reading. Now, email marketing creates many jobs as writers hone their skills to this type of writing specifically.

From the beginning, companies saw email marketing as a major resource waiting to be tapped. Here’s how it all began and where email marketing stands today.

The First Mass Email

 Email marketing began with Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager for Digital Equipment Corporation. In 1976, Thuerk wanted to contact the company’s customers en masse, instead of writing individual emails. One day, he typed an email, addressed it to 400 customers, and sent it off.

The result?

A few complaints, of course. But these paled in comparison to the almost $14 million in increased sales as a direct result of the email marketing campaign Thuerk launched. From that moment on, email marketing became a strategy to be reckoned with.

 Slow Down: Problems with Spam

 As email marketing rose in popularity, companies jumped at the chance to market for free to their customers. They could send emails, unsolicited, to all the customers they wanted. Many ran with it, using the ability to send these emails in ways that customers didn’t like.

As a result, in 1998, the Data Protection Act ensured that all customers would be given the chance to opt out of email marketing campaigns. Even still, marketing emails arriving in customers’ inboxes continued to rise.

As a result, software programs were equipped with methods for customers to give feedback on which emails were or were not spam, giving the customers a bit more control over what they received. But because customers wanted to protect themselves from so much spam, companies had to rethink their methods.

They could not simply send a mass email anymore. More often than not, these emails just weren’t opened and read. Email marketing doesn’t work unless the email is opened, of course, so companies had to figure out a way to get those emails read. This meant creating ways to interact with the reader in a positive way.

 Creativity Returns

 Companies had taken advantage of the technology making email marketing possible, but they were not being as creative as they could have been. With more technology on the rise, such as the iPhone and other cell phones, customers would now be viewing their emails on a device that could also stream video and download photos instantly.

How would an email stand out?

From here, companies turned to storytelling, a way to connect personally with customers. They wanted to use their emails not only to convey sales, offer coupons, and more. Instead, they began to design their emails to look similar to the inside of their brick-and-mortar stores. Their emails were clickable. For example, some clothing stores offered a spinning wheel that, when clicked, stopped on a varying discount amount.

Email marketing began simply, grew quickly, and ultimately came to be a crucial element of each modern company’s story. Open an email and discover information about a company, of course, but also what it stands for, what it feels like to be a part of it, and how it wants to help you live a better life.

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