Once the cutting edge of digital communications, email is now a bit old-fashioned. So why is it still such a popular marketing channel, even for the most modern brands?

While digital ads, social media and paid search all have their place, email marketing has several qualities that make it unique – and (as of yet) irreplaceable. Email is simply still the best way to get certain types of messages to certain types of customers.

Email inbox on an smartphone screen.

If you’re thinking of adding email campaigns to your marketing strategy, or just trying to understand what email brings to the table, here are 11 benefits of email marketing you’ll want to consider.

1. It’s a Direct Line to Your Most Engaged Customers

Email marketing is possibly the only kind of marketing people ask to receive. Customers who sign up to a mailing list are sending a pretty clear signal: they want to hear from you. That’s the kind of audience marketers dream of. They’re warmed up and receptive to what you have to say.

Even contacts who didn’t directly sign up for a newsletter, but purchased a product or filled out a lead generation form, have shown that they’re engaged. In one survey, 91% of people said they want to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with.

2. Email Is Intimate

Voice, identity, persona – there’s a reason we talk about brands as if they were people. Every interaction helps build a personal relationship with customers. With every email you send, your brand is beaming itself into customers’ homes, offices and pockets. That intimate setting offers a unique opportunity to connect with each customer in a place where they feel comfortable.

Woman casually lounging on a sofa, checking her phone.

3. But Not Too Intimate

Email is a natural channel for business communications. People know to look for order confirmations in their inbox, so it makes sense that they’ll find promotions, newsletters and other marketing communication there too.

That’s especially important for B2B marketing. Someone scrolling through Instagram or Facebook probably doesn’t want to think about work right now. They might even resent being reminded of a business problem when they were just looking to escape into a world of vacation snapshots and pet photos.

That doesn’t mean B2B social media ads are never a good idea. After all, you don’t have everyone’s email address, and people have to discover you somewhere. Still, work email inboxes have the advantage of being a ‘strictly business’ zone, where you’re more likely to reach people already thinking about the problem you’re there to solve.

4. Emails Are Easy to Customize

You can’t put up a custom billboard for every driver on the highway, though Mini USA once made a remarkable effort using signals from drivers’ key fobs. Fortunately, customizing emails is a much easier (and less creepy) way to personalize marketing content. That makes email the perfect channel to connect with customers as individuals.

Personalized Mini Cooper billboard with a digital display that reads: Motor on Jim.

Putting first names in the subject line is a classic approach, but it’s far from the only option. You can also customize content based on location, recent purchase history or even personalized data insights.

A great example is Spotify’s annual end-of-year email, which looks back at each customer’s year in music. These personal wrap-ups drum up positive memories and connect people’s love of music with the Spotify brand.

5. You Control the Timing and Cadence

When you need to time a message just right, email is a great tool for the job.

A media company can easily set an email newsletter to go out during rush hour, when people are stuck on the train and desperate for something to read. Similarly, a food delivery app could highlight their downtown lunch deals at noon, and advertise restaurants in residential areas in the evening.

Young woman standing in a crowded subway car, reading something on her phone.

Although you can also schedule digital ads on some platforms, it’s not quite as precise. Plus, you’ll only reach people using the platform at that time. Emails generate push notifications, reaching a wider audience with pinpoint accurate timing.

Email marketing also makes it easy to dial in the perfect email cadence. A purchase can trigger automated campaigns, so customers get helpful tips and tutorials at just the right time. Or you can nurture leads during a free trial, so people don’t forget to use it.

6. Measuring Engagement Is Easy

Email marketing is blissfully quantifiable. With click rates, open rates and other metrics, every campaign generates helpful data you can use to measure success.

Sure, other kinds of digital marketing also track clicks and impressions. However, email marketing is right up there among the channels that offer the most advanced analytics. A/B testing and other tools make email campaign optimization easy, so you know exactly where you stand and how to improve.

Email analytics chart on a laptop screen.

7. It’s Inexpensive

Compared to other types of marketing, email campaigns are relatively inexpensive, especially at scale. Digital ads are essentially another company selling you their audience. That means you’ll reach people you otherwise wouldn’t, but it also means the other company takes a cut.

With email, you’re marketing to your audience. The only cost is what you invest in designing the campaign, and possibly a subscription to an email marketing tool.

Plus, email marketing doesn’t require paying per click, so you don’t have to pay more for better performance. As you improve your email campaigns over time, you can enjoy more conversions at no additional cost.

8. Email Marketing Works at Any Scale

Email marketing is an effective marketing channel for any business, from multinational corporations to small-town bookstores and local restaurants.

Plus, email marketing is incredibly scalable. As you grow your list of subscribers, you reach more and more people with the same amount of effort.

Small business owner ringing up a customer in a minimalist, sleek store.

9. There’s No Barrier to Entry

Dedicated email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and their competitors are relatively inexpensive and make the process easy – even for beginners. Starting at only $10-20 per month, these tools have made email marketing accessible, even to small businesses without dedicated marketing teams or trained marketers on staff.

You can always improve your email marketing by learning more about email analytics, email design and other best practices. But features like customizable templates and easy-to-understand analytics dashboards mean you don’t have to learn everything there is to know about email marketing to get started.

10. You Can Think Outside the Box

Because the people on your mailing list are your most engaged customers, you can use email for more than traditional marketing. Email campaigns can even help amplify your efforts on other channels. For example, you could ask your email subscribers to leave a review on review sites, boosting your reach there. After all, anyone who signed up to your mailing list probably likes your brand – the odds of a glowing review are in your favor.

11. It’s the Perfect Testing Ground for Brand Identity Decisions

Your email marketing should have a consistent style and voice that follow your company’s brand style guide. However, if you’re still in the process of creating those guidelines, the influence can flow in the other direction.

Four men in a trendy startup office discussing brand identity.

Decisions about any brand’s voice and personality should be based in part on intuition, but also on hard data. Should your brand be serious or funny? A look back at email engagement rates can help answer that question. If people engage more with playful emails, that’s a good indication that your customers appreciate a bit of whimsy.

That doesn’t mean you should go wild in the name of experimentation. You don’t want to surprise people with a totally different personality in every email. But if you need data on subtle changes in tone, A/B testing an email campaign is a great way to gather some.

Final Thoughts

Email is certainly no longer the only digital tool in marketers’ tool belts. Digital advertising, social media and paid search have all opened up new opportunities to reach potential customers. However with so many unique benefits of email marketing, it’s clear why email is still a key part of most brands’ marketing strategies.

As you consider how to allocate your marketing resources, take email’s relative advantages into account. That way, you can make sure your efforts on every channel align with what that channel does best.

Kate Lindemann

Kate Lindemann | Canto

A marketing and digital communications specialist, Kate helps brands connect with customers – from crafting the perfect message to finding the right way to deliver it.