Email Marketing vs. Social Media

In a previous blog post, “Why Email should not be Ignored,” we reported that social media on average represents almost 40% of the digital marketing spend while email is hugely underrepresented with just 10% of the average marketing budget. Smart marketers make budget decisions based on a channel’s ability to generate the greatest ROI.  Do a little research, is social media the real hero for your business? Is it your biggest lead generator and best web traffic producer? If it is, that’s great. However the reality for many businesses, this is just not the case. While a social media presence is undeniably a necessity for any business you should keep your marketing priorities in line with the ROI they generate, regardless of what is “trendy” in the marketing world.

Research shows that email still far outperforms social platforms when it comes to customer acquisition and profits. A report published earlier this year from Mckinsey highlights some impressive stats: email is roughly 40 times more effective for acquiring new customers and 3 times more likely to lead to a transaction when compared to social media. And when you get that transaction, email sales have an average order value 17% higher than those acquired through social media. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email also ranks number one in ROI, with a $39.40 return on every dollar invested!

While social media shouldn’t be ignored, a strong argument has been made for making your email programs work a little harder.

How to Optimize Your Emails to Maximize Your Returns – 5 Tips

1.      Design for Mobile

You’ve heard it before – it is likely that more than half your email subscribers are viewing your email messages on a mobile device. While optimizing your eCommunications is a great start, it is only the first step towards a truly mobile first strategy. According to Google, “The fastest path to mobile customers is through a mobile-friendly site. If your site offers a great mobile experience, users are more likely to make a purchase.” You can lose more than the sale with a bad mobile experience. A poor experience on a site not optimized for mobile can leave users feeling frustrated and leave lasting, negative impressions about your brand.

Smart Marketer Tip: Google is placing a great deal of importance on mobile web. They are even going so far as to increase your ranking in search if you have a mobile optimized website.

 2.      Personalization

According to Forrester, the number of marketing emails was forecast to reach a record 838 billion in the United States in 2013. It’s no wonder relevancy should be a priority for every marketer. The best emails feel personal—and they are. An easy win is to begin by addressing your subscribers by their first name using dynamic personalization. Then listen to your customers by sending them content they actually want. Let your subscribers choose which type of content they wish to receive by creating a customer preference centre. Better yet, leverage past purchase history and clickstream behaviour to offer up content similar to what subscribers have purchased in the past.

3.      Focus Your Message

Your best emails are when the subject line, email copy, call-to-action, and landing page are all aligned and your subject line is simply the top of your funnel. Don’t get caught up with trying to do too much. Every subscriber list is different but it is often better to send two separate emails with a single, highly focused CTA than to send a single email with 2 competing CTAs. One will ultimately suffer.

4.      Optimize Your Emails with A/B Testing

According to an Econsultancy report, 72% of marketers are not satisfied with their conversion rates. The most common and effective way to increase your conversion rates is by testing. It is important to continuously test what is working for you and what is holding you back from greatness. The most common types of A/B tests conducted are:

    1. From Names
    2. Subject Lines
    3. Preheader Text
    4. Copy
    5. Design
    6. Landing Pages
    7. Segmentation
    8. Timing
    9. CTAs (Text links, buttons, button styles)

Be sure to only test one element at a time and benchmark your results so that you know exactly what the impact each test made.

Smart Marketer Tip: The key is to make sure the right people are seeing the results of any tests you conduct. An unfortunate reality is that in many organizations if there is copy or design A/B testing done, the writer or designer doesn’t ever see the results.

 5.      Social Integration

Email messaging doesn’t need to work in isolation. In the age of “big data,” the more relevant data you can collect from your customers across all digital channels (email, mobile, social, and the web) the better. What you learn about your customers in one channel can be leveraged to provide better messaging in another channel. Email can also be easily and effectively integrated with social media to encourage social sharing that can increase the reach of your message.

Smart Marketer Tip: Make it very easy to share your emails.  Use pre-defined tweets or Facebook updates in your emails. This pre-defined content automatically populates when your subscribers share your content. This is extremely effective because you get to control exactly what your customers say when they share your email content and you can ensure the appropriate hashtags are used.


While the digital marketing world continues to grow and evolve, the dollars spent will continue towards mobile and digital media outlets. The challenge will be for marketers to keep up by learning how to leverage positive ROI out of these increasingly complex and fragmented network environments. While email is recognized as a tried and true marketing channel which consistently provides great returns on investment for its users, marketers will need to continuously optimize and fine-tune their messaging channels to adapt for newer technologies and changing customer behaviour.