Consider if you will the resources, the time and the financial investment given to attracting new web traffic. Banner advertising, link exchanges, search engine ratings, affiliate schemes and the list goes on. Yet when it comes to retaining a customer's future business or even a return visit, we simply hope that they will opt-in to a newsletter mailing list and everything will be okay.
Of course the truth of opt-in email marketing is far from okay. For a start, people, especially private individuals, frequently change their email address. For many people, email addresses are a disposable accessory, which should be replaced every few weeks when the Spam starts rolling in. I don't know about you, but I have enough trouble keeping up with the email changes of my friends and family, let alone a list of a few thousand customers and potential customers.
Typing "email marketing" into Google will return literally thousands of software products and services all promising to make your email campaign more successful and slick. Of course it doesn't matter how much or how little you expend on your email newsletter, it will still be one subject line of possibly hundreds, all screaming for attention.
Average email click through rates fell from 5.4% in 1999 to just 1.8% in 2003 (Source eMarketer)
27% of emails never get opened and of those that are opened only 23% are read thoroughly (Source: J Neilsen)
Average open rate for B2B emails has fallen by 42% since 2001 (Source eMarketer)
Although such statistics make grim reading, worse is yet to come. Some industry experts are predicting a total collapse of the email infrastructure within the next five years due to the shear volume of traffic. A technology dating back to the 1960's, email was developed as a means for geeks to communicate with other geeks, about something they had seen in the alt.freakygeek newsgroup. It was never designed to cope with the demands of mass marketing which have been inflicted upon it since the arrival of the WWW. So with that in mind, it is something of a miracle and a credit to the technology of yesteryear that it continues to work at all.
Recent research commissioned by Yahoo revealed that the average British PC has nine "sick days" a year, two more than the average for human workers. Six of these days are lost battling against Spam, while a further three are taken up combating viruses.
The Yahoo findings went on to reveal that nearly half of British computer users find dealing with junk e-mails more stressful than traffic jams and the majority want service providers to act.
But I'm no Spammer, I hear you cry! No, but your legitimate email is going to have to share the same inbox as the volumes of Spam and with only a Subject Line to stand out from the crowd, is it any wonder that email is becoming so ineffective as a marketing tool?
Clearly, alternatives to email marketing need to be developed. One emerging technology being pioneered by three software houses in the UK is that of One-2-Many Broadcasting. Already employed by the BBC, Visa, and many other blue-chip Net companies, One-2-Many Broadcasting offers a far-improved method of communicating with customers than opt-in email marketing or newsletters and already being hailed as the THE next big marketing tool.
One-2-Many Broadcasting involves the customer downloading a small client onto their PC. The customer can filter and influence what information they receive from within the software client. Once installed the website can then communicate directly with that customer by broadcasting information in a wide range of formats, all of which is attractively presented directly onto the customer's screen. Sounds frighteningly, intrusive doesn't it? Well, not according to the millions of people who are already receiving information from the latest news through to film clips of the latest movie releases. One London based soccer club, Arsenal, has reported a phenomenal take-up of their One-2-Many Broadcasting Service, with over 100,000 subscribers in the first 12 months of operating.
So will One-2-Many replace email marketing? Who knows, I suspect that over the coming years a variety of marketing alternatives will appear, of which One-2-Many will hold a share of the market. In developing alternatives to email marketing one of the major factors will and is that of price; emails are extremely cheap. Any alternative therefore, if it is to be successful, needs to be competitively priced and rich in unique features.
To date, One-2-Many Broadcasting has been relatively expensive and financially not an option for most small to medium sized businesses. As the concept of One-2-Many marketing is developed, more and different software is likely to emerge, which will in itself introduce competition and hopefully lower prices.
For more information and reading on One-2-Many Broadcasting:
To experience One-2-Many Broadcasting:
http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,70061-1109118,00.html - Sky News Alerts
http://www.arsenal.com/Userincludes/desktopwenger/InstallDesktopWengerNT.exe ? Arsenal FC
About The Author
Robert Palmer is CEO of deskNET Communications www.desknet.co.uk and is a leading architect in the development of One-2-Many Broadcasting software.