The marketing profession has had the good fortune of having some game changing things happen to it over the past few years.  Social media, smart phones and ubiquitous video are examples, to name just a few.  These “shiny objects” get a lot of attention and create great new marketing channels and capabilities that everybody rushes to. But what about the tried and true methods we’re all familiar with?  Do they go away?

Well, email has not gone away.  The original “opt in” marketing tool is still strong.  In an often-quoted study released by Experian Marketing Services, email volumes and open rates were both up in the second quarter of 2013.  Email volume increased 17.9% in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the first quarter of 2012, and unique open rates increased 7.2%.

Experian Quarterly Email Benchmark Study
Source: Experian Quarterly Email Benchmark Study, Q2 2013

However, as shown in the chart above, not all is created equal.  Catalogers had the highest year-over-year change with a 31.7% increase, while Business Product and Services dropped 20.9% in volume.

Why does email stay around?  There are many new outbound choices and social media to attach to but despite impressive growth numbers social networks communicate differently to much smaller numbers than email.  Here are additional reasons email is not only alive, but thriving:

Email is ubiquitous; everyone has it.  Few have been able to get by without email.  Many have tried and perhaps in the future other forms of communication will become more important, but for now having an email to give to websites or to make purchases, is required.

 It’s well-understood.  By both sides.  Marketers know how to send out emails that will be effective and consumers of emails know how to use them, categorize them and unsubscribe from them.  It’s a well-developed science that still earns its keep.  Marketers get access to the targets they need; consumers get the control they need.  It’s a win-win!

Email is a very sticky application.  While we may not check in with LinkedIn or Pinterest every day, we seldom let email fallow more than a few hours.  Now with email on our smart phones, we take it everywhere.  What do you check the most among your email and social networks?

Still cost-effective.  Outbound email is not totally free, but the small costs make this a very effective medium to spread your marketing message.  You can also deliver fairly long style messages along with pictures and other media.

It can be targeted and tracked.  Some of the social media tools we have today are great at spreading our gospel, not good at telling you who read it.  Or who will read the next one. Email does not have these  problems; well-developed techniques and tools make it easy to track exactly who is opening and reading your emails.

We can expect email to continue to thrive and for different sectors to grow faster than others.  Experian’s study confirms that email continues to thrive, even if it’s not getting the headlines that social media gets.

Do you still use email in your marketing mix?  Do you use it more or less than before?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm