Can Email Hold its Own Against Mobile Messaging?

As mobile messaging has become smarter and more ubiquitous via channels like SMS and Facebook Messenger, there’s been a lot of talk about whether it’s is poised to annihilate email and emerge as the queen of all direct marketing channels. After all, people are so inundated by email spam that “inbox zero” is a legitimate New Year’s resolution. And open rates on email are so dismal that marketers are left wondering if anyone is reading their content at all.

Messaging, on the other hand, boasts 85% open rates, is supported by AI that’s only growing defter and more sophisticated, and actually enables brands to procure coveted first-party data on a large scale, unlike email.

The numbers speak for themselves: messaging conversion rates are 3x better than email, and its open rates are 4x better than email.

That said, it may be a mistake to discount email entirely just yet. Email is still an effective way to generate leads and reach a segmented audience, and it’s still one of the best-performing ecommerce marketing channels. The mere fact that email has endured this long makes us doubt it’s going to die the swift death that pundits keep predicting.

But the question still remains: how does email hold up against mobile messaging?

To answer this question, we decided to measure some of the benefits of email marketing against the benefits of mobile messaging:

1. Personalization

Both email and mobile messaging provide direct access to customers, and they can both be deployed to mass numbers of people at once. But how individualized are those interactions? Do people feel like they’re forging a personal relationship with a brand, or do they feel like they’re one of millions being spammed with the same message?

Mobile messaging is, by nature, exceptionally customizable. There are two reasons behind this: first-party data and AI. The AI and data at the heart of mobile message channels work in tandem to render each customer interaction progressively smarter and more personalized. That means the more your customer interacts with a messaging platform, the more hyper-tailored your messaging. It’s the next best thing to having a human in the room with your customers. And it gives brands the opportunity to hugely impact their customers’ buying decisions.

Say you’re an ecommerce sportswear brand. A customer has recently purchased two running tanks. You can immediately ask for feedback after purchase. Then, a few months later, you can recommend winter running gear and new sports bras from your collection. If you know a customer is running a race soon, you can recommend heart-rate monitors and watches.

Email, conversely, is much more static than mobile messaging — and thus much less customizable. There is certainly some individualization possible in email beyond “Hi *|FNAME|*,” but it’s entirely dependent on the data email marketers receive. For example, if an email marketer knows someone abandoned their cart, they can send an email reminder — as long as they have an email address. That email might go straight to spam, and even if it doesn’t, the recipient is unlikely to open it, but with the right data, you can customize your message to some extent. Again, it’s receiving the data that can be difficult.

2. Full-Funnel Engagement

One of marketers’ biggest pain points is how to engage people and keep them engaged over the long term. It’s no wonder: turning people into lifelong customers is one of the most difficult—and most significant—things you’ll do as a marketer, especially in this oversaturated digital age. So how do email and mobile messaging compare down the funnel?

When it comes to full-funnel engagement, messaging again has a huge advantage over email. When you begin an SMS or Facebook Messenger conversation, you can message them at any time. That means you can have 1:1, direct, real-time conversations that are increasingly significant and personalized as the customer moves down the funnel. Engaging people throughout their lifespan as a customer helps your brands stay top of mind over the long term.

Furthermore, since messaging is conversational, you can inject a personality and voice into your automated messaging sequences, and you can enhance your messages with images, gifs, videos, and other dynamic elements. When messaging is fun and interesting, people actually want to interact with you. And as AI becomes more advanced, so too will your ability to customize and optimize your conversations.

Email, on the other hand, is one way and static. While you can message your customers, they can’t message you back. Even if your email copy is witty and engaging, you remain mostly elusive to your customers. That means you are missing out on a crucial opportunity to engage with your customers on a deeper, more persistent basis.

3. Data 

We mentioned data briefly, but it’s worth mentioning again. Mobile messaging, unlike email, gives brands access to the golden goose of data: first-party customer analytics. That means you know exactly who your customers are, and you understand what they want, because they tell you. This data enables you to provide a meaningful and personal user experience with little human intervention. It also enables you to provide a targeted sales experience and drive the highest ROI.

Email, meanwhile, most often delivers second-party or third-party data. While there is certainly merit to these types of data, they’ll never offer the same level of targeting and personalization as the volunteered data you get from mobile.

So, while email is set to remain one of the more popular marketing channels, it’s clear to us that mobile messaging has the brighter future.

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