Can Email Hold its Own Against Chat?

As Chat Marketing has become smarter and more ubiquitous, there’s been a lot of talk about whether chat 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.

Chat, 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: chat’s 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 chat, and will chat replace email entirely, if not now then over time?

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

1. Personalization

Both email and chat 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?

Chat Marketing is, by nature, exceptionally customizable. There are two reasons behind this: first-party data and AI. The AI and data at the heart of chat work in tandem to render each customer interaction progressively smarter and more personalized. That means the more your customer interacts with your bot, 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. And all of this is done easily and seamlessly, right inside a chatbot.

Email, conversely, is much more static than chat — 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 certainly 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 chat compare down the funnel?

When it comes to full-funnel engagement, chat again has a huge advantage over email. When you begin a chat conversation, you join a customer’s buddy list alongside their friends and family, where 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 chat is conversational, you can inject a personality and voice into a chatbot, and you can enhance your messages with images, gifs, videos, and other dynamic elements. When your chatbot is fun and interesting, people actually want to interact with you. And as AI becomes more advanced, so too will your ability to humanize your chatbot.

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. Chat, 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, unlike chat, 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 data you get from chat. When it comes to data, there’s no doubt that chat comes out on top.

While email remains one a popular marketing channels, it’s clear to us that it can’t hold its own against chat. The numbers speak for themselves: click-through rates on chat are 2500% higher than on email. You can’t argue with that math.

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