advertisers today have a range of options at their disposal - video ads, microsites, viral campaigns, blogs and social networks. However, there is an ad platform which is one of the oldest and still surviving, and that is email. According to online research firm JuxtConsult's India Online 2008 report, 91 per cent of online Indians send and receive emails.
With so many engaging platforms, do marketers still consider email marketing relevant? "Visiting the email inbox at least once a week is a compulsive habit of Internet users. Hence, email marketing is still a sure shot direct marketing tool for conveying new promotions or generating interest," says a Rediff.com spokesperson. Rediff's email service has more than 65 million registered users and it sends out emailers based on their interests. The site also earns ad revenue from display advertising and sponsorships.
One of the reasons email marketing had to evolve is that the customer has become less tolerant of spam mail. Spam or unsolicited emails are a major cause of concern across markets and marketers who indulge in it risk getting blacklisted by the Internet service provider (ISP).
RupeeMail is an email marketing service developed to be distinctly different from spam and gratifying to the customer as well. RupeeMail sends out advertisers' emails to its members based on their preferences and enables them to accumulate cash points for reading these mails.
Puri says that RupeeMail follows the rules of permission marketing because emailers or ad based emails are only sent to people who want to see them. There are over one lakh subscribers on RupeeMail. Puri says that top brands don't go for email marketing because they don't want to get mixed up with spam, which can ruin their image.
Advertisers who use email marketing regularly belong to sectors such as finance, real estate, online shopping and matrimonial and job sites.
Recently, HSBC Bank did an interesting email innovation during its sponsorship of the Wimbledon Cup. Users logging into Sify Mail found the compose, reply and delete buttons replaced by tennis terms such as serve, return, all court and love all.
Lakshmi Goyal, senior vice-president and head, brand research and media, HSBC, says, "Given that tennis is a relatively niche sport, there was a need to do something unique, something never ever done before on this high reach vehicle (email). The campaign flow was designed such that HSBC would be present all through the user's mail experience, with branding right from the login to the inbox."
Goyal agrees that it is difficult for brands to get their messages across with the presence of spam. "Email marketing is relevant given its ability to reach the right audience. It's important to ensure that any offer we pass on to our audience is of high relevance to them."
Group M's Mindshare Interaction developed the campaign. Harish Nair, business group head, Interaction, says, "Earlier, email marketing was about acquisitions because there was a small audience. It was also frustrating for the customers. But now, marketers have more options and they are selective about their email campaigns."
Nair says, "Email marketing is mostly about sending emailers. We wanted to do something innovative that would register in the user's mind." He claims that the campaign received 40 million impressions and 85,000 clicks.
The open-up rate (the number of times an email is clicked to open) for email campaigns varies between 5 per cent and 30 per cent, depending on the content and relevance of the email.
Puri says the open-up rate for unsolicited emails is 1 per cent. For permission based emails, it is 8-10 per cent, and for special interest emails, which the user has subscribed for, it can be 25-30 per cent. Compared to the click-throughs on banners, which average 1 per cent, this is not bad. Banners allow for more interactivity. As marketers start experimenting on email, the medium is becoming more interactive too. Google integrates its search ads in its email service, Gmail, and displays them according to the context of the email being read.
The bottom line is that even a medium as straightforward as email can be used for communicating with online customers, as long as they continue to read their emails.