Alexa’s Latest Email Feature Empowers Marketers

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Alexa’s new email capabilities on voice-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo and Dot and tablet devices like the Kindle Fire are causing some concern in the email marketing community. Email users can now access and manage their inboxes on popular services like Gmail and Outlook via Alexa-powered devices with a simple voice command. The question that many email marketers are now asking is: Should we be concerned about subscribers’ accessing and, more importantly, deleting emails without first being presented with the body images and text of the email?

Whatever Doesn’t Kill You

There’s a saying in email marketing circles: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Email marketing has been in the assassin’s sights for the 40 or so years it’s been in existence – but to date, nothing has dealt that killer blow or even come close to toppling it as the most cost-effective and profitable method of marketing to your existing customer base.

This doesn’t mean those of us who are gainfully employed in the email marketing industry can be complacent. In this digital age, any business, no matter how powerful, is ripe for disruption. Perhaps we are just fortunate that every technology that has sought to replace email marketing has in fact made email marketing more relevant.

Think about it:

  • Paid Search: Sure, paid search might have made it incredibly easy to target new customers within minutes of creating a campaign, but those text-based ads are expensive and can quickly eat away at any margin in a sale. If a business is ever to see a return from paid search, they are going to have to hope to re-engage those same, expensively won customers time and time again via a more cost-effective channel. It could, therefore, be argued that email marketing is the most profitable component of paid search marketing.
  • Social Media Marketing: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg famously predicted the demise of email marketing in favor of social media sites. He was wrong for one very good reason. Social media is a social environment where people don’t like being sold to. Yes, you can influence people via social media – but the real sales action still happens in the email inbox (which is very much a place of work). For this reason, email marketing and social media are the perfect bedfellows.
  • Mobile: There cannot be a more dominant force in digital marketing than the omnipresent smartphone. Sure, there might well be an app for everything – but the native app that stands out from the crowd in the smartphone ecosystem is email. The smartphone actually freed email marketing from the constraints of the desktop device and now means email is something we check and engage with constantly. If you want to target your customers anytime, anyplace, and have your message stored in an easily accessed file, then email marketing is the way to go.
  • GDPR: Even the law couldn’t do away with email marketing. In fact, at iContact, we believe that GDPR might just have made email marketing more relevant than ever.

Will Alexa Kill Email Marketing?

There’s a short and a long answer here. The short answer is: “No.”

The long answer is, like many of the aforementioned “email killers,” this might actually be a good thing for email marketing.

Here’s Why:

  • A New Native App: Alexa has essentially put email at the center of a new and emerging technology as a “native app” – just like the smartphone did. If marketers want to target people via this new channel, email marketing is probably the easiest way to do so. If you think about it, email marketers basically don’t have to do anything new for their emails to be accessible via Alexa-powered devices. The same old email campaign you send to users’ computers, tablets, and smartphones will now work on a voice-enabled device.
  • Nothing New Here: How many people delete emails on a “traditional” device based just on the subject line? If anything, this should simply focus email marketers on creating the perfect subject line to ensure that subscribers don’t delete their emails when engaging with them via a voice-powered device.
  • Email Marketing Works Even When Campaigns Are Not Opened: If your subject lines pack a punch and are delivered in a timely, engaging, and relevant fashion, they will still act as a reminder to do business with your business at a later date. In many ways, email marketing can be compared to an old classified ad at the back of a newspaper or a heavily rotated radio campaign where repetition guarantees brand awareness. If you are worried about your levels of engagement dropping off because more people are accessing their emails via voice-enabled devices, simply increasing your volume should help.

Business as Usual

So the good news is, it’s business as usual for marketers who practice email marketing best practices with their campaigns. The key is to avoid deletion and encourage future engagement by optimizing your subject lines and including clear and instructive text in your campaigns. Good email marketers should be doing this already.

For those who need a little helping hand to ensure their email marketing hits the right mark however it’s consumed, iContact’s recent ebook The Ultimate Subject Line Guide will set you in the right direction.

John W. Hayes has been helping small and medium-sized companies develop their business strategies online for almost as long as the Internet has been in the general public’s consciousness. Working alongside some of the biggest names in ecommerce and online marketing (including Amazon, eBay and Google), he has dedicated much of his career to demystifying the web and highlighting opportunities for real world businesses to grow. He is the author of four books: - Becoming THE Expert: Enhancing Your Business Reputation through Thought Leadership Marketing - A Crash Course in Email Marketing for Small and Medium-sized Businesses - Bricks & Mortar Oughta: What Real World Businesses Can Learn from The Internet - Why Authors, Bloggers, Journalists & Writers Need to Think Like Rocks Stars John is a regular speaker at events throughout the UK, Europe and the US, is a prolific blogger across numerous sites and is widely recognised as an influential Thought Leader in the SME online marketing arena.

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