Email Marketing – Is it worth the effort?

Posted on: March 11, 2024

Email MarketingOne conversation we are having more frequently with clients is about the changing performance of email marketing campaigns. With a growing concern that engagement levels are dropping for many, it means measuring effectiveness is a real challenge.

It raises many questions about recipient behaviour post-pandemic. For example, whether people have the time (or inclination) to digest longer-form content anymore. Also, with stronger spam filters, are emails even reaching their intended audience? Can you really trust the open and click-through data in your analytics?

In this blog, we investigate these concerns and challenges and look for the options and opportunities that email campaigns can still offer in your marketing strategy.

Reasons why email marketing effectiveness is tough

Volume explosions

During lockdown, companies had to change tactics, as in-person marketing activities weren’t possible. This meant more marketing migrated to digital. Also, at that point, people had more time to read emails. This resulted in increased conversion rates (up by 17% in the same period the previous year). During the course of the pandemic and the significant rise in emails sent, digital fatigue crept in, and recipient engagement dropped.

Email browser filtering gets more sophisticated

To retain market share and improve their user experience, major email browsers like Google and Outlook have further developed their functionality to auto-filter emails in people’s inboxes to focused/ important/ other, etc. For those running email campaigns, this has made it even harder to determine if an email has been sent.

Browsers have also become more sophisticated at determining ‘spam’ elements in email content and filtering those emails into junk folders. In a recent test of popular email campaign software, Email Tooltester estimated that 16.9% of all emails had either gone completely missing or had been caught by popular spam filters.

Information overload

The pandemic prompted a rise in screen fatigue, which weakened people’s ability to engage with and absorb even moderate amounts of text. This was exacerbated when people tried to read emails written on desktops in a mobile environment. People glance/skim and most likely reject long emails.

Privacy protection

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (AMPP) feature which was introduced in September 2021 no longer allows businesses to know their customers’ open rates, IP addresses, and precise locations. Naturally, this has made gaining an accurate picture of an email campaign’s effectiveness even more challenging to measure.

Security ramps up

The rise of cybercrime and email fraud means many businesses have ramped up their cyber security to include more robust firewalls and limit what content gets through. For B2B marketing, if you’re sharing certain links, images, videos, or files, these can now be blocked. Now more than ever, businesses need to be recognised as safe senders and trusted brands/known companies for people to consider clicking on any links you share, etc.

Less reliable analytics

Analytics from many popular email campaign distributors are less reliable, and many now come with many caveats. Email Tooltester regularly monitors leading campaign distributors, and it’s worth checking out the latest performance findings.

Changing behaviour

Younger generations favour messaging apps and social media to communicate instead of email. This appeals to their desire for images and video rather than text. The chances of reaching those generations via email are even lower. It is likely that they will be interacting on a mobile device, recent figures showed 55% of emails are read on mobile.

Tips for Email Marketing Success

So, bearing all this in mind, how can you help your email campaign be effective?

Familiar and tailored boosts engagement

The more relevant your messaging is to your audience and the more familiar you are to them, the more likely they are to notice it. Wherever possible, aim for personalisation and segment your audience so you’re communicating more specifically to distinct groups and less generally to a large bulk.

As cold approaches are rarely welcomed, find ways to build familiarity with your target audience (social media, events, sign-up via an offer on your website). Build a community for your brand/business first and then use email as one of the ways you add value.

Always ensure your messaging is simple, short, and tailored to them. It should also have clear signposting, like subheadings – think about how news sites write.

Make the design appealing but within the technology confines

If your email looks eye-catching and appealing, it’s likely to be opened and read. Firstly, use a format which doesn’t look text-heavy. That said, beware of using too many visuals that mean the email is slow to open or syphoned into a spam filter. See our later point about testing to ensure you get the right balance.

Add value

If you want people to engage with your email, it has to provide interest and value to the recipient in some way. That means putting yourself in the recipient’s shoes and thinking about what will interest and attract them. Provide advice, share helpful solutions, invite them to something, or offer a free resource. In doing so, ensure you have a simple and clear call to action. Test it works.

When email marketing is effective, it can create and generate amazing results in a way that other forms of marketing can struggle with. The level of connection can be a strong one.

The elements required to make your emails hit the spot every time are:

Testing, testing, testing

Another important thing to do is test your campaign. In particular, run tests to:

  • Identify where it may get held up by browser spam filters.
  • Trial different treatments on small segments and then roll out the campaign to the one that generates the better engagement rate.
  • Check that your email meets the latest privacy guidelines and, in particular, lets people easily opt-out.

Measuring the campaign beyond the email software’s analytics

If you can’t rely on the email software’s analytics, then factor in other metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign.

So, for example, measure engagement rates by how many people made that call, the uptick in traffic to the webpage you shared the link to, how many people replied/downloaded your asset, etc.


Email marketing’s effectiveness has changed significantly over the years. Campaigns perform well when B2B businesses email recipients who are interested and familiar with them, and then craft a campaign which is highly relevant and engaging to those recipients.

As technology and privacy-focused legislation evolve, however, it will be essential to adapt your email marketing approach. Looking ahead, there are yet more developments to be mindful of.  For example:

  • In February 2024, Gmail and Yahoo introduced new measures for people sending bulk emails. This involves authenticating emails, enabling easy unsubscribes, and ensuring all emails are desired. See here and here.
  • A new Data Protection and Digital Information Bill is still being debated in Parliament. More information is available in full here.
  • Beware of using AI – particularly data privacy issues when profiling your data and with potential IP-breaches in your content creation.

For email marketing effectiveness, it is important to use your wider marketing kitbag to build opted-in and engaged audiences who are keen to hear from you, and whose engagement rates you can measure in addition to the analytics of your email software.



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