For the third year running email marketing has topped the digital marketing ROI charts, according to the 2017 Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Industry Census.

In addition, success with automation programmes has grown, and better personalisation is a key objective. Yet it seems the growing complexity of the digital marketing landscape still leaves marketers confused about where to focus their efforts and budget to produce a ‘joined-up’ approach.

Those who can master the available technology and exploit the advancements and successes within email marketing will gain a massive business advantage. Over the next 12 months, marketers need to take a step back and focus on connecting the dots, explained Adestra CEO Henry Hyder-Smith.

He said: “The results of this year’s Census show that marketers are struggling to see the bigger picture and stand by their choices. By getting the fundamentals working together – personalisation, automation, integration, optimisation – they can make the most of the technology available, offer their customers the experience they are looking for, and realise the benefits of becoming First-Person Marketers.”

Both marketing automation and personalisation are recurring themes across the survey. Success in implementing automation programmes has grown from 62% to 67% since 2016 and marketing automation is the most important attribute when selecting an ESP, overtaking a user-friendly interface and cost. However, when it comes to selecting a focus for 2017 and an area marketers can’t currently do to their satisfaction, personalisation overtakes marketing automation to become the top choice. This inconsistency, among others, supports the view that marketers need guidance and clarity to navigate the complexity of the digital marketing landscape.

While email marketing is still top for ROI as shown by the 73% of company (and 76% of agency) respondents rating it excellent or good, the budget allocated to this channel remains at just 15% of the total marketing budget. This could be explained by the fact that most marketers seem to be ignoring essential metrics when it comes to evaluating their success, which makes proving the impact of email difficult. While the majority of in-house marketers use click-through rate (91%), open rate (80%) and conversion rate (62%) as measures of success, only a minority use inbox placement (8%), list growth rate (20%) and delivery rate (37%). What’s worse, the gap between email-driven revenue and investment in the channel has widened considerably over the past six years, which shows marketers are missing a key growth opportunity.

Monica Savut, head of research services at Econsultancy, said: “Email continues to be one of the most effective marketing channels and it’s encouraging to see that marketers are looking beyond standalone campaigns by embracing marketing automation and personalisation. However, this year’s Census shows that marketers need to adopt a more rigorous approach, keeping a sharp focus on both technology and strategy while never losing sight of the customer. The rewards are there for the taking, but reaping maximum value is dependent on two key success factors: investment that is proportional to any potential returns and a comprehensive strategy that focuses on continuous measurement, testing and optimisation.”

Data management is another key consideration in the email industry in 2017, especially with the upcoming GDPR legislation which affects global companies with subscribers in Europe, not just European senders. Many marketers might be operating outside of the law soon as they don’t believe the regulation affects them, when it fact it does. It’s concerning to see that the proportion of in-house marketers who consider themselves compliant with the regulation has decreased from 34% to 30%. With less than one year to go until GDPR is enforceable, it’s worrying to see that 16% of company respondents and 23% of agency respondents are still not aware of legal changes that might affect their activities. With fines of up to €20 million or 4% of your global turnover at stake, data compliance is not an aspect that marketers can continue to ignore.

The 2017 Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Industry Census is based on a survey of over 1,200 marketers undertaken between February and March 2017. Respondents included both in-house (68%) and supply-side (32%) marketers from the UK, North America, Europe and rest of the world.


By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at

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