Data collection is everywhere today. Ever since the internet opened there have been companies keen to collect and exploit 'clickstream' gold that can inform those wanting to keep and eye on what we're doing and use it to sell us stuff.

One of the bigger companies in the UK and long before 'Data Analytica' got caught with it's data pants down was in fact 'Dunhumby' - if you're a Tesco shopper its a data intelligence platform that's used to encourage you to shop and spend more with them.

Sorry to raise the GDPR subject again (it's getting like the 'Corona Virus story) but as marketeers we need to take a look at how effective e-mail marketing is in today's marketing mix. According to a McKinsey report from a few years ago, and long before 'Social Media' moved on from simply posting pictures of your dog, cat, holiday's, what you had for breakfast/dinner, you're company's latest award win and those spammy intrusive adverts of your product, the view from McKinsey was that email is in decline;

Is email dead?  Lately, it feels like the marketing world has fallen out of love with email.  McKinsey’s iConsumer survey reported a 20% decline in email usage as the medium surrendered ground to social networks, IM, and mobile messaging apps.

The only email I know that has a 99.9% retention rate with the highest number of openings (4/5) are the confirmation emails as described above. We all keep checking how much we paid, did we order the right thing, when it’s getting delivered & have I really booked that holiday & flight correctly. Other than that, time limited & personalised offers do nothing other than force a click, which at best is less than 1%.

Amazon, Alphabet, Alibaba, Facebook, Tencent - five of the world's 10 most valuable companies, all less than 25 years old - and all got rich, in their own ways, on data.

No wonder it's become common to call data the "new oil". As recently as 2011, five of the top 10 were oil companies. Now, only ExxonMobil clings on.

The analogy isn't perfect. Data can be used many times, oil only once.

I once built (and sold) the 5th largest e-mail marketing company in the UK. I did this not by selling e-mails, not even by selling e-mail marketing albeit it most definitely helped to keep the e-mail machine 'oiled' to coin a phrase. We built it by selling what most companies really needed from e-mail campaigns which was actionable insights of user behaviour from these outbound messages. We created a way for them to 'listen' to consumers. 

Essentially we positioned the business as a 'data intelligence' service which allowed companies to overlay e-mail data and combine it with other internal multiple data sets to be able to track, trace, improve user behaviour, and increase spend. We bundled the e-mail aspect as part of the 'cost per' model they were already paying for.

All common place today but back then most companies used e-mail to send the same message to everyone regardless where the consumer was in the journey with the brand. So, people who had just engaged with the brand got the same message as those who had been with the brand for sometime.

Where does it continue to add value?

From an outbound perspective the stats (my personal experience & the impact of GDPR) show what was once the ‘go to’ outbound communications platform has fast become an ineffective medium, particularly in eCommerce where the main open rates are service driven emails e.g. Order confirmation etc. 

With the unabated rise of Social Media and the ability to connect with the right people and businesses without the need for a database its certainly something to consider. Data is only valuable like oil - when it's refined and you can do something with it.

We built that e-mail marketing company off the back of one key principle which was to encourage brands to 'listen' by using the underlying data to what the suspects, prospects, and customers were telling them and then refine the conversation accordingly.

Listening is something that sadly seems to be missing when brands use social platforms. It's like unrefined data, if you're not really using social to listen you'll never refine it to build an authentic relationship by being 'social'.