Is email really in any danger? With all the talk about email being superceded by Web 2.0 technologies like social media, Asian eMarketing decided to catch up with Microsoft’s Kenneth Andrew, marketing director, Microsoft Advertising, Greater Asia Pacific, to find out his views on email marketing, where it stands in the region and where it is heading.

He believes email is still a very basic and important outreach tool for any online marketer, and that there are a lot of marketing research and statistics to support this fact. “For example, according to comScore data in 2009, email remains the most popular communications channel with 86% of people globally. In the Asia Pacific, Windows Live Hotmail for example, has a total of 6,353 million page views and 67 million unique users. In addition, 27% of all email users in the Asia Pacific use Windows Live Hotmail. In addition, Nielson has also found that email is the strongest tool for peer-to-peer invitations with almost 37% using it to convert others – a significant figure given that consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on online recommendations and referrals to make purchasing decisions, with 90% of them trusting advice from people they know over and above any other source,” Andrew says.

Of course, no one can ignore the impact of new technologies and communication channels, especially, the explosion of social networking. However, despite the increasing attention on social media, Andrew believes email should not be forgotten when it comes to online marketing.  Elaborating on the impact of Web 2.0 on email, he adds, “The latest Global Web Index survey, supported by Microsoft Advertising and TrendStream, tells us that emailing, online banking, watching video online, instant messaging and uploading photos are the top five online behaviors amongst the Internet users in Asia Pacific. According to Internet World Statistics in 2009, the Asia Pacific saw a 523% growth rate in internet users between 2000 and 2009, higher than that of Europe or North America. We believe this growth will continue in the next few years as more consumers in the Asia Pacific continue to go online. Given this, email should remain as an integral part of any digital campaign.”

So, how is Microsoft tapping on this? Andrew shares that given the trends he mentioned earlier, with Windows Live online properties for example, the company is dedicated to providing innovative digital solutions that deliver strong return on investment for our clients. “More so, we want to provide an integrated advertising platform which can be customized depending on the type of campaigns,” he explains.

However, despite the fact that email definitely has a strong place in the whole marketing mix, there are definitely some challenges that the region faces when it comes to email marketing. Sharing his thoughts here, Andrew says, “According to Millward Brown, one of the world’s leading research companies, 2010 will see the rise of the "social graph". What this means is that more consumers will be getting information through our networks – our friends or the friends of your friends – rather than from any specific site. This further spells the fragmentation of the audiences in the Asia Pacific and is a real challenge for brands or advertisers who are looking to leverage email marketing to reach out to their target audience. Hence, brands need to understand how to be more ‘social’ so as to effectively access these segmented networks. Based on our experience, we see ourselves as a technology partner to the advertising industry, helping brands navigate the digital space and reach out to their target audience in a measurable and cost-effective manner.”

Whatever it is, this much is obvious when it comes to the email medium: it is no longer simply a stand-alone tool in the marketing mix to reach out to target audience. Today, brands are looking for an integrated brand experience to reach their targeted audiences in the right way, at the right time. Microsoft for example, believes brands are best served by creating online experiences that compel consumers to pull the relevant content, deviating from the traditional ‘push’ advertising model.

For instance, the company assists brands to create an online experience and evaluate where they need to be engaging consumers with their content. This is done the following ways:  

  • In spaces they own: Micro-sites and corporate pages. This is a more traditional ‘pull’ route for digital marketers. However, the right experience can successfully engage a consumer. These types of spaces can include interactivity aspects like ecommerce, feedback pages and company blogs.
  • Social spaces: Social networks, forums and blogs. Before brands can engage in these channels, they need to gather a firm understanding of the audience – who is engaging with the brand and why. A recent study showed that the primary motivation for Asian consumers to go online was to research a brand for purchase.
  • Recommendations: Communicating content via paid or earned sources. By successfully engaging consumers online with the right experience at the right time, brands can create an advocate of the brand, a new voice to evangelize the brand to their own online network.

Bearing all this in mind, it will be a mistake for any marketer to count-out the email medium but having said this, all marketers have to keep a close watch on how the medium evolves and see how they tap its integration with newer modes of communication and technologies.

By Shanti Anne Morais