Is Email Marketing Still Effective in 2021?


In a world of Snapchat, TikTok, Clubhouse, and countless other social platforms, it’s tempting to imagine that traditional digital marketing is on its way out. Are email newsletters, websites, and plain old Facebook too old-school?

Many people consider email marketing to be the original form of digital marketing, and it’s stood the test of time. There are so many ways people can engage with a brand, but studies show the one place they consistently check is their email.

Still, the question remains: does email marketing still work? It may need some tweaking to be effective in 2021. Let’s take a look.

A Flood of Emails

As you may have noticed, in 2020, more brands shifted to a heavy digital/virtual presence due to the pandemic. Even brands that were already big on e-commerce and e-marketing were ramping up their efforts to connect with people who were bored at home. But even though more people are resuming (semi-)normal activities, email-checking is a nearly obsessive habit, with a whopping 99% of email users checking their inboxes every day. Nearly 80 percent even check email while on vacation! (Tsk tsk.) In short, there’s no need to worry that email is dying out.

Instead, your main worry should be cutting through the noise. There is definitely a massive increase in the number of emails being sent. The numbers were astronomical even before the pandemic, and they are now up to more than 300 billion emails per day. We don’t have clear breakdowns of personal vs. work vs. marketing vs. spam emails, but it’s safe to say that your audience is probably receiving a lot of unwanted messages. Meanwhile, email providers and clients are getting better at eliminating spam. So, it’s up to you to make sure you use proper opt-ins and domain authentication. (Learn about reducing your bounce and spam rates here.)

And yet the ROI keeps improving for email marketers: the average return per dollar spent is now at least $42, up from $38! Some reports even have the ROI as high as $51 per $1 spent! Nearly 60 percent of marketers also report that email has the highest ROI of any of their strategies. This is all true despite email addresses being a bit more expensive to obtain.  So, how can you get results like that? One word: personalization.

Putting the Custom in Customer

Email’s biggest downside is also its greatest asset. While it may be so common as to be overwhelming, it’s also one of the easiest tools for most consumers. People may not know how to engage with brands on social media, but they generally know how to open their email. In fact, email marketing is actually a good way to cut through the noise. Unlike the impersonality of blogs or videos or the peanut gallery of social platforms, an email can be custom-crafted to connect with each customer’s specific interests and needs.

Let’s face it: people are ignoring and blocking ads. They’re tuning out promotional content on social. They may not ever visit a brand’s Instagram page or Twitter feed. And even if they do, that content may not answer their burning question: “what’s in it for me?”

When done right, email marketing isn’t overly promotional and doesn’t have the looming expectation of social interaction. A highly targeted email message feels more personalized and relevant to the recipient than a random tweet or Facebook update. It’s also more direct. People are well-trained to perceive email as a request, a message, something for them to do … while social media is much easier to passively browse. This means a marketing email can be very enticing if the offer taps into their interests and pain points.

How to Improve Your Strategy for 2021

As you see, email marketing needs to be highly relevant, customized, and engaging. So good ol’ fashioned email blasts will not work in 2021. Here’s what to do to maximize your email marketing strategy.

Segment Your Audience 

If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I place a huge emphasis on audience segmentation. This is absolutely crucial for a successful email marketing strategy in 2021. Remember, the primary appeal of email versus other forms of digital marketing is that it can be personalized. You cannot show a unique Instagram post to each one of your followers, but you can do that with a highly targeted email. The impact of this cannot be overstated — and can lead to a 760% increase in revenue. (Read my blog about email marketing success tips for more details on segmentation)

Start A Conversation

The key to building a list of engaged subscribers is to engage them before they hand over their email address. This always works better than emailing random people off a purchased list — which is a good way to get yourself marked as spam. Use your lead magnets and opt-in pages to start a conversation, then invite people to join you on email. When they’re expecting to hear from you, email marketing feels more natural than promotional, which entices them to open your messages.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Different types of copy work for different brands, but for 2021, it’s looking like short, hyper-personalized emails are the way to go. Lengthy email newsletters are too much of a time commitment and can backfire if your subscribers are new. Plus, they’re harder to segment and personalize, whereas with short messages, you can plug in different content and links depending on your audience segment.

Ad-like emails are also on their way out. There are just too many spam trigger words that have clear sales language, e.g. “discount,” “bonus,” etc. Plus, ads-turned-emails aren’t a natural progression from a conversational opt-in. If you promise to share valuable insights with your audience, a message that seems spammy can lead to a load of unsubscribes. Always weave your CTA naturally into your copy and connect it to a personalized offer. 

Embrace Great Visuals

While many email clients do block images in your campaigns, you can often get around this by asking your subscribers to whitelist you. This marks your campaigns as being from a “trusted sender,” and many clients will automatically load your images. Once that’s done, feel free to let your visual style shine! You should not load up your emails with huge images, but try including a beautiful banner image, illustration, GIF, or video in your email. People would always rather look at something pretty than read — take advantage of that!

Bonus: Don’t forget to include emoji in your subject line. It’s not only fun but also draws visual interest and helps your message stand out in your recipient’s crowded inbox. Subject lines with emoji lead to higher open rates and unique brand expressions. 

Bottom Line

Not only is email marketing still effective in 2021, but it also may be more effective as people are looking for personalized, convenient avenues to get the products/services they need. Ultimately, consumers’ confidence in a brand drives their loyalty to it. In these uncertain times, they want to connect with brands in a way that reliably speaks to their unique needs. That’s why email marketing is still important: compared to other channels, only personalized emails can achieve this authentic connection — and it’s the key to email marketing success in 2021.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.