Before she wrote about Leaning In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously declared the end of email at Nielsen’s 360 Consumer Conference in 2010. But, according to Domo.com, more than 204 million emails are sent each minute in 2014. Contrast that to 2.4M Facebook shares and 277,000 tweets a minute, and you can easily see how email is alive and well today. And if you need any more proof, just look at your own inbox.
Adobe recently released a new ebook on The Next Frontier of Email Marketing that sheds even more light on how email will continue to lead the way when it comes to engaging with customers. Adobe’s Patrick Tripp joins us to discuss some of the important findings about what the future of email marketing holds. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)
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Small Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background?
Patrick Tripp: I’m a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe, focused on campaign management specifically. And that definitely includes email, something many organizations may not realize.
Small Business Trends: In the face of all these other channels that are coming up, it seems like good old email marketing is still holding its own. Can you talk a bit about return on dollar invested, and how email marketing still leads the way?
Patrick Tripp: It’s still the workhorse of the commercial communication space. Email ROI (return on investment) is up around $39.40 per email, for business email specifically, according to a study done by the Direct Marketing Association.
The second ranking channel there is Internet display, then search, then direct mail, and it’s quite a bit lower ROI on some of those channels. So really, it’s tried and true, and it’s been around for a while, but it’s still the most effective channel.
Small Business Trends: It seems there’s the old definition of your inbox. Then the new definition. Explain what you mean when you talk about the real-time inbox.
Patrick Tripp: A big focus for marketers is now on personalization and relevant in-context content that can be served to consumers and businesses at the right time. That being delivered in real time through transactional messaging is what we call real-time inbox. That’s essentially delivering an email and then perhaps, a day later, changing the content of that email after it’s been delivered.
So it might be sitting in your inbox for a few days, and you have an offer around golf clubs and maybe it’s a sunny sort of imagery, and then maybe it’s raining the next few days. We have the opportunity to change the imagery and offer within that email, based on weather or contextual data, through testing or other information we capture.
Being able to change that experience on the fly is providing a lot of new opportunities for business and consumers.
Small Business Trends: They haven’t opened it yet, but based on some kind of contextual change, you’re able to affect that email?
Patrick Tripp: Exactly. It’s really about after that email is opened or when it hasn’t been opened, being able to make a call back to Adobe to determine that we might have some better content. Or we might have done some testing and determined that image isn’t really working very well for the consumer, so we’re going to change the image out.
It’s taking context we have about the customer and the data we can store on the backend, and really being able to bring that forward.
Small Business Trends: Looking at the ebook, $4 trillion of merchandise is left in online shopping carts, but as much as $2.65 trillion of that can be reclaimed through remarketing.
Patrick Tripp: Consumers have signed up for potential purchases in different channels of up to $4 trillion. Research we did with Business Insider has shown as much as 63% of that can be captured through remarketing strategies, which might include following up automatically with that purchase process.
Small Business Trends: Talk a bit about how this new frontier of eMarketing is putting the customer in charge of their own email experience.
Patrick Tripp: It’s all about putting the customer in charge of their experience and providing personalized offers and experiences. We really believe in this concept of being preference-centered. Being able to move beyond the simple unsubscribe button to having an unsubscribe landing page that you can manage. It might allow a consumer to opt down instead of opting out, or opt up depending on their interests.
Being able to give them more control over the experience is a better way to engage in a conversation with a consumer.
Small Business Trends: More people are consuming their content via mobile devices. Where does that fit in with the new frontier of email marketing?
Patrick Tripp: A high percentage of consumers and customers view email for the first time on mobile devices. Then it’s about potentially making a purchase on a tablet or PC. So we see some cross-device activity.
But you need to be able to optimize the experience for mobile devices. You need to have a template in place, as marketers, that will allow you to easily align and make sure your content is consistent, regardless of the channel.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about this report and look at some of the things you guys are doing around this new frontier?
Patrick Tripp: You can go to Adobe.com/Campaign . There’s more information about campaign management, cross-channel marketing, email marketing guides, and guidance in terms of where other marketers are focusing.
This interview on how email leads in ROI is part of the One on One interview series  with thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above.