E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fundraising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every e-mail sent to a potential or current customer could be considered e-mail marketing. However, the term is usually used to refer to:
- sending e-mails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers and to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business,
- sending e-mails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately,
- adding advertisements to e-mails sent by other companies to their customers, and
- sending e-mails over the Internet, as e-mail did and does exist outside the Internet (e.g., network e-mail and FIDO).
E-mail marketing (on the Internet) is popular with companies for several reasons:
- An exact return on investment can be tracked ("track to basket") and has proven to be high when done properly. E-mail marketing is often reported as second only to search marketing as the most effective online marketing tactic.
- Advertisers can reach substantial numbers of e-mail subscribers who have opted in (i.e., consented) to receive e-mail communications on subjects of interest to them.
- Over half of Internet users check or send e-mail on a typical day.
- E-mail is popular with digital marketers, rising an estimated 15% in 2009 to £292m in the UK.
- E-mail allows marketers to reach out to consumers with personalized, relevant, dynamic messages.
- Transactional e-mails allow businesses to respond automatically to important consumer events like purchases or shop-cart abandonment.
A report issued by the e-mail services company Return Path, as of mid-2008 e-mail deliverability is still an issue for legitimate marketers. According to the report, legitimate e-mail servers averaged a delivery rate of 56%; twenty percent of the messages were rejected, and eight percent were filtered.
Companies considering the use of an e-mail marketing program must make sure that their program does not violate spam laws such as the United States' Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM), the European Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, or their Internet service provider's acceptable use policy.