What are the advantages and challenges of email marketing?

Email marketing is a particularly effective form of marketing with surveys by the Direct Marketing Association regularly reporting email as having the highest or second-highest return on investments (ROI) of all marketing tactics.


Email has a number of advantages compared to other forms of marketing. In particular:

  • Large numbers of customers and potential customers can be reached by email at low cost.
  • The email inbox is where many business people spend much of their time at work (an average of two and a half hours a day for white-collar workers according to McKinsey in "The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies").
  • Email can be interactive and engaging: prompting replies and more in-depth discussion.
  • Links in emails are clickable, making the path to purchases simple for potential customers. Links in emails tend to lead to more purchases than links in social media (according to a 4-year study into the online buying patterns of over 72 million customers across 14 different industries by data analytics firm Custora. Over 40 times as many purchases came from links in emails than from Facebook or Twitter).
  • Email is trackable, so it is much easier and faster to measure and improve email campaigns than direct mail, telemarketing or advertising campaigns.
  • It is easy to automate email campaigns (eg. Birthdays, after sales product mailing).

One of the benefits of email marketing is that it offers great possibilities of targeted communication because a) you can build a customer base filled with people who are interested in your products and services, and b) you can then segment your customer base based on various characteristics of their behavior and actions. Creating a greater reach means that you purposefully start looking for potential customers, representatives and resellers. In other words, the people who have an interest in the messages you send and recognize the benefit they have from receiving your newsletters and email campaigns. These are the people that will open your newsletters, click through and discuss the offer in your online shop. If you can find the right people to expand your target audience with, you will increase your communication reach and improve your results.


Petersen (2016) notices the following reasons why email marketing could be beneficial:

  • As a recipient, you can choose when to read the message (for instance when travelling)
  • You can adjust the email to the preferences of your recipient
  • You can attach information
  • Emails have the advantage to expand your (international) reach
  • Emails can be forwarded and turn into a viral message
  • You can segment easily and not bother people who are not interested
  • You can include a call-to-action
  • An opt-in email list ensures a legal method to do business.
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