2 min read

The Use of Email in SEM – What’s Ahead for 2019?

Email has been around since 1971. Ray Tomlinson (April 23, 1941 – March 5, 2016) is credited with inventing it, but it didn’t really take off until 1989 when Lotus Notes released the first consumer email software program. In 1996, Microsoft released a competing product, known as “Internet Mail and News 1.0, and later renamed it “Outlook.”

The first marketing email is thought to have been sent in 1978 when a marketing manager named Gary Thuerk, working for DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) sent a marketing email to 400 contacts. According to one historical account, this single email resulted in over $13 million in sales for DEC.1

With that single email, the world of marketing has never been the same.

According to a technology research firm, The Radicati Group, Inc., the volume of email marketing is growing at a rate of 6% for consumer marketing emails.2

Along with the growth in the total volume of email, the volume of email spam – including spam with content that poses a danger to the recipient – is growing as well. Many school systems have added a layer of spambot protection to their incoming email system, which can create false responses in a commFLOW.

Gmail, with over one billion active users, has also reacted. Several years ago, they modified the Gmail inbox to include tabs (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums). In this year, they made further changes, this time to their user experience algorithm, and those changes can impact Student Search.

The changes made by Google mean that many Student Search emails sent to Gmail account land in the “Promotions” inbox, instead of the “Primary” inbox. The algorithm also appears to factor in engagement and reputation scores, which can lead to higher than expected soft bounce rates to Gmail accounts.

You may or may not be feeling the effects of this since each school is unique and many factors affect email open rates including:

  • Brand strength
  • Purchased list factors
  • Messaging
  • Design

It is always good to take stock of the results of your own commFLOW email marketing and look at year-over-year trends. Are you seeing open rates go up or down? Are more emails bouncing? Are you getting the same open rates for Gmail and non-Gmail emails?

It also makes sense to consider other communication channels as a way of compensating. Five options we are now recommending you add to your campaigns are:

  • Ringless voicemail – a technology that allows you to leave a recorded message either on a home phone or mobile phone without the recipient’s phone ever ringing.
  • IP Targeting – to deliver digital ads to targeted individuals inside their home to their device
  • Retargeting ads – to build upon interest and encourage people to take the next step
  • Secondary targeted direct mail touches to people whose online behavior indicates engagement, but who need an additional nudge to take the next step
  • matchBACK™ code placed on websites to identify site visitors who are interested in your school, but choosing not to engage with marketing efforts

Over the last decade, Student Search marketing has evolved, positioning email as the primary marketing channel. That won’t change anytime soon, but the circumstances impacting email delivery will continue to change. Under changing circumstances, innovation is the key to success.

If you would like to know more about the changes in Gmail, check out this video from enrollmentFUEL’s partner.


[1.] Retrieved from https://www.emailoversight.com/blog/email-marketing-history/
[2.] Retrieved from https://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Email-Statistics-Report-2015-2019-Executive-Summary.pdf