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Benefits and Dangers of Automated Email Marketing

An automated email campaign is a type of marketing campaign where the sender automatically sends a sequence of emails to a list of recipients based on a predetermined timeline. The customer's behavior can trigger this sequence, such as when they visit your website, fill out a form, or make a purchase. It is especially useful for those running their business online. 

Table of Contents

  1. Why use automated email marketing?
  2. Use cases
  3. Benefits
  4. Drawbacks
  5. What does the law say?
  6. Key Takeaways

Why use automated email marketing?

When done right, automatic email marketing can be more effective than manual email marketing. It can help save time and eliminate manual processes. It can be part of efforts to provide a faster and improved user experience. And it helps inform users or persuade them. 

Use cases

Among many other use cases, automated emails can be used to: 

  • drive traffic to your website 
  • promote new features on your site 
  • notify customers about sales 
  • gather feedback 
  • reward customer loyalty 
  • remind customers about your brand 
  • send newsletters and promotional emails 
  • send invoices 
  • send receipts 
  • send thank you emails 
  • send order confirmations 
  • send shipping notifications 

Benefits

The benefits are many. Automated email marketing programs can be easy to set up and use. They can send personalized, timely emails to opted-in subscribers. Moreover, they allow business owners to track the performance of each email, minimizing time or money spent on campaigns that don't deliver results. 

Using proven tactics, such as triggered emails — emails that are automatically sent in response to specific actions such as signing up for a newsletter – also save manpower and can give a better experience to the user, giving timely information and allowing them to engage with a brand before they have mentally moved on. 

Another benefit is the ability to send emails more often, which can help businesses increase the frequency of sales and retain customers. In sales, timing can often be the difference between closing a sale and getting completely ignored. By staying relatively fresh on prospects minds and increasing brand recognition, business can increase the odds of getting the timing right, or of being one of the first brands that pop into a prospect’s mind when the pain points a company eliminates are finally strong enough to justify an expense. 

Just as well, prospects may be more likely to recommend a company if someone in their life could benefit from the business’ offerings – and be more likely to remember the name or to find the email. 

While the cost of automated email marketing may be prohibitive for some businesses, the potential benefits may justify the expense. 

Drawbacks

While automated email marketing has benefits, it's not without its drawbacks. 

For starters, automated email marketing can cost more than manual email marketing. The automated email marketing solutions tend to use third-party email service providers, which charge fees for emails sent on behalf of businesses. Basic plans hover around or below $10 per month, but full-service solutions — which automate all email functions — can cost hundreds of dollars per month. 

Automated email marketing programs can be intimidating for non-marketing professionals. They can be expensive, particularly for large businesses. And, if done right, automated email marketing campaigns are intrusive. They have to be. Email marketing works because it reaches people where they are, on their desktop computers or mobile devices. But it can also get annoying, especially when it interrupts people at work or during important personal moments. 

To be particularly weary of are automated replies, especially if they only include very basic automation. When automated replies are passed off as genuine emails, they can be rather transparent and importantly, not respond to a user’s query nor understand the nuance in a reply. These can certainly damage the brand, make users feel like they are a number and that their business is not appreciated. 

What’s more, a user is very unlikely to search for an email that puts them in touch with a real person, and given they have already sent an email back, the required friction and effort is often enough for a potential client to immediately give up and forget a brand. Further automated emails can have the opposite desired effect, annoying users and solidifying their decision not to use a company’s service. 

What does the law say?

This list is not exhaustive nor is it legal advice. This is only our opinion and understanding of the law which could very well be entirely wrong, and should merely serve as an illustration. No decision should be made taking any of the following information into account. We are not lawyers. Speak to an attorney or lawyer if any of this concerns you. 

Pre-checked boxes, hidden opt-outs, and automatic opt-ins are hallmarks of bad and even illegal automated email marketing. 

While the internet allows for a company’s audience to be truly global, especially if the product or services rendered are purely digital, it comes with the caveat of having to abide by the laws of a painstakingly long list of countries. 

It's understandable to want to get customers' contact information as quickly as possible. But the law on automated email marketing is complicated, and marketers risk getting in trouble if they mishandle email campaigns. 

Permission-based email marketing is the type of email marketers send to people who have openly signed up for their mailing list or newsletter. A permission-based email might say, for example, "Sign up for our newsletter," and the recipient would have to affirmatively opt into the mailing list. 

A permissionless email is any email that is sent to people who didn't have a relationship with the sender. They're typically sent to people who just happened to click on a link in an email or bought a product through an online retailer. 

The CAN-SPAM Act defines a "commercial electronic message" as any email that "contains or references" a commercial advertisement unless it is sent in response to an inquiry or order. 

This Act governs permission-based email marketing. It states that "commercial electronic messages" (CEMs), which include traditional emails as well as text messages and instant messages, must include a way for recipients to opt out. When an opt-out option isn't available or properly implemented, it could trigger penalties of up to $14,000 per violation. 

Moreover, even if a business does not operate in the European Union or in the United Kingdom, they likely have to worry about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and similar regulations. If a recipient resides in the EU or UK, they are protected by the GDPR or UK Data Protection Act and the UK GDPR, respectively. Failure to abide by these include penalties of up to 4 percent of a company's annual revenue or 20 million Euros, whichever is higher. The GDPR changes the playing field for businesses, and it raises the stakes for how companies collect, store and use data. 

Additionally, if users are in California, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) applies.  

As such, we cannot recommend proceeding with automated email marketing without the necessary care. This includes affirmative opt-ins, easy and working unsubscribe links, and only serving those in the geographies where a company knows they are compliant. This could easily be solved by taking appropriate measures. Further research is recommended. 

Key Takeaways

Email marketing software automates the process of generating, sending, and processing emails. A game-changer for e-commerce merchants, automated email marketing can be a powerful tool for any online marketer. It's effective, it's efficient, and if done right, costs very little. 

The benefits and use cases are many, and you can probably see many more by giving your inbox or even spam mailbox a quick look. Some of the potential drawbacks include choosing particularly high-priced automation software, and potentially alienating users and having the opposite desired effect if not done right. 
 
The initial investment in time and research might seem overwhelming, but once the hurdle is passed the return on investment can be fantastic, positively impact brand image, and increase revenue. 

Worries about adhering to the law are real and the right care should be given. At the same time, even without automated email marketing, dealing with personal data will require very similar adherence. Thus, if a business is already compliant, then the step-up might barely pose an inconvenience.

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