by Aden Andrus November 11, 2019

Should You Be Investing in Email Marketing? Statistics for 2020

Email marketing is old news, right? I mean, it’s been around since the seventies, so in today’s rapidly evolving digital marketing landscape, surely this relic isn’t relevant anymore.

While that’s what many marketers and business owners believe, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Email marketing is still alive and thriving. Though it’s certainly true that email marketing isn’t as new and exciting to your customers as it once was, it’s now a time-tested marketing approach that most people accept (and even invite) in their inbox.

So, should you invest in email marketing? Well, only you can answer that question, but to help you find the right answer for your business, let’s take a look at the current statistics surrounding email marketing.

Market Penetration

As with any marketing channel, if you’re trying to decide whether email marketing is worth the investment, the first thing you need to look at is market penetration. Is email marketing a good way to reach your target audience?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at some numbers.

First off, in 2020, there will be an estimated 4,073,000,000 email users—that means half of the people on Earth (and keep in mind that 26% of the Earth’s population is under 14) have at least one email account. Better still, 99% of consumers check their email at least once per day, so email marketing is perhaps the only way to get in front of 50% of Earth’s population every single day.

To put it simply, if your target audience is online, they have an email account…and they check it every day.

But what about the younger generation? Sure, Generation X grew up in the era of email, so they’re probably still using it, but what about millennials?

As it turns out, 73% of millennials prefer to receive business communications via email. 56% of millennials sign up for marketing emails to learn about on-going deals…wheras just 28% search for deals on Facebook. So, if you want to promote your deals to millennials, what’s the best channel to use? Probably email.

And if you’re specifically targeting women? Yeah, it’s pretty hard to beat email marketing.

67% of women sign up for emails to get access to deals and promotions (vs 57% of men). 88% of women subscribe because of some sort of promotion (vs 70% of men). 65% of women have signed up for email marketing in return for a “free” product (vs 44% of men).

To really make this point concrete, here are just a few more email marketing statistics to help you get a sense for just how significant email marketing is.

Where and when people check their email:

  • Formal events like a wedding (6%)
  • While driving (14%)
  • Working out (16%)
  • Middle of conversations (18%)
  • While watching TV (69%)
  • Commuting to/from work (32%)
  • Eating dinner (32%)
  • While walking (34%)
  • While on the phone (38%)
  • In bed (54%)
  • While using the toilet (43%)

Long story short? With email marketing, you can reach your target market—anywhere and at any time.

The Problem with Email Marketing

Male, female, old, young…they all use email, and they all are interested in email marketing to one degree or another. So why, then, does email marketing get such a bad rap?

To answer that question, we need to look at some statistics about the actual emails people are getting.

In 2020, there will be an estimated 306.4 billion emails sent every day. Compare that to the 4.073 billion email users worldwide and the average person is receiving 75 emails a day!

Now, 56% of those emails are spam, so if we assume that none of those emails are ever seen (not true), that still means that the average email user is getting 33 emails a day…and that’s worldwide.

However, there are a lot of assumptions in that statement. To get a better estimate of just how many emails people have to filter through each day, Radicati ran a study on office workers worldwide. Since this is probably a decent sampling of your target market, their data is probably more indicative of the email load marketing emails are competing with.

According to Radicati’s findings, the average office worker receives 126 emails a day. 30 of those emails are blocked by spam filters, which means that most office workers have 96 emails a day to get through.

That’s a lot of clutter.

When you’re competing against almost 100 emails, it can be hard to stand out and get noticed. And it gets worse. 75% of US consumers find email marketing annoying.

This presents a conundrum. As of 2016, almost 72% of US consumers subscribe to email from 4 or more brands. However, 57% of consumers unsubscribe because they don’t like the emails they’re getting…and over 75% of US consumers find email advertising at least “kind of annoying”.

What does all of this mean? Well, to put it simply, people want to get marketing emails in their inbox—they just don’t like the emails that they’re actually getting.

Does Email Marketing Actually Work?

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “I know you said at the beginning of this article that email marketing works, but I’m not seeing any evidence here.” And, you’re right…email marketing doesn’t work. At least, it doesn’t work if you approach it the wrong way.

Email marketing is full of untapped potential and unmet expectations. After all, how many online marketing channels can you think of where people actually deliberately ask you to market to them?

Paid search? Only 18% of people who recognize text ads as ads actually click on them and 41% active avoid clicking on them.

YouTube? Nope. So many people dislike YouTube Ads that Google even offers people the option to pay to remove ads.

Facebook? You can argue that people follow business Pages because they want to be marketed to, but with the death of organic reach, it’s clear that most people don’t want to see business content on Facebook. And, the fact that Facebook Ads have a lower average clickthrough rate than Google Display Ads just proves that people don’t actually want to be marketed to on Facebook.

But email? As we’ve already pointed out, people intentionally sign up for email marketing lists because they want to hear about discounts and promotions. They’re asking businesses to market to them!

The problem, then, must be with the businesses themselves—not email marketing in general.

Email Marketing Works

Want proof? The average return-on-investment for a decent email marketing program is 38:1. Yes, you read that right. That’s $38 in return on every $1 spent on email marketing.

Here are a few other statistics that show just how effective good email marketing can be:

  • 27.1% of American adults said they purchased a product from a retail store after receiving an email about it.
  • 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media.
  • Email marketing is a 40x more effective way to acquire new customers than Facebook or Twitter.
  • You are 6x more likely to get a click from an email campaign than you are from a tweet.
  • Email subscribers are 3x more likely to share your content via social media than visitors from other sources.

So yes, when done correctly, email marketing absolutely works. In fact, it’s easily the most effective and profitable online marketing channel out there. The problem isn’t that email marketing doesn’t work, it’s that businesses don’t do what it takes to make it work.

Where Businesses Struggle

The real problem with email marketing isn’t that your potential customers don’t like it. The real problem is that good email marketing takes work—a lot of it.

For example, relevant emails sent to segmented lists get 14.64% more email opens, drive 59.99% more clicks and drive 18x more revenue than broadcast emails sent to all subscribers. Why? Specificity sells.

But the problem is, specificity also takes a lot more work.

Segmenting your lists and creating specific emails targeted to those lists takes a lot more time and effort than simply writing one basic email and blasting your entire list. And, the more work something is, the less likely businesses are to do it.

As a result, while 81% of online shoppers who received emails based on previous shopping habits were at least somewhat likely to make a purchase as a result of targeted email, just 39% of online retailers send personalized product recommendations.

In fact, this applies to every aspect of email marketing. Emails with personalized subject lines generate 50% higher open rates, but how often do you actually get a personalized email? Not often. Sending 3 abandonment cart email results in 69% more orders than a single email, but most of the time, businesses only send one email at best.

And, ultimately, an unwillingness to invest the necessary time and effort into email marketing keeps 44% of businesses from even getting into email marketing.

Now, that reduces the number of emails we have to compete with, so it’s actually good for the rest of us. But, it just goes to show how many businesses would rather throw more money at driving traffic than actually building a meaningful email marketing strategy—even when the ROI is 10x higher.

The only question is, are you one of them?

The data is clear: email marketing is one of the best ways to grow a business. However, like anything worth doing, email marketing takes thought, work and planning. If you aren’t willing to make that investment, you’ll just end up frustrated.


So does email marketing work? Perhaps a better question should be, are you willing to work? As marketers, we’re all looking for shiny new solutions—exciting ways to produce a quick overnight “win”.

Email marketing doesn’t work that way.

If you’re looking to get a ton of new people to your site in the hopes of saving your business, email marketing is the wrong choice for you. But, if you’re looking for a proven, long-term, sustainable way to grow, email marketing may just be the secret to success. It will take time and effort, but if you keep at it, email will usually become your most profitable online marketing channel.

By the way, if you don’t want to tackle email marketing on your own, let us know here or in the comments. We’d love to help you get your email marketing set up right!

How do you feel about email marketing? Do you agree with this article? Did any of these statistics surprise you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Aden Andrus

Aden Andrus

Over his career, Aden has developed and marketed millions of dollars of successful products. He lays awake at nights figuring out new marketing tactics and is constantly upping Disruptive's internal marketing game. He loves to write, dance and destroy computer monitors in full medieval armor.

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