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How important is email marketing to retailers?

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 30 Jun, 2015
Essential Essential topic

How does email compare to other channels in driving customer acquisition and sales?

We can see the importance of email marketing by using the excellent Custora Ecommerce Pulse - which is updated monthly to show the impact of different channels on sales across $40 billion of US retail transactions from retailers who are clients of Custora. Here are three data points showing the importance of email marketing:

1.  How many orders does email drive compared to other media?

In 2015 Email remains one of the top three channels driving sales, not far behind organic and PPC. This position is mainly because of sales to existing customers. The latest data from May 2015 shows that email marketing now accounts for 15% of all sales.


All of the top 3 have fallen a little compared to 2014 as Affiliate prompted sales have grown.

For all of our interest and attention on social media this accounts for just 2% of retail sales.

2. What percentage of customer acquisition is driven by email marketing?

Although email marketing is mainly seen as a customer communications medium, it has grown in importance as an acquisition technique in retail. It's striking that:

Customer Acquisition via Email has quadrupled over the last 4 years.

This is thanks to prospects signing up to enewsletters or responding to pop-ups offering discounts for the first order if a subscriber signs up to email.

Here the Custora data (from earlier research) shows us that email has increased dramatically as a customer acquisition channel, so that it now rivals search.


3. What is the customer lifetime value of email?

To truly understand the value of different acquisition channels you have to assess long-term sales measured as customer lifetime value (CLV or LTV typically measured over a 3 or 5 years). Here email is positive relative to affiliates and social media marketing, but less compared to social media marketing which perhaps can be seen as sparking more 'impulse purchases'.

Custora CLV

Given the continued importance of email marketing for retailers and other businesses, we have recently launched a more detailed guide to using Email marketing to support acquisition and customer onboarding which uses examples from a range of sectors.

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell,, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site,, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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