A company that delivers its sales messages directly to prospects through an email address practices email advertising. These commercial emails usually include links to websites. The consumer can click on the links to purchase a product, or get more information about it. The marketer then tracks the number of emails opened, and the number of times the links in the email were clicked. Finally, the marketer can track the conversion rate, which is the number of sales completed as a result of the email advertising campaign.
Many marketers now use only opt-in lists, so messages are not considered to be spam. Spam messages are unsolicited bulk emails sent to people who did not request to receive such email. Generally, these lists are created when a consumer requests to receive information and sales messages from a specific company.
Some opt-in lists are built for the purpose of allowing other companies to use them. In this instance, the customer opts in to receive email messages on a specific topic from various companies. Marketers can then rent these lists, or have the list owner send an email out on behalf of the marketer. This is also known as an email blast service, or an opt-in emailing service.
Email marketing gained popularity in the 1990s. At that time, there was little regulation regarding the types of messages that could be sent, and to whom. To help consumers avoid getting unsolicited sales emails, including messages advertising pornography, many governments began creating laws to govern email advertising practices. The goal of these laws is to regulate how advertisers use consumer email addresses.
One example of email regulation is the United States’ Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003. The CAN-SPAM Act sets guidelines for commercial emails and text messages, to help stop spam. Some of these guidelines include sending emails only to consumers who have opted-in; avoiding the use of deceptive subject lines; and including the company’s physical mail address, and an unsubscribe link, in each email message.
Even with these regulations, many marketers continue to use email advertising, since it is generally inexpensive compared to printing and sending physical mail. This type of marketing is also attractive due to its fast delivery and tracking capabilities. Email advertising is also very flexible. If such a campaign has poor results, it can be updated and resent quickly.
Email advertising users face some challenges as well. The sheer volume of email a person receives makes it hard for a single message to stand out and be noticed. Even opt-in email can end up the recipient's bulk, or junk, mail folder, since the email is sent to many prospects at once. Many consumers empty these folders without even looking at the contents.
Marketers can use other online marketing methods to reach their customer in addition to, or instead of, email advertising. Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds can be provided on the company’s website. Consumers who subscribe to RSS feeds receive company information directly through software called a reader. When a consumer opens his reader, all the RSS feeds he has added to it will automatically be updated, with new content and marketing messages.