Email, not Facebook, winning the battle for brands’ consumer engagement

by | May 26, 2017 | Public Relations

Despite social media’s large and growing presence in many consumers’ lives, new research reveals that it is not the ideal platform for brand interaction—in fact, less than a quarter (24 percent) of online shoppers in general name social media as one of their preferred channels for brand interaction.

This is a  key finding from a new study by Campaigner, the email marketing brand of j2 Global, which recently announced the results of its 2017 Generational Marketing Insights Survey, taking a pulse on commerce consumption preferences of online shoppers and revealing insights into how to most effectively market to different consumer generations.

Social status: Facebook fine, Twitter an #EpicFail

For those consumers who do take to social media to engage with brands, the data reveals where brands should—and should not—invest. Somewhat of a newcomer for brands, Snapchat sees relatively low consumer-brand engagement, with only 5 percent of respondents saying they use the platform to keep in touch with brands. Image-heavy Pinterest and Instagram tie for second place in shoppers’ hearts, each garnering 18 percent, while Facebook proves it’s the place to be for brands that want to get the most bang for their social buck.

Over half (54 percent) of those surveyed say they use the social media giant to follow brands on its platform. On the opposite end of the social spectrum, only 3 percent say they utilize Twitter for this purpose.

Email still reigns, but is it too much of a good thing?

In sharp contrast to social media, email has proven time and time again to be the most efficient marketing channel for brands, and the survey findings suggest this is still the case: Email ranks as one of the most preferred digital marketing platforms for brand interaction (44 percent), and 75 percent of online shoppers are either somewhat or very likely to open email from brands.

However, when it comes to this medium, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing for customer engagement.

Online shoppers’ top complaint (49 percent) about marketing messages is that they simply receive too many of them. Furthermore, most recipients (29 percent) prefer to hear from a brand less often than once a month, while only 11 percent prefer to get brand messages more than once a week.

“The findings signal that in this day and age, consumers both expect and appreciate email messages from their favorite brands,” said EJ McGowan, general manager at Campaigner, in a news release. “However, savvy marketers must do their due diligence to research and determine what cadence of email is most effective for their audience. Acting on these insights will ensure that campaigns are successful from the perspective of both sender and recipient.”

Marketing to Millennials & Generation X

Perhaps most surprisingly, the survey finds that Millennials are the most likely generation to engage with marketing emails. Nearly a quarter (22 percent) say they are very likely to open an email from a brand, compared to just 15 percent of the group surveyed overall.

After their digital preference of email (51 percent), 47 percent of Millennials surveyed say they utilize social media to interact with brands. While Facebook is still their top social choice (65 percent), Instagram is another favorite among this group with over a third (37 percent) saying they use it to interact with brands. Additionally, Millennials are nearly three times as likely to use Snapchat to engage with brands as the average online shopper (14 percent).

“As social media-savvy as Millennials are, when it comes to brand engagement, email is still the best medium to reach this group,” said Seamas Egan, associate director of revenue operations at Campaigner, in the release. “Yet nearly half of these consumers are also taking to social to follow brands. Marketers should meet them where they are while being trepidatious about investing too heavily in what may be flash-in-the-pan platforms.”

When it comes to Generation X, the data suggests that this group is more receptive to a higher frequency of email than the rest. 27 percent think receiving emails from brands once a week is ideal.

Buy-in from Boomers & Traditionalists

The survey indicates that those born in the Traditionalist and Baby Boomer eras are fonder of interacting with brands in physical stores than the average shopper. In fact, 73 percent of Traditionalists and 67 percent of Baby Boomers say they prefer to interact with brands in-store, compared to 65 percent of the group overall.

This data suggests that for digital marketers targeting Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, online deals that further entice foot traffic to stores may resonate best with this group. Additionally, Traditionalists appreciate helpful tips and short reads more than the average online consumer, at 28 percent versus 13 percent overall, so content marketing may be most impactful for this group.


Campaigner Email Marketing conducted its 2017 Generational Marketing Insights Survey, sampling 761 consumers that make purchases online from April 20 to April 26, 2017. The margin of error is +/- 3.6%. See full survey results here.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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