05Oct
By: Pete Boyle October 05, 2017

For decades email has stood unopposed in the world of digital marketing. It has the highest ROI of any channel and, I’m willing to bet, forms a major element of your store’s marketing strategy.

But here’s the thing.

No one person, action, or tactic can remain undefeated forever.

The human race is as ingenious as we are unsatisfied. We’re forever looking for ways to improve. Forever searching for methods to take our accomplishments and achievements to the next level.

There are some pretty persuading arguments to say that Messenger might be the tactic to usurp email as the highest ROI channel.

Stick with me whilst I break down the key benefits for each channel so you can make up your own mind on what wins.

The Reigning Champ: Email

Email is simply the king of ROI.

The number fluctuates, but the generally accepted statistic is an average 38:1 return on investment for email, which is huge.

email vs messenger

Whilst that statistic is bandied around feverishly by entrepreneurs and ecommerce professionals, it’s not the most impressive aspect of email marketing in my opinion.

Achieving that incredible ROI is the reward for a well optimised campaign It’s what you get when effectively leveraging the varied awesome abilities and features email marketing allows.

So what are the features that will help you and your store earn a better ROI? Let’s quickly run through them.


Effective, In-Depth Tracking

Most people view email tracking as open rates, click rates, email bounces, and unsubscribes.

But, if you want to get close to that 38:1 ROI you’ve got to look beyond the statistics your email service provider provides and track how your emails drive on-site engagement.

Fortunately, many of the better email service providers provide a tracking code to install on your website (think similar to Google Analytics code) so you can track on site engagement and attribute it to specific campaigns and emails.

Drip has one of the best interfaces and tracking metrics of the email service providers I’ve personally tried, and gives you killer reports like the one below

email vs messenger

This on-site tracking is of paramount importance, not just because it helps you optimize for conversions, but because it helps you better understand your audience.

Imagine two competing stores, both send two emails and track them in two completely different ways.

The first sends the emails and analyses only the email service provider metrics. One email sees a higher open and click rate than the other and so is declared the winner.

The second store tracks user interaction on-site (either with GA or with a service like Drip that tracks user’s on-site actions from email campaigns) to better understand how users progress through later stages of the purchase journey. They see that the email with the lower open rates actually led to more high ticket sales, ultimately driving more revenue.

Not only has the second company identified the email contributing to their true north metric of revenue, but they’re better positioned to analyze the customer journey and understand what messages drive sales.

They’ve got data which will help them better optimize their future marketing because they’re able to track the whole customer journey and understand the messages which best resonate with their users.

Tracking these actions, both in email and on site, also feed into the next major benefit of email.


Advanced Segmentation

Segmentation and personalized messaging are  the new poster children of effective marketing.

Over the last few years email marketing services have become increasingly detailed at their segmentation rules. 

With the advanced tracking mentioned in the previous section, you can now segment users based on multiple behavior and engagement stats for greater granularity.

Here’s a quick overview of some key segmentation parameters from John Watton.

email vs messenger

As John points out, this is less about segmentation and more closely related to behavioral marketing.

So what does that mean for ecommerce stores?

It means a greater granularity and thus higher relevancy in your emails.

Let’s put it into real terms and continue with store 2 from the aforementioned example.

They’ve sent the email and tracked every action through to the conversion goal allowing them to segment the audience into four groups. Each segmentation allows the store to send more relevant emails to that group in the future.

Group 1 didn’t open the email. There’s little data to act on here, so future messages will still be generic. The goal would be to send emails that get readers to engage so you can fill out their customer profile, such as:

  • Resend the initial email at a new time and with a new subject line to elicit action.
  • Send another generic product promo to see if that gets them to open and engage.

Group 2 opened but didn’t click. Again there’s a lack of data so you’re taking a bit of a stab in the dark here. The below are some viable options to explore to get them to engage and provide you with more info:

  • Reword the copy of the email to see if it was the wording they didn’t engage with (useful to understand what offers work best with your audience).
  • Send a follow up email reiterating the offer to get them to act.

Group 3 clicked but didn’t purchase. This is where the data helps out and your options really start expanding:

  • Track which products they looked at and look for patterns. If you promoted jeans but they looked at five pages of shoes, send them an email that offers a shoe purchase incentive.
  • Did they check the initial product page numerous times? If so, they maybe just need a push to purchase (like a 10% off incentive).

Group 4 are those who purchased. These guys are your cash cows as it’s far easier to sell to someone who’s already purchased from you, and you can do so through the below:

  • An upsell or cross-sell promo related to the product they purchased. A pair of socks if they bought shoes, a phone case if they purchased a charger, etc.
  • Tag them as high engagers and email converters to push more relevant promos to them in the future.

Segmentation isn’t an option anymore, it’s par for the course. If you want higher converting, relevant emails you’ve got to track your users and segment them into appropriate groups.


Email’s Flexibility

One of the amazing things about email is its flexibility.

You can send pretty much anything through email.

Long-form content, short-form articles, images, videos, links, sales letters, audio files, promotions, follow ups, request, surveys, the list goes on and on.

What this flexibility does is allow you to test so many different elements to see what’s going to increase conversions.

Will adding images help drive revenue? Will increasing your email’s length build more trust? Will including video links or audio downloads make a difference?

Email allows you to continually test your messaging and content which, when coupled with the advanced tracking and segmentation, can help you gain a far better understanding of your audience and what it is they want to hear from you.

If you want to check out a recent example of how email testing can increase sales and conversions, check out Joanna Wiebe’s retelling of how she achieved a 350% lift in Wistia’s paid conversions. 

Sure, that example might be for a SaaS company, but the concept is the same. You can drastically increase the conversions of your brand, regardless of industry, thanks to the flexibility of email.

Email is king of the digital marketing channels for various reasons. The reasons that I’ve listed here are just what I consider to be some of the most important.

However, whether email will continue to reign supreme is a question no one is rushing to answer. It seems that the new kid on the block is set to give email a good run for its money.


The Challenger: Messenger

Nothing lasts forever.

Email’s had a long reign as the king of marketing channels, but there are rumors that its time atop the ROI throne might be up.

It’s still too early to definitively say whether Messenger will usurp email marketing, however, the data that we at Recart and other brands across the globe are recording paint a very promising future for the channel.

So what is it that has people so excited?


Messenger’s User Base

In 2017, the number of email addresses sits at 3.7 billion.

email vs messenger

That’s a huge number and it’s projected to grow at 3% per year until 2021 and perhaps beyond.

How can Messenger, a comparative newcomer, expect to compete with that?

Well, in the last three years Facebook Messenger has grown from 200 million, to 1.2 billion users.

email vs messenger

That growth puts email’s to shame, and according to Facebook, they’re already working on ideas to attract the next billion users.

Messenger itself might not be the staple of daily life email has become, but Facebook is slowly becoming an invaluable part of many people’s lives. 

The advocacy and adoption from many large businesses of Messenger to better communicate with customers looks like the first step in the next journey of making Messenger an integral part of our day-to-day life.

It’s slowly becoming the go-to method of conversing with the brands customers want to purchase from.

Messenger might not yet be as big as email, but all signs – and Messenger’s recent growth achievements – point to it growing at an exponential rate.


Messenger’s Engagement

Messenger doesn’t yet have the user base of email, but there is one area where they’re far outperforming every other digital channel — engagement.

There’s a tonne of businesses across the web who are detailing the incredible engagement stats set by their Messenger campaigns.

At Recart we conducted a little experiment in email vs Messenger and discovered the below stats.

email vs messenger

As you can see, Messenger is outperforming email in every key metric, most importantly it achieved 3X the amount of revenue. 

We’re not the only ones to have seen this increase in engagement.

Bots for Business specialize in Facebook Messenger bots across multiple industries and have not only seen an 80%+ open rate across campaigns, but also see 7-10X the CTR of email campaigns.

email vs messengerWhat I’m trying to say is that Messenger is incredible for driving engagement and action. Action which leads to an increase in sales.

Messenger provides immediate responses from both customers and brands, making for more engaging, targeted, and relevant messages.

The need for advanced tracking isn’t as pronounced as much of the communication happens in the moment and so is, by default, highly relevant.

Which brings us on to the next section on why messenger is so successful.


Talking With, Not at Customers

The reason email has been so successful is because it’s a direct line of communication from your brand to that customer.

Social media, blog posts, press releases, and even paid ads, despite their advanced targeting, preach to the masses. You’re still throwing a message out there and hoping that someone takes note and engages.

That’s where email differs.

Email is a one-to-one communication channel. Sure, you send mass broadcasts, but with the advanced targeting I mentioned earlier, you can ensure that the message is almost perfect for the recipient.

So what does Messenger do better?

Well, the big problem with email marketing is that you’re talking at your users and potential customers, not with them.

It’s kind of like being on the receiving end of a sales pitch, one where you have no say until the salesman is finished leaving you with only one response, yes or no.

Messenger though, creates a conversation.

It’s the only channel that solicits real time feedback from your users, the only channel where they have a say and shape the conversation which builds interest and engagement.

Check out the below example from 1800-flowers.

email vs messenger

It’s the perfect example of conversing with your users to help them find what they need instead of simply shouting a sales message you think will work because of your segmentation efforts.

But you know, the most interesting element of Messenger isn’t the short messages or immediate responses.

The best part of messenger is the speed with which you can respond.

At first that sounds simply like good customer service, right? But it’s more than that. Timing is everything when it comes to conversion optimization.

The right message at the right time will make a sale.

When people are actively engaging with your brand it shows they have a high purchase intent which you need to act on quickly.

Think about it like this, when a customer asks you if you have a product in a certain color, size, or model, it’s a huge indicator they’re ready to buy.

Now, if they have to send that request via email and wait a few hours or even a day for a response, you’ve missed the window of highest purchase intent.

In the time they’re waiting for you to get back to them, they could have easily found the product on a competitors store and bought it, which means that you’ll miss out on that sale.

But if you can respond to them immediately, as you would in a conversation, there’s a far higher chance that you not only secure that sale, but that your customers will feel more loyal; to you thanks to the better customer service.

That’s why Messenger is getting such killer response rates and engagement stats. It’s simply there when the user needs it to be, and provides a more fluid experience for your customers.


What Does the Future Hold for Messenger? 

This is what it comes down to.

Is Messenger the channel that can finally usurp email as the highest ROI channel?

Maybe, but not just yet.

I’ve spent years experimenting with email marketing and have seen some incredible gains through the channel. It’s a channel I love, and one that’s helped me grow numerous brands including my own.

Email is a mature channel, one which has been extensively developed and includes various advanced features to help you better market to your customers.

Messenger on the other hand is the new kid on the block.

It’s showing great promise and is getting far higher engagement in the areas where they’re going head to head, but it’s not yet at the level of sophistication email has developed.

Messenger is quickly gaining ground on email in terms of features and is already outpacing the platform in the areas where there’s overlap.

So what should a smart store owner like you do?

Well, what you shouldn’t do is abandon email marketing in favor of Messenger. Right now Messenger simply doesn’t have the advanced functionality and tracking of email.

However, if you already haven’t you should be looking at implementing Messenger on your site ASAP.

Right now, Messenger is the perfect complement to your email marketing. And if the last year is any indication, in the near future Messenger will continue to outperform email in other key marketing and communication areas for ecommerce as the platform progresses.

Right now, if I had to advise some specific campaigns your store needs to be running I’d recommend focusing on:

  • Welcome messages
  • Cart abandonment
  • Order fulfillment updates
  • Customer service Q&A

Messenger isn’t just a nice thing to have on your store or a new fad that will die out. The success rate of stores across the globe and the growing user base points to a new channel that might one day overtake email as the chief ROI channel.

If you want to get started with Messenger but aren’t sure where to start, be sure to check out this in-depth guide the Recart team put together.


Want to learn more?


What’s your opinion on Messenger vs email? Let us know in the comments below.

  • I Desire Jesus

    Wow this is a powerful article very insightful, I’ve been looking at messenger for awhile for my blog as well. I think this can actually replace the comments box. Great job Pete.

  • MalikaBourne

    Thanks for the insight.
    Maybe you can help me out with messenger questions. I’m worried I’ll miss communication with my customers.
    When I first started messenger it took 8 to 9 months for my messages to be readable. Then a year and 1/2 for video to appear that woman sent me and I was expecting..it may very well be 1d10t errror on my part. NOW, I have people most I don’t know, spaming my messenger with junk like ” don’t connect with this person. They are a hacker.” or 95 people, know are telling me they are starting a prayer chain for Las Vegas. or to pass on an old video of a child abuser.
    is there a way to fliter out my Shopify costumers on messenger from the “stuff: well meaning folks thinks is urgent but wastes my productivety shifting through?

  • Rokas Golcas

    Great insights!

  • Hi Pete Boyle, All of your information is great. Cart abandonment is very important for me.