From cable television to casual dining chains, many long-lasting industries and popular products are suddenly struggling to find the growth and success they’ve enjoyed for years. And the reason, according to some commentators, is the much-maligned millennial.

Millennials have become a favorite scapegoat to explain the (real or perceived) stagnation and decline of many cultural and commercial institutions. Their influence extends well into the world of marketing, disrupting many time-honored tactics and forcing marketers to rethink millennial marketing campaigns and their approach to media, messaging, brand, and product.

The rise of a generation of tech-savvy brand cynics as a core consumer demographic begs some obvious questions: Do millennials use email? Is marketers’ favorite tool next on the millennial hit list?

The Danger to Marketers

It’s no wonder why marketers would be worried about the ongoing viability of the email. After all; it’s one of the most reliable sources of ROI in the entire digital toolbox. Losing it would be a painful blow to revenue for any business.

And intuitively, email would be an obvious channel for millennials to target (or worse; ignore and abandon). After all, this is supposed to be the generation that is constantly seeking new experiences , suspicious of corporate interaction, and hostile towards intrusive advertisement (84% of millennials don’t trust paid ads).

At a time when new media channels and flashy digital experiences emerge on a constant basis, how can email possibly keep up? Do millennials use email when they have so many other options competing for their attention?

The Good News

If you’re worried about millennials killing your email program, you can breathe a sigh of relief—at least for now.

Despite the disruption millennials are introducing to many other marketing tools, email remains a rock-solid way for brands to make meaningful, profitable connections to individuals in this generation.

In fact, as we’ve been explaining in our ongoing Future of Email circuit, millennials seem to love email.

Between personal and work inboxes, millennials spend more time reading and responding to emails than any other generation.

When you stop to consider what email offers that most other marketing channels don’t, it quickly becomes apparent why it’s millennials’ medium of choice. Email puts the control in the hands of the consumer:

The key takeaway: millennials want to engage with your brand…but they want it to be on their own terms!

How to Make Emails Millennials Love

Just because millennials have a preference for email doesn’t mean you can get complacent with your email program. They still have high standards, and won’t hesitate to unsubscribe or mark your messages as spam if you’re not delivering the experience they expect.

Want to earn, and keep, the favor and loyalty of your millennial subscribers? Start with these tips to make your campaigns for marketing to millennials as effective as possible!

Don’t skimp on the mobile experience.

Millennials check email on mobile more than any generation before them (a trend that continues for even younger demographics!). Make sure your email experience performs seamlessly on mobile devices, especially any of your more dynamic email elements!

Take relevance to the next level.

Everyone wants a more customized, personalized experience from brands. But millennials want it even more than most–and they’re even willing to give up personal information for it. But don’t think elementary personalization tactics are going to cut it; this generation wants comprehensive, one-to-one relevance catered to their immediate environment and preferences.

P.S. Need some help levelling up your email personalization? Learn how to do it easily (and at scale) from our latest ebook!

Let visuals do the heavy lifting.

Keeping emails brief and copy-light is not new advice. But when it comes to marketing to millennials, it becomes even more important to express a lot of information in an efficient, eye-catching way.

Visuals are some of millennials’ favorite communication tools. Millennials who use “visual expressions” such as emojis, GIFs and stickers say that those images better communicate their thoughts and feelings than words do at twice the rate that people over 65 do.

But don’t stop there; elevate your email visuals to the next level with slideshows, mouse-overs, and even fully-embedded embedded video to really keep your millennial audience captivated and entertained.

Ask, listen, and respond.

Millennials don’t want to be marketed to; they want to be part of ongoing conversations where their input makes a difference. 70% report feeling an obligation to share feedback on brand experiences; take advantage of that with invitations to leave reviews or even use live polls inserted directly in your emails asking your audience exactly what they think.

46% of millennials are digital content creators and users. Use their user-generated content in your emails to augment and enhance community engagement (with their permission, of course).

Once you’re getting input and feedback, don’t just sit on it. Use that data to fill out user profiles to provide more customized experiences in the future and inform your entire millennial marketing strategy!

CX is rising to the forefront of marketers’ minds, evolving into a sophisticated discipline and important pillar of customer acquisition and retention. Almost 90% of companies have shifted focus to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience (up from around 36% in 2010). But we still have a long way to go: although 4/5 brands think they provide a “super experience,” less than 10% of customers agree.

One frequently overlooked but crucially important component of CX is the email journey. Though not the newest or flashiest marketing technology, email remains an ROI powerhouse—and one of customers’ preferred ways to engage with brands. It’s one of the only channels that your audience actively ‘raises their hand’ to receive, and marketers’ best option for comprehensive 1:1 customer personalization.

It’s worth reevaluating email’s place in your own customer journey map—and what it could be bringing to the table for your brand.

The Digital ‘First Touch’

In many cases, an email is the first one-to-one interactive connection you can make with your audience. The customer experience begins here, and first impressions are critically important.

When someone subscribes to your mailing list or opts in for communication, they’re sending a clear message that they’re ready and willing to hear from you. The open rate for welcome emails is around 50%. That’s a huge opportunity that too often goes to waste.

A welcome email can set the tone for your entire relationship. Make a lasting impression with an incredible welcome email keeps customers coming back for more and sets the stage for substantial lifetime value.

Sending an Email Worthy of Your Brand

What your vision for your brand? Maybe you want it to be bright and helpful, or clever and entertaining, or serious and no-nonsense. There are a lot of ways you can shape a brand and its persona to connect with customers and plot a clear user journey map. But what you certainly don’t want is a brand that’s bland, confusing, or aimless.

Powerful brands call for powerful marketing, and powerful marketing means emails of the quality and caliber your company—and your customers—deserve. If your inbox experience is weak or outdated or inconstant, it undermines all the hard work you’re doing to establish a compelling and coherent brand voice.

The same old email strategy isn’t going to cut it. Whatever role you want your brand to serve, your emails need to rise to the occasion. New innovative email technology is making it possible to craft more relevant, personal, and brand-appropriate email experiences than ever. If you’re not keeping up, you’re at risk of getting left behind.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Here’s a common (and perhaps familiar) scenario: a dynamic brand invests heavily in digital to produce a top-of-the-line website, viral online content, an irresistible social media presence, and more. But its emails still look and behave more or less the same as they did 10 years ago.

Most digital marketing channels have made huge strides forward in recent years in terms of interactivity, user experience, personalization, analytics, and more. But for the majority of brands, the email journey has remained stagnant.

That’s a huge problem.

95% of customers use three or more channels to connect with a company in a single service interaction (with almost 2/3 using more than one device). In a global consumer survey, most expressed frustration over inconsistent experiences or information presented across channels.

A powerful, compelling customer experience provides consistent, coherent interactions at every touchpoint. It’s jarring to encounter an engaging and user-friendly brand website, only to receive a flat, lifeless email afterwards.

The myth that “my emails are interactive” is one of the most common, and most dangerous, misconceptions among marketers. In reality, most emails fall far short of delivering the experience and engagement that other channels deliver.

Start delivering the email experience your customers deserve with more cohesive cross-channel experience. Bring your emails into the modern age with open-time relevance, dynamic content, and real-time personalization.

It’s the age-old question in email marketing: What can brands do to create email campaigns consumers actually want to receive, but those that also help the company achieve its specific goals?

The good news is that, unlike other age-old questions (like the “chicken or the egg”), there actually is an answer. By helping consumers—giving them what they really want—the brand can also achieve its own objectives.

How to accomplish this win-win was the very premise behind a new research report, “Customer Experience Email Marketing: Getting Ahead of the Consumer.”

Produced by Holistic Email Marketing and sponsored by Liveclicker, this new report judged actual emails from 82 different travel and retail brands and scored them on three pillars of “Customer Experience Email Marketing”:

According to Holistic Email Marketing, these three attributes are essential as brands strive to improve their Customer Experience (CX) Email Marketing. This concept centers on relationships and helping customers become successful, not pure salesy, one-size-fits-all email campaigns.

CX Email Marketing can be a powerful advantage. “More brands are recognizing the critical role that email marketing plays in the customer experience,” says Dave Holland, regional director at Liveclicker. “It’s the center of every digital relationship, and when focused on ever-changing consumer preferences, behaviors, and context, can sustain a customer throughout their lifecycle with a brand.”

Holistic Email Marketing suspected that the three pillars described above are instrumental in achieving CX Email Marketing, so this became the hypothesis of the research report. Specifically, would improving in these three areas deliver higher engagement results? If so, would these translate to better business results for the brands?

In other words, can marketers successfully balance their business goals with their customers’ needs, wants, and objectives?

Opportunities galore

It turns out that the answer is a resounding yes.

To understand why, it might help to have a little background information on the research methodology. The Customer Experience Email Marketing report looked at three different emails from each brand and scored them from 0 to 3 in the three pillar attributes (helpfulness, personalization, and customer focus).

The results were relatively low (see the graphic below), but there’s still reason to be optimistic. The same research noted that “67 percent of brands that scored over the average score earned higher read rates than those that scored lower than the average.”

So clearly there’s a correlation—and a real opportunity—between improving in each of these three areas and delivering high-performing email campaigns.

Get personalizing!

It is interesting to note that personalization received the lowest average score, which was a 2.09 out of 9. In fact, the vast majority of brands, (74 percent) scored the lowest (0-3 points) while only 6 percent of companies ranked the highest. (7-9 points).

If the old saying is true, and “every challenge is just an opportunity in disguise,” those companies that can do more with personalization and deliver highly relevant, highly engaging emails will gain a significant edge over those that don’t.

To help you see how, the report also provides real-world examples of emails that achieved a perfect score in personalization (as well as the other two pillars). It also includes a detailed explanation of what each brand did well. These actionable insights serve as specific best practices that you can implement to improve your own results, and judging from the key takeaways it’ll be well worth the effort.

3 key takeaways

Side note: If you’re looking for another great resource to show you how you can improve personalization strategies and tactics, check out Liveclicker’s LookBook, “Real Examples, Real Impact.” This guide shows you how Liveclicker clients have implemented successful personalization strategies at every step of the customer lifecycle. Download it now, and get inspired!

Are your emails focused on the three pillars of CX Email Marketing? If not, download “Customer Experience Email Marketing: Getting Ahead of the Consumer” for new ideas on giving your customers what they really want. Not only will they thank you with improved engagement, conversions, and retention, but you’ll achieve better business results.