By Lisa Kember
The one year anniversary of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) passed quietly at the beginning of July and it seems to be business as usual behind the doors of most small businesses.
Constant Contact marked the anniversary by conducting a couple of surveys. And the data showed surprising results.
Contrary to popular belief, Canadian consumers rate email as their number one method for staying in touch with businesses – and by a long shot. Sixty-eight per cent of consumers prefer email for businesses to stay in touch. Twelve per cent prefer staying in touch via telephone, 8 per cent via mail, 7 per cent via in person conversations, and – here is the most surprising detail – only 5 per cent prefer communicating with businesses on social media. Canadian consumers are saying loud and clear that they want to stay in touch with businesses, and that they want to do so through email.
This is major validation for the businesses that are already leveraging email marketing and a wake-up call for those that have yet to get started. When it comes down to it, email marketing is the single channel where businesses own the relationship with their contacts. With email, unlike social media, you are guaranteed to get your message directly in front of your audience—in their inbox.
But the second Constant Contact survey, which covered small businesses across Canada, a huge issue arose. According to the data, almost 40 percent of Canadian small businesses aren’t using email marketing at all. Only 19 per cent of those are considering adding email to their marketing mix this year, a clear missed opportunity in light of the feedback from the consumer survey on how they prefer to hear from businesses.
And for those who do use email as a marketing tool, there is room for improvement. The research shows that 61 per cent of them use mailbox providers like Gmail™ and Outlook®, rather than an email marketing service provider, to do email campaigns. That’s a problem because those mailbox providers offer no way to maintain CASL compliance, through features like permission tracking, CASL-compliant email list signup forms, and unsubscribe functionality. Nor do they maximize marketing efforts through mobile-responsive templates, list growth tools, and results tracking.
The good news here is that many small businesses are reaching consumers where they want to be reached. That said, like any marketing effort, you need data to know if what you are doing is working. Are people opening your emails and clicking on your links? Who is subscribing and unsubscribing? Mailbox providers like Gmail and Outlook aren’t designed to do that.
Perhaps even more importantly, there is a higher bar for any business using email marketing today, making it more important than ever that they take advantage of the email technology that’s been designed to keep them on the right side of CASL compliance.
Most small businesses — 70 per cent — have continued to use email marketing as they had always done. Some 9 per cent have even increased their efforts and 6 per cent started email marketing for the first time. Only 13 per cent have decreased their email marketing activity and just 2 per cent have stopped altogether.
And the big concern when CASL went into effect last year was around the decimation of lists, with the restrictions on how permission had to be collected and maintained. Yet according to the data, list size has remained mostly consistent with a pre-CASL world. Sixty-five per cent of small businesses’ mailing lists have stayed the same post-CASL, while 25 per cent have decreased list size and 10 per cent have increased list size. CASL has also had minimal impact on business metrics for individual small businesses, who stated that the effect on customers, prospects, profitability, gross revenue, and overall success largely remained unchanged.
Clearly one year out, the impact of CASL has been much less than previously feared and the value of email marketing remains strong.
Perhaps all this says is that CASL has only been enforcing what good marketers were already doing – practicing permission marketing.
Lisa Kember is the Regional Director for Constant Contact in Eastern Canada. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org