Effective marketing is critical to success in the digital economy– and email is the most effective and most profitable marketing channel around.

Yes, you heard that right: email.

Each year the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) ranks channels based on return-on-investment (ROI); email has consistently taken the top spot. In the April 2015 the DMA reported median ROI of 21% to 23% for email – compared to just 15% to 17% for social media. Paid search and Internet display advertising fared even more poorly at 9% to 10% and a flat 6% respectively.

Offline channels also lagged behind email – telephone made a decent showing at 19% to 20%, while direct mail mirrored social media with a 15% to 17% return.

Marketers are seeing this ROI and shifting dollars to the email channel. StrongView surveyed global business leaders in December 2014 and found that 60.7% were planning to increase spending on email marketing in the coming year, more than any other channel. Social media came in second with 48.9% reporting an increase in 2015 spending.

Not unexpectedly, most of the marketing channels losing budget in 2015 were offline. Roughly a third of those surveyed reported decreased print advertising budgets in 2015 – with only 11.8% increasing their spend. Direct mail, Radio/TV Advertising and Tradeshows & Events also saw double-digit budget decreases.

Much of the growth in email marketing is in email newsletters. A June 2014 New York Times piece by the late David Carr waxed poetic about this “old-school artifact of the web” that was on the march. One of the people Carr interviewed called email “the cockroach of the Internet” – I’m not a fan of that analogy but I do love email and I agree that it’s not going away any time soon.

Quartz Insights conducted a study in March of last year and found that 60% of executives read an email newsletter as one of their first three news sources each day. TheSkimm is a new business venture that raised over $6 million in venture capital funding late last year with an email newsletter play.

But newsletters aren’t the only reason that email marketing’s star is rising again.

Marketing automation is another trend that is doing wonders for email ROI. Triggered messages, which are automatically sent based on an action performed by the recipient, have dramatically higher open and click-through rates than business-as-usual email messages.

Epsilon’s latest Email Trends and Benchmark Report (Q1’2015) shows a 65.0% increase in open rates and a 148.5% increase in click-through rates for triggered messages. That translates to an average open rate of 52.8% instead of the business-as-usual 32.0% -- and click-through rates for triggered messages averaging 9.7% compared to the standard 3.9%.

Even more importantly, when used for eCommerce automated messages can offer very high returns – In 2014 SaleCycle reported that an average of $5.64 in revenue is generated for every triggered cart reminder email sent. This is the result of a very high click-to-purchase ratio (35.5%) and a lift of 19.1% in average order value over standard email messages.

Even simple triggered messages, like those thanking people for subscribing to your email list, can be revenue generating opportunities. By adding marketing to the standard ‘welcome to our list’ copy I helped a client shift this program from a cost center to a profit center – the new program generated an average of $0.97 per email sent while the old program generated no revenue at all.

Intrigued? Watch this space for case studies, actionable advice and resources to help you make your own organization’s email marketing more effective and more profitable. Better yet, give me a call (202.365.0423) or shoot me an email ( JJennings@dprism.com ). I’m always happy to talk email – and discuss how we can help you boost your bottom-line with a sound email and digital marketing strategy.