It may date back to 1973 and have been overt-taken in the digital communication fashion stakes by Slack and social – but could email be due a comeback in marketing and communications?

Of course, email marketing has remained popular throughout but, as brands got hooked on the targeting powers of digital advertising, many switched strategy.

Now that the pendulum is swinging away from indiscriminate targeting of users around the web, toward opted-in customer relationships, many are beginning to re-assess the value of email list building.

“Most brands have an email database and have a group of consumers they communicate with on a regular basis<” says Oded Benyo, president of the email practice at data management company Epsilon. “(But) brands are using email a lot more to do more promotional types of communication.

“Email can really be a much stronger tool in sort of creating a relationship and moving the relationship along between brands and consumers. I don’t necessarily think that’s a lot of what’s happening today.”

If brands aren’t fully taking advantage of email marketing, that may be counter-intuitive.

In recent years, a number of software platforms has emerged allowing brands to segment their lists and send customized messages based on individual subscribers’ actions in sales platforms, websites and apps, all alongside “drip” email campaigns which map to marketing funnels.

What is more, Content Marketing Institute research shows that email is the main customer nurturing channel for B2C companies.

But Benyo thinks brands use email in too much of an “episodic” manner.

“(They) send an email and then immediately run and see, well, did anybody respond? How did that turn out?,” he observes.

Instead, Benyo recommends using email to carry out an ongoing relationship with a recipient – something that requires using data about the recipient, from website analytics, purchase behavior and demographic profiles.

“All that information should feed into your email communication and ideally change the content, and alter the communication so that every person gets something that’s a little bit more meaningful, a little bit more relevant and, over time, moves them to take action or to engage with the brand different ways,” he says.

This video is from a Beet.TV series “Unlocking People-Based Marketing on the Open Web presented by OpenX.” Please find more videos from the series on this page.