Widen's digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) solutions power the marketing content for hundreds of global brands.

London, United Kingdom
Founded: 1948

This promoted content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic. A paid-for membership product for partners of The Drum to self-publish their news, opinions and insights on thedrum.com - Find out more

How eco-friendly are your marketing efforts?

June 15, 2021

The pandemic had – and continues to have – an impact on the way we interact, and one of the areas that has benefited significantly is e-commerce. The level of online shopping activity has of course been rising year-on-year, fuelled largely by convenience and e-commerce behemoths like Amazon, but also embraced by a growing number of brands looking to have a major Internet presence. Covid-19 took e-commerce to a new level however – last year, worldwide sales hit US$4.28 trillion, and are predicted to be almost $5.5 trillion in 2022.

While the efforts of supply chains have ensured that we have largely not gone without, it is interesting to note that there is an increasing commitment to sustainability from consumers and from businesses. A McKinsey study from 2020 across UK and German fashion consumers showed that almost 60% of those surveyed have made significant lifestyle changes to lessen their environmental impact; and more than 60% report ‘going out of their way’ to recycle goods and look for products in environmentally-friendly packaging.

Sustainability impacts the decision-making process

Many brands are putting sustainability at the forefront of their operations. We’re all aware of the ban on plastic bags, the now ubiquitous ‘bag for life’, and the reduction in single use plastics – all hard-fought and hard-won battles often instigated by consumers concerned at the damage humans are inflicting on the planet. Any brand with a conscience should be looking to have a sustainable business strategy, and it’s the role of the brand marketing teams to promote these environmental initiatives to customers and prospects. Sustainability is now a key part of the decision-making process when consumers are looking to buy.

While it brought e-commerce to the forefront of retail, so Covid-19 contracted new opportunities for marketing. With no events, and brick and mortar shops closed for months at a time, more marketing activity moved online, with email remaining one of the most popular ways for brands to both engage with existing customers and reach new prospects. According to Campaign Monitor, across billions of email interactions, retail had the lowest unsubscribe rate of any industry for email marketing. However, on the flipside, it also had the lowest open rate of just 13%.

The startling environmental cost of email

It is obvious to assume that brands looking to lessen their environmental impact would consider email as a sustainable method of marketing, but surprisingly, this is not the case. A standard email has been calculated to have a carbon footprint of 4g CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), according to Mike Berners-Lee, author of How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Not a lot – but think how many emails are sent each day! And of those, how many are then not even opened before being sent to the bin. Research by the UK’s OVO Energy showed that there are more than 64 million unnecessary emails sent by the British every day. They reckon that if each UK adult sent just one less email a day, almost 16,500 tonnes of carbon would be saved each year.

Let’s look at that in terms of retail marketing, and that low open rate of marketing emails: some 87% are ignored. Assuming the Berners-Lee calculation only goes as far as the email being delivered, that’s a massive waste of both marketing effort and energy – the pointless production of tonnes of CO2e. Brands need to work harder and smarter to increase the impact of their digital marketing on their bottom line, and to reduce its impact on the environment.

Personalise and organise

The issue with email – and in fact, with any kind of ‘instant’ messaging – is that it promotes laziness. Blasting out email promotions to an entire data set of customers is easy. But put some effort behind the management of that data, introduce personalisation based on known preferences, and the targeting becomes far more focused, leading to improved open rates, and higher levels of engagement and conversion rates.

It’s not just marketing emails that businesses and brands need to consider. Berners-Lee states that an email with an attachment can have a carbon footprint closer to 50g CO2e. Think of all those internal emails flying to and fro with documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, added to all the emails asking for assistance, checking whether it’s the correct file, asking where the current data or this month’s advertising image can be found.

The right content at the right time

Organisation of data is key here to reducing both the time and communication needed to produce accurate, targeted marketing – sending less emails and having less environmental impact but producing better marketing results. With digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) tools, finding the right content for the right audience at the right time becomes a rapid, streamlined process, saving time and CO2e.

Brands need to become far more efficient and effective in ensuring their digital marketing is fully considered in their sustainability strategy, as the world opens up, retail spending increases, and there is more competition for consumers’ attention. Brands that demonstrate a social conscience across all their activities will be set to succeed in a more sustainable world.

Learn more about how Widen’s combined DAM and PIM solution, the Widen Collective®, can help streamline your marketing efforts and reduce unnecessary emails.

By Jake Athey, VP of marketing and customer experience at Widen


marketing advice
Digital asset management
Product information management
content management system
Content Marketing
marketing insights