Email marketing is just 5 years away from being half a century old and yet is still changing and evolving as much as any millennial.
No longer do we hear the outcry that email is dead, but rather the rally cry that email marketing is smarter and stronger than ever and is being used to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time. Powerful and affordable email marketing and automation are more accessible to every marketer regardless of technical ability, industry, or budget.
Email marketing continues to be one of the top performing tactics in marketers technology stacks so we once again partnered with some of the best and brightest email leaders around the globe to get their predictions on what we might expect in the next year.
Marketers will use data to improve the quality of their email lists, single touch payment from an email could be possible, and email marketing and automation will continue evolving into a dominant powerhouse driving consistent, engaging, revenue producing campaigns that don’t require hours of labor or code to deliver.
2017 promises to be the year of the marketer.
Data science is making email marketing smarter by powering better automation and personalization. However, data science isn’t a “set it and forget it” solution. 2017 will be the year marketers focus on the care and feeding of their data-driven marketing. They’ll zero in on the data points and behaviors that lead to truly valuable insights. They won’t rely solely on implied preferences but will make more strategic use of expressed preferences through preference centers and progressive profiling to regularly recalibrate their data intelligence. They’ll also routinely update and optimize their automated emails for great engagement. “Set it and forget it” is dead.
Email has held its place in the dock through mobile’s rise. With more than 68% of emails being opened on mobile devices, we know email and mobile are forever interfused.
My prediction is that the rise in mobile payments will make its way to inboxes in 2017. I don’t know if it will be iOS or Android first, but I think you will see a native, fingerprint-based integration SDK for Gmail/Apple Mail on mobile that will allow 1-click confirmation/payment from email in 2017.
I wholeheartedly believe that flexible email design systems are going to be the foundational change in how email is created in the next wave of innovation in our industry.
Designers, developers, and content creators will work together to develop the systems they want to use in their campaigns, or email service providers will deviate from their code first stance and provide sets of modular templates with meaningful content components. Fewer decisions and less time will be needed in the design of emails so the focus will shift to creating more meaningful content rather than the headache of constantly designing and creating the “container”.
Like the design and grid systems of the web, there will always be opportunities to break rules and paradigms and design out of the box, but the vast majority of companies simply need to send great communication with less friction. I believe the email service providers that are able to produce products that help teams and clients do this with the right balance of constraint and flexibility will rule the next decade in email marketing.
The key to email marketing is sending the right message to the right people at the right time. Marketing automation has helped marketers in all three of those areas, and I think it’s going to get even better in 2017. For one, automation is going to become much smarter. We’ll see more options to fine tune automated campaigns with things like advanced segmentation and time optimized sending so we’ll have complete control over not just what our message contains, but who will get it and when.
Secondly, I think we’re going to be able to tap into all the insights and learnings from our email service providers. The most forward-thinking companies will help set their customers up for success by providing pre-packaged customer journeys. Shaped and optimized by data, these automation templates will help even the most novice email marketers get value out of marketing automation and create campaigns that really move the needle.
Lastly, there’s the huge, untapped potential of SMS. By being clever, tactful and responsible, SMS can be the perfect compliment to our email marketing campaigns by helping us reach our audience with relevant messages precisely when they’re open to them.
I predict that marketers will start to integrate customers behavioral information from new devices. Google Home and Amazon Echo are just the tip of the iceberg of new devices that customers are sharing their likes, dislikes, and other behavioral data with that marketers can use to incorporate into their marketing strategies.
As more and more consumers welcome smart devices into their homes and lives, marketers are now privy to more and more consumer usage data like sites visited, apps downloaded, or games played. Behavioral data is uniquely valuable to marketers because it provides information above and beyond what static data can provide. Behavioral data enables marketers to divide their audiences into segments on the basis of preferences allowing them to use tactics like personalization and relevant content to deliver the right message at precisely the right time. By integrating these tactics into their marketing strategies, marketers are positioned to increase engagement and drive KPIs throughout the funnel.
Marketers who integrate behavioral data into their marketing strategies will dominate their competition in the year to come.
Email marketing has always been about reaching the right people, but this is an evolutionary concept. Email marketing is reinventing itself by acknowledging Person + Profile + Purpose = Performance.
The value is not in the email list (like we used to say), it is through the list. In the past marketers tried to collect heaps of information when someone signed up or joined a list. Then the pendulum swung the other way and in an effort to remove barriers to signing up, marketers attempted to remove friction and began only collecting email addresses. Now that one-size-fits-all messages are no longer the norm and subscribers demand targeted and relevant content, marketers need to have more data about their audience. The quality of an audience is defined for a large part by the completeness of the subscriber’s profile because there is where Purchase Intent and other valuable data to segment on is found. We’ll continue to see a further emphasis on data gathering. That means that sign up forms will collect more valuable information and the related onboarding programs will go beyond a single email into a customer journey series.
I think this is profoundly influenced by tactics advocated in B2B marketing automation. That is why it will take flight and drive adoption in 2017. It is changing how everyone (including B2C) looks at their audience value. The rise of (predictive) lead scoring and easily accessible tracking of (website) behavior is what is happening.
10 years ago, I made my big break into email marketing. It involved designing, sending, and measuring promotional email campaigns for a major media network and it was beyond a full-time job. We were so caught up in tasks like building forms, creating templates, and running queries to pull subscriber lists, that success meant simply getting an email out on time.
We were a hardworking – and smart – team. But back then, we just didn’t have the tools or campaign timelines to manage sophisticated KPIs.
Today, email marketing platforms are designed to streamline email development tasks, provide rich reports and importantly, talk with other business apps. Any good email service can provide reports on opens and clicks, but also bounce rates, subscriber location, and more. But beyond the click, marketers can now use tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics (previously Omniture) to report on the ROI of email marketing campaigns, without having to laboriously build custom email links and content to get these insights.
As we see email further integrate with other marketing and analytics platforms, I predict that more marketers – and not just engineers – will be able to determine ROI, but also see how email is influencing repeat purchases, renewal rates, feature adoption and more.
2017 promises to be an exciting year and the future of email marketing has never looked brighter.
For a look back, check out our 2016 Year in Review to see all the amazing things that email marketers accomplished in 2016.