Ten leading experts looked into their crystal balls to see what the future holds for email marketing and made some bold predictions.

The question is, are you ready?

Prediction 1

A second coming of age for email marketing

Chad White

Chad White – Litmus

Email marketing was ignored, under-resourced, and declared uncool (and even dead) during the rise of social media.

It has always been the workhorse behind e-commerce, but now email marketing has become a driving force behind content.

Email marketing has also become central to mobile strategies. Reading email has been the #1 activity on smartphones for a long time, and the growing adoption of responsive email design is boosting smartphone conversion rates to make the most of this opportunity.

Reading emails on smartphones remains the #1 activity & responsive design will help skyrocket conversion rates

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The email industry is experiencing a wave of integration, where ESPs are being melded into customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning suites.

Email marketing isn’t just the No. 1 digital marketing channel, it’s also companies’ top source of data for analytics. So it’s not only a powerful channel on its own but the data generated from email marketing helps power other marketing efforts by providing actionable data insights.

Together, these advancements have elevated email marketing’s stature and gotten it very close to achieving the 1-to-1 marketing paradigm as brands are increasingly empowered to facilitate customer journeys and maximize lifetime value. But it’s not just that it’s getting well-deserved attention again, email marketing is actually cool again.

The cumulative effect of all of these developments is that email marketing will experience a second coming of age during 2016.

Email marketing will experience a second coming of age in 2016

Prediction 2

Gmail will fix its biggest flaw

Alex Williams

Alex Williams – Trendline Interactive

My prediction is that Gmail will add style support to their webmail clients and media query support to their mobile apps. This will allow email designers, marketers and ESPs to finally provide a great experience to Gmail users on desktop and mobile.

The reason this is even an issue is because 80% of Gmail users access their accounts via mobile and desktop email clients, but the remaining 20% open emails in the webmail, which offers little to no support for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) which can result in broken emails in Gmail. 

Gmail will add style support

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The email community has been very vocal at various online and public forums where Google product managers were present, and their answers were “it’s on the roadmap” or “we hear you”. We can tell by their testing of a “mobile-friendly” button in their apps that they feel the experience is subpar.

I predict 2016 is the year Gmail finally adopts some increased standards and support across their family of email clients, setting off celebrations around the globe. Then we all can go back to just complaining about Outlook.

Gmail will fix its biggest flaw

Prediction 3

Hyper-targeted emails will become the norm

Daniel Codella

Daniel Codella – ZURB

People are looking for unique and personalized experiences every time they interact with their favorite brands. As your user base grows, this becomes extremely difficult. Managing thousands or even millions of email conversations is simply too difficult for teams, even big ones to manage.

Fortunately, email automation allows you to craft and send personal, yet automated messages to your customers based on their behavior. This ensures your message is relevant, timely and engaging.

In 2016, I think we’ll continue to see email automation tools become even more useful, offering email marketers more ways to creatively use them. We can expect to see more integration with apps and products, allowing marketers to send emails based on not only in-app behavior but other interactions.

We’ll also see an ever expanding list of triggers, allowing us to send targeted messages based on all sorts of details, completely customized to the individual user, and giving greater context to our messages.

Trigger-based campaigns enable targeting like never before

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The goal of all of this is not to bombard people with more emails. The goal is to send them the right message at the right time; the most valuable content right when they need and want it.

It’s an exciting time to be an email marketer!

The goal is to send the right message at the right time

Prediction 4

Email templates will finally offer limitless control

Elliot Ross

Elliot Ross – Action Rocket

I’m expecting 2016 to be the big year for modular template design. For those that don’t know what modular template design is, you can think of it like Lego building blocks that you can pull in, rearrange, and use depending on the type of email and content you are sending. The goal is to be able to quickly, and easily edit designs without having to start from scratch allowing you to improve quality and consistency. 

With email automation becoming more easily accessible to big and small companies, marketers need an editable alternative where they can have versions of the same template instead of each one being different, heavy and complex.

Modular templates are convenient because you are able to continue to segment quickly and cost effectively, saving time using WYSIWYG editors; only editing content manually or dynamically to suit each segment and purpose. This means personalized, relevant and timely emails for each subscriber.

One template will provide infinite design options

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Using an editor also means that you can fix whichever modules you like for every send, such as headers and footers, allowing you to build a nearly infinite number of emails. 

All the time spent designing and testing individual templates will be a thing of the past because modular template design will rule in 2016.

Email templates will finally offer limitless control

Prediction 5

Get ready for insane personalization

Philip Storey

Philip Storey – Enchant

2016 will be the year that email marketers start to take automation seriously. Until now, most have dabbled with low-scale automation across the most lucrative customer touchpoints and experiences – examples include cart abandonment emails and welcome messages.

Many marketers have found success through these simple automated campaigns, but there is so much more potential. Email marketers will know when they are heading in the right direction, as more of their time will be spent on automation, versus scheduled campaigns and email broadcasts.

Marketers will deliver insanely personal experiences

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What does this mean for consumers? Consumers demand a personalized and relevant experience across all channels – automation is by far, the most effective way to deliver this through email marketing.

Marketers will deliver insanely personal experiences with automation

Prediction 6

The era of coding HTML emails is dead

Kraig Swensrud

Kraig Swensrud – Campaign Monitor

Email marketing is the most powerful channel in a marketer’s toolkit. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen several fundamental shifts in email marketing–from text-only emails to multimedia content, from desktop to predominantly mobile. This year we’ll see another major revolution for email marketing. 2016 is the year coding emails becomes a thing of the past and email design becomes drop dead simple. Powerful drag-and-drop technology will unleash the email designer in everyone and enable marketers around the world to create professional email marketing campaigns that deliver results.

We’ve ushered in a whole new era of email design. Modern emails have edge-to-edge designs, filling up the screen, no matter what size, device, or inbox. Modern emails have big, bold hero banners with engaging, interactive content and clear calls to action. Modern emails are relevant, serving up personalized content to each user when, where and how they want it.

Anyone can now create beautiful, professional email campaigns

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With the rise of email marketing technology, anyone can now create beautiful, professional email campaigns with drag-and-drop technology. Gone are the days of needing to know HTML code or Photoshop to design a professional-looking email. No one will start from scratch. Mobile-responsive templates, designed for business use cases, will enable anyone to spin up email marketing campaigns in a matter of minutes and drive their business forward.

The era of coding HTML emails is over

Prediction 7

Interactive emails will elevate brand experiences

Justin Khoo

Justin Khoo – FreshInbox

True user interactivity within email and powerful animations beyond animated GIFs, sometimes called kinetic email, allows marketers to create eye-catching and engaging campaigns that stand out in a recipient’s inbox.

Having its beginnings with simple experiments (such as image rollovers and falling snow animations), kinetic emails are beginning to feature increasingly ambitious interactive designs. Well-known brands such as Pret, Lego, Nest, and B&Q in the UK are realizing the potential for kinetic to elevate their brand experience in customers’ inboxes.

Interactive emails will elevate brand experiences

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Not only will more readers be able to view advanced kinetic content in email, but also the capabilities kinetic offers become more relevant.

Kinetic email offers companies new ways to express their brand identity and engage with customers. It’s only a matter of time before this new medium becomes mainstream.

Interactive emails will elevate brand experiences

Prediction 8

Animation will drive epic email engagement

Kath Pay

Jaymin Bhuptani – Email Monks

In 2016, there’s one thing I predict: The power of animation and interactivity in emails.

Interactive, CSS3 animations in emails will revitalize emails and provide them a fresh, new life. Animation and interactivity provide more opportunity for engagement, but can also improve open and click-through rates.

Interactive emails provide meaningful interaction right in the inbox. With animation, emails receive a new shape and structure creating a great psychological impact leading to enhanced interaction.

Animation will increase interaction and engagement with emails

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Earlier on, not many email clients supported attractive animations, but that’s not the case anymore. Although email clients haven’t advanced as much as web browsers, I see them supporting many more aspects of animation in the coming year.

Overall, email as a channel has so much to see. I’m quite optimistic about the advancement of interactive emails in 2016.

Animation will drive epic email engagement

Prediction 9

Email campaigns will predict the content you want

Kath Pay

Kath Pay – Holistic Email Marketing

One of the things that marketers are constantly struggling with is optimizing their campaigns, with the objective of being able to deliver emails that are valuable to the consumer.

For the past couple of years, automation and personalization have featured heavily on the email marketer’s agenda to implement, and now machine learning simply takes both of these one step further, with the end result being 1:1 emails that have been optimized for each individual based upon their actions and interactions with websites and emails.

Machine learning will result in 1:1 optimized emails

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Machine learning is when algorithms are applied to data and these insights are used to make predictions or decisions of what content to serve based upon the insights gained from the data, as opposed to following an explicit set of instructions designated by the marketer.

Although machine learning has been around for awhile and has been used extensively within e-commerce sites like Amazon.com, it’s really only just beginning to take off in email marketing when being applied to data mining.

Essentially machine learning allows email marketers to not only deliver 1:1 emails to individuals – emails that are personalized to that specific individual, with ease, but also to be continually learning and improving the results. The more data that is available, the more accurate, personalized and valuable the results are.

Machine learning allows our programs to evolve and improve over time, without it being too labor-intensive. So be prepared to see more machine learning technology available in 2016 and start planning to avail yourselves of it.

Machine learning will drive email marketing ROI through the roof

Prediction 10

Marketers will triumph when automation and email unite

Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn – Email Vendor Selection

In 2016, we’ll see the fields of email marketing and marketing automation come together. Marketers will move from sending simple newsletters to segmented and personalized emails campaigns.

We’ll see that more marketers will adopt behavior-triggered email and lead nurturing/scoring. Research by the DMA showed that triggered and behavioral driven marketing drive more revenue than in previous years, with a reduction in batch and blast email marketing.

Automation and email are coming together for the Do It Yourself marketer

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Forty-nine percent of marketers are currently using some form of marketing automation. But marketers with the dream of complete marketing automation of everything over all channels and touchpoints are bound to be rudely awoken. There we have both Need and Reality as the force, toning down inflated expectations and “Cloudy Dreams of Big Data”.

Coming back to earth, email, and automation will be coming together for a pick and mix. But don’t be sad, the marketer is the winner here, getting more possibilities to easily do more advanced campaigns.

Marketers will triumph when automation and email unite

Chapter 10

Takeaways

Ten of the top minds in the email marketing industry have looked into their crystal balls and made some bold predictions about what we can expect in 2016. From email automation, Gmail fixing its biggest flaw, and email being smarter, more personal, more flexible and engaging than ever, 2016 is bound to be a history-making year for email marketing.

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