Email marketing is still very much alive in the age of blockchain, internet of things and virtual reality. Developments occur rapidly, which also holds true for email marketing. What can you expect in the coming year?
In 1971, the year that Jim Morrison was found dead in his Parisian apartment and NASDAQ was founded, the very first email was sent. Initially, email was primarily meant for one-to-one communication.
Seven years later, in 1978, the first email was sent to a group of recipients. This happened to the horror of the inventors, users and applicable conventions of that time. In the meantime, email has grown to become a marketing channel of stature.
This year email will celebrate its fortieth anniversary as a marketing platform. It’s the perfect moment to look ahead. What are the three most significant trends when it comes to one of the oldest, yet most powerful, online channels: email marketing?
Email marketing focus #1: Hyper personalization in email marketing
Must be another buzzword, you might think. Quite the contrary.
In recent years marketers specifically focused on identifying online and offline visitors. An email address could play an important role, sometimes even a connecting role. All of a sudden, it was possible to communicate with clients! Online and offline data could be combined in many cases.
However, today’s marketers have to go further. It is no longer just about identifying, but rather about understanding the identity behind an email address.
Seen in this light, personalization is so much more than the use of a first name. Personalization is about understanding the context, which is something today’s consumer expects.
In fact, most brands and organizations have their data in order. They possess demographic and transactional data and develop campaigns based on it. However, that does not say anything at all about the consumer’s underlying motives to make certain choices. Does someone buy a high-end monitor because of its design or because of its high framerate to play games? Specifically, that type of data enables marketers to be relevant, now and in the future.
It is no longer just about identifying, but rather about understanding the identity behind an email address.
So here is a focal point for 2018: create a context profile. It serves as an extra layer on top of the customer view, which is based on the preferences that have been enriched implicitly or explicitly, But now includes real-time data.
Consider very recent behaviour within other channels, including websites and chatbots, but also the moment of opening and the location. Making use of such data enables optimal communication.
Of course, this is not only relevant for email channel, and the data must be made available for the channel that best serves the consumer. It may well be a push notification, an interaction with a chatbot or a trigger to a call-centre.
Email marketing focus #2: Interaction!
Always online, anywhere and everywhere. With so many different connected devices the consumer is able to interact with email (and any other channel) at any time. The inbox is everywhere. Whether in the guise of smartphones, wearables such as smartwatches, or even voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Mobile first is the fundamental principle when it comes to the development of email designs. It is used to create an optimal user experience. The Dutch DMA email benchmark showed that an average of 40% of opens was registered on a mobile device in 2016. For retailers, this figure is significantly higher and the mobile tipping point has long been reached.
Crucially, more and more interaction will take place within the inbox. It is no longer a logical consequence that a click in an email will lead to an extra browser tab. Emails will increasingly mirror our online experience. This development is also referred to as kinetic email or agile email.
Cinema chain ODEON used high-quality video elements and hover images for an optimal experience.
Another great Yourzine example is a survey which is integrated the email inbox. This lead to significantly more completed questionnaires and increased customer approval.
Email marketing focus #3: Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence cannot be ignored. Artificial intelligence and marketing automation is a must for every marketer in the upcoming years. Talking about it is one thing. Actually making the most of it is something else entirely. Within our organization, we mostly use AI to determine the right target groups, dialogue timing, channel and communication content. More powerful platforms and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology enable us to convert text such as reviews, complaints and emails into practical insights.
A wonderful example of that is that a large number of our clients make use of our developed Subject Line Optimiser. With this tool, marketers no longer have to randomly test a number of subject lines to find which one is best by means of an A/B test.
This is where the voice of an email marketer still carries a lot of weight. With the aid of NLP and machine learning (AI technology), we create the optimal subject lines that depend on timing, used segment (the type of recipient), customer journey phase and desired behaviour (open, click, conversion).
Rather than an educated guess, several well-built subject lines are tested within a campaign. It could be that, within a specific campaign or target group, the brand name should be communicated in combination with an action-mechanism for target group A, but it shouldn’t be for target group B. The combination of artificial and human intelligence showed a conversation increase of 40% as opposed to old-fashioned A/B test winners.
Natural Language Processing is also used to allocate consumers’ real-time feedback based on the type of question and sentiment to another call-centre agent. The consumer is a leading factor, who needs to be supported in the most optimal way at any time. One customer is not like the other. Automating this process ensures the consumer gets help more quickly and more efficiently.
Let’s make 2018 a memorable year!
The three trends described here could be mentioned with regard to any other channel. However, in this article, the trends were specifically plotted with respect to email marketing focus. Once correctly applied and implemented, these trends will take your email marketing to a higher level.
Relevance at any desired moment, without backing consumers into a corner. Just what the channel was designed for in 1971: One-to-one communication.