While it doesn't tend to get the same buzz as channels such as social media, email quietly delivers extraordinarily impressive results for marketers year after year.
Email marketing has been steadily effective for so long that an important fact about it is often overlooked: it's still evolving.
From the platforms that power campaigns to the ways consumers consume messages, email is undergoing profound changes.
What are some of these shifts? Which innovations and changes in behavior could have a big impact on the field in the next 12 months? Here are nine key email marketing trends we believe every brand should keep a close eye on in 2019:
Email began as a purely text-based channel and that has often continued to be the primary focus. Traditionally, marketers have paid some attention to things like headers and images, but the bulk effort has gone towards developing good copy.
Finally, that's starting to change. Brands have begun to realize that effective campaigns are as much about the visuals as the words, and they are starting to focus on design elements such as icons, illustrations, and button colors. Expect to see even more of this in the year ahead as marketers witness increased engagement from their design efforts.
What's behind the increased focus on design? In part, the same thing that's driving many of the current changes in email marketing: the shift from desktop/laptop computers to mobile devices.
Some 55% of emails are already opened on mobile devices, up from just 29% in 2012, and that share is expected to steadily grow in the coming years. In other words, email is now mobile-first and every decision that marketers make in the next 12 months (the length of messages, how they are displayed, etc.) should take that into account.
In addition to the rise of mobile, there's another broad digital trend that is impacting email marketing: the rise of video.
Video is expected to make up 80% of all Internet traffic by the end of 2019; 54% of consumers want to see more video content from marketers, and audiences say they are more likely to retain marketing messages delivered via video. Combine all that with the fact that email platforms are making it easier to deliver visual pieces in campaigns, and this could be the year that more video makes it into messages.
For a while email personalization was mainly superficial; marketers would "individualize" messages by simply including something like the recipients name.
Thanks to more powerful marketing platforms and richer data that has started to give way to true personalization. Brands are increasingly targeting highly specific content and offers to individuals based on past and predicted behavior.
This approach already yields impressive results — 82% of marketers report increased open rates with rich email personalization — and is set to become even more effective in the year ahead as tools become more sophisticated.
Why are email marketing platforms expected to become more sophisticated in 2019? Largely because of artificial intelligence.
AI is no longer something out of science fiction: the technology is now being implemented across a wide-range of areas. Concerning email specifically, artificial intelligence can already help marketers develop effective content (topics, subject lines, etc), optimize send times/frequency, and predict audience actions.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. AI is evolving rapidly and there should be many more real-world applications coming for email marketers in the year ahead.
Triggered emails — messages delivered only when an individual has taken a certain action such as subscribing, abandoning a shopping cart, etc,. — have a 71% higher average open rate and 102% higher average click-through rate compared with general newsletters.
Those numbers are driven by the fact that marketers tend to have greater insight into intent when it comes to triggered emails (what the individual did/wants/etc.) and can deliver more relevant messaging. That effectiveness, and the fact that audiences tend to be less annoyed by triggered emails, is a strong argument for their increased use in 2019.
Here's a simple fact that marketers often forget: emails can be interactive.
All too often, campaigns are thought of as being static rather than dynamic. Today, though, marketing platforms make it possible to add a host of interactive elements to emails, such as image carousels, hamburger menus, clickable hotspots, and navigational anchor tags.
There are also other more simple tactics marketers can utilize to enable audiences to engage with messages, such as including a 'reply to us' option for recipients. At minimum, brands should consider experimenting with this sort of basic interactivity to boost engagement in 2019.
The biggest email story of the past year was the GDPR. The regulations adopted by the EU put in place strict controls on how marketers can collect/use data and gave consumers much more control over their personal information. Suddenly, many of the approaches brands had taken for years, such as buying email lists, became questionable.
While the GDPR concerned European citizens, it was by no means an isolated event. Consumers across the world are deeply concerned about how brands are using their data and the issue is certain to remain at the forefront for years to come. Case in point: the California Consumer Privacy Act goes into effect in 2020 and will impact US email marketers in similar ways to the GDPR.
Every day individuals and businesses send more than 293 billion emails, and that number is expected to increase to more than 333 billion by 2022.
In other words, consumers' inboxes are flooded with messages.
How do you break through that noise to get your campaigns opened and read? In part, through some of the approaches already discussed: utilizing personalization to deliver highly relevant content, sending messages based on triggered actions, and optimizing subject lines with AI.
There's also another way to stand out: by having a unique voice. That may sound like a little thing, but it's hugely important. Developing a distinct tone gives marketers a big advantage when it comes to email; it makes messages different and instantly recognizable to audiences.
Of course, the need for a unique voice is nothing new — it's been important since the advent of marketing. That highlights yet another thing that makes email amazing: it's the perfect blend of old-school and new-school. Ultimately, it is the best of both worlds. It is a channel that remains very familiar to brands while also integrating the latest digital advances.
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Michael Del Gigante
MDG Advertising was founded in 1999 by Michael Del Gigante, who currently serves as the agency's Chief Executive Officer. The agency — now the 6th largest in South Florida — attributes its growth to exceptional creative strategies, outstanding client service, and results-oriented executions. Perhaps even more important, MDG has not only been quick to embrace new technologies such as digital and social media, but has focused on how these channels will benefit its clients. Over the past decade and a half, the agency has consistently produced award-winning, innovative work for companies and industries in a multitude of verticals.