Email isn’t a shiny new tool, but it’s still a cornerstone of marketing, producing $40 for every $1 invested. Recently, it’s proven a versatile channel, adapting to the evolving marketing world and increased mobile usage with ease.
So what’s the future of email marketing? We asked experts Ann Handley, Jason Falls, John Hayes and Harry Kaplowitz for their predictions.
1. “More engagement, more revenue.”
“Email is evolving faster than it ever has over its long history. It’s rapidly making the transition from the ‘traditional’ desktop environment to mobile devices and is therefore becoming a more time sensitive, personal communication channel.
This means, in 2014 email marketing will simply get better, driving more engagement and increasing revenues for savvy marketers who really understand the benefits of detailed list segmentation and the delivery of truly optimized, timely content.”
2. “Hyper-targeting and smart automation.”
Harry Kaplowitz, Vocus deliverability product manager
“As online reputations and brand loyalty hinge more and more on the presence of relevant and in-demand content, phrases like ‘email blast’ and ‘mass broadcast’ will become relics of the past.
We are heading in the direction of hyper-targeted emails and smart automation. The companies that stick with the ‘spray-and-pray’ mentality of email marketing will look like dinosaurs of the email marketing world, and their engagement metrics are going to reflect it.
The email marketers that will succeed are the ones that will curate and proliferate content that their subscribers care about. Those who ignore subscriber preferences will be left to scratch and claw for conversions.”
3. “Increased competition to stand out.”
“Call me crazy, but I think email is the one area of digital marketing that absolutely has to change in order to not become irrelevant.
As much as we’ve focused on building opt-in lists and providing value through email marketing in the last two or three years, the value-driven content approach is becoming standard fare for lots of brands. That means it’s becoming common enough that no one is standing out anymore.
Brands will have to one-up each other in the inbox now, which is going to make for an interesting environment.
Will consumers embrace it and open those that have the most bang for the buck? Or will they say, ‘Enough is enough!’ and unsubscribe? Start your AB testing now. It’s going to be a fun couple of years.”
4 (a). “More visual and more functionality”
“On desktops and tablets, at least: Email will become more interactive — taking on the look and feel of a kind of micro-site, with video and other interactive elements.
A survey we ran on MarketingProfs recently indicated that video in email is growing: Right now, only a quarter of marketers include videos in their email campaigns, but that proportion is likely to change in the near future.
Of the markers surveyed who are not using video in their email campaigns, 25 percent say they are ‘very likely’ to do so soon and 55 percent say they are ‘somewhat likely.’ Just 20 percent say they have no plans to include video in future campaigns. This is part of a larger trend toward visual and audio content, of course.
But at the same time…
4b. “Text is the new black, for some messages.”
Text email makes a comeback, fueled by small screens on mobile devices and smaller smartphone data allowances. (I get those annoying data notifications often — especially the second half of a frequent-travel month!)
Also, text emails have a more personal feel — as opposed to graphics-heavy emails, which feel like mass-produced marketing. I don’t think marketers are doing to give up gorgeously designed email marketing anytime soon, but I do think we’ll see more recipients opting into text.
The smartest marketers will use text to communicate when they are looking to convey a more personal feel. (Welcome and thank-you emails, for example.)
4c. “Content rules.”
You knew I was going to include this one, right? : ) Increasingly, the most effective marketing messages — delivered via blog post, webinar, video, podcast, and, yes, email! — feel less like marketing and more like useful, enjoyable, inspired information your customers and prospects want, conveyed in accessible, human terms.
No marketing Frankenspeak — even you, B2B companies. In other words, my formula for innovative content applies to the best email, too.”