Email Marketing Trends into 2018

22nd November, 2017 - 14 minutes read

Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools for harnessing revenue from your existing customer base. I’m talking the people who already like your product or service, the ones who are potentially getting their heads turned by (perhaps) snazzier, more engaging brands.

With the minefield of data out there on email marketing trends, it can be difficult to know how to best keep their attention.  Even if you’re a seasoned email marketing professional, the rate of change in different industries themselves, in email technology and in consumer market trends can make it tough to know which strategy to employ.

Everyone wants to turn heads.  So how can you catch someone’s eye?

This article aims to set out an overview of how email marketing has evolved over the last few years, to help you furnish your campaign with the best possible chance for results.

 

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Segmentation

One of the most important factors that is evolving is segmentation, and how you ensure each of your target markets receives the most pertinent message for their interests.

Asking your customers’ frequency of delivery preference is now practically archaic, and merely including their name in the subject line is not enough to entice that all important click to ‘open’. In fact from 2015 to 2016 Communicator reported a dip from 2.6% to 0.3% open rates from subject lines that included a first name. “Hey Peter, we’ve some exciting blah blah blah…”

Basic personalisation is not enough going into 2018.

We need to be speaking to our customers as if they are in the room.  After all, they’ve invited your brand into their lives through your other marketing campaigns, so make sure you keep the conversation interesting and build a meaningful relationship.  They will only develop that relationship further if you make the effort to provide communications they want to act on.

The conversation you choose to start should also be targeted to the customer – Baby Boomers will respond very differently to Millennials for example, given the same content and message.  Men vs Women.  People who use one product, vs people who use another.  Even more so, within your own customer base you will find that certain messages and media have better results than others, which is where experience in marketing and using your data wisely, pays in dividends in the long term.

The images and content you use to market your brand will speak to different generations in ways you might not have considered before.

In the very succinct words of Copy Blogger:

“Gen X might like friendly, slightly cocky content. The Silent Generation may prefer a professional, authoritative tone. Baby Boomers may like a site that stimulates thoughts of self-gratification and leisure. Gen Y might be searching for what’s cool and trendy.”

The tone of voice and general style of email communication should reflect your other marketing channels, so it’s important to work with an ESP (Email Service Provider) that will help you with segmentation and targeting to help you get the most out of your campaign. The ESP you use will also help you to manage your data responsibly, so the greater the capability for creating segmented lists, the greater the opportunity for personalisation through anticipating what your audience want to see.  Automated emails can then allow you to trigger certain emails based on what action your users performed, and what further data they provided you. For example, if you find that users click on a particular feature, send them a follow up email with more information.  It’s more of what you anticipated they want to see.

Making sure your platform supports your email campaign’s requirements is really important in ensuring your campaign fulfils your customers’ needs.

 

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Technology

Deliverability remains a key issue into 2018, with many carefully crafted emails destined for the dreaded spam folder.  ISPs are better than ever at filtering out spam so that it doesn’t even reach your junk box. And those that do, certainly aren’t doing the brand any favours.

Filter levels work on a much more personal level now, learning from your activity and tailoring your spam needs. Unfortunately ESP’s (Email Service Providers) are still relatively behind this trend, showing little visibility beyond ‘spam score’ or ‘complaints’.  However, depending on the platform you choose, there are increasingly easy to use tools for building sophisticated, targeted campaigns – and the better the performance of your email campaign, the less likely you are of ever being blacklisted by ISPs.

Tools like Postmaster by Google allow greater insight into where your campaign might be failing, through delivery errors, spam complaint rates, and even tracking your send IP’s reputation.  This allows greater care to be taken over what your message is, and how you can avoid spam-land.

The ICO are clamping down on unregulated use of personal details used for marketing, with Vanquis Bank Ltd being fined £75k in October 2017 for sending just under 1 million SMS and email messages promoting their credit cards, to individuals who had not provided consent to receive such marketing content.

Even if you currently run a relatively spam-free campaign, there’s no guarantee that this will continue based on our ever changing customer habits and technology advances.

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Customer Journey

It’s likely that your customer found you via your other marketing campaigns before becoming part of your customer base.  This is largely true of most email campaign lists of course, but can help in tailoring the customer’s journey ongoing, and their experience of your brand.

Perhaps they purchased a product, and then agreed to receive emails.  Or downloaded a white paper. Perhaps they met you in person, and connected with your brand on Social Media.

Whatever that first touchpoint, it sparked their interest enough to give you a chance.

So with your ongoing email campaign, you want to reward your customer with exciting, engaging and personalised content as much as your budget allows, tailoring it to their specific entry point.  Granted, this can be difficult for smaller businesses, but it doesn’t rule it out.

Automated emails can be a great way to start, and offer a greater open rate by a mile.  According to Communicator’s recent report, automated emails outperformed non-recurring emails by 75%, with an open rate of 44% – way above the industry average of 20%.  However, from their customer base only 30% businesses were employing automation in their campaigns.

Email volumes are increasing and relevance remains a ‘known unknown’ for many marketers, with fewer than one in 10 marketers (9%) saying all their emails are relevant to their customers and more worryingly, only two in five (42%) say that at best ‘some’ of their emails are relevant to consumers.

This just shows the unadopted potential in a very powerful marketing stream.

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Content

The look and feel of emails in terms of the CTOR (click to open rate) is an important factor in how customers interact with the design of each email campaign.  Research has shown that videos and animations that overpower the message do too much to distract the customer from the message, which will erode the revenue potential of this marketing stream.

Whilst ‘innovation’ can be exciting and interesting, it only serves your campaign if it supports your key messages.

According to the DMA (Direct Marketing Association), only 9% marketers agreed that all of their email content was tailored to their customer base, with a staggering 42% admitted that only ‘some’ are relevant to their interests.  Lack of engaging content continues to be a key issue, so make sure you’re strategy is relevant to your customers into 2018.

Furthermore, a worrying statistic by the DMA is that over 50% customers have considered deleting their email account in an attempt to control unwanted marketing.

Alongside content quality, campaign frequency is something that 4 out of 5 marketers agree should be limited, to prevent bombarding customers.  This of course should be coordinated with direct mail, SMS or telephone marketing that you might be carrying out simultaneously.  It all counts towards your brand’s integrity.

And of course the increase in our addiction to smartphones has seen an increase in the number of marketers ensuring email designs are mobile responsive, so UX should continue to be high on your list of content priorities.

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GDPR

I’ve touched on how the ICO are policing marketing campaigns and consumer privacy, however you may have heard that GDPR is the next level in data security requirements for online businesses.  This new  ‘General Data Protection Regulation’ is set to launch in May 2018, so businesses with an outgoing marketing strategy it’s essential to know what you’re required to comply with.

Econsultancy provide a good overview of what marketers need to look out for, the first of which relates to whether the customer wants to receive your marketing emails.  Just the other day I sent an email enquiring about a service, and since then I’ve received no less than 4 emails about further events and services. Not only does this turn me off the brand, but it’s forced me to unsubscribe, flagging that I never signed up to the campaign.  The practice of adding anyone and everyone into your email campaign is still rife, but you shouldn’t take this as accepted practice. It’s against GDPR regulations and you could face hefty fines.

There is a general call for businesses to be clearer about what data they collect, how they use it, and how they store it to comply with a new higher data protection regulation, so ensure your data protection policy is up to date on your communications.  It’s all about ensuring legitimate interest applies, and that you genuinely have permission to contact the individual with a your chosen marketing message.

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Conclusion

It’s not all doom and gloom.  I promise.

Yes, it’s tough to ensure that your marketing campaigns deliver the best possible ROI. And that your customers are retained to reduce the need for expensive campaigns to gain new business. But as long as you comply with a few key rules into 2018, you should be able to hone a decent strategy that will inspire your customers towards your key marketing objectives over the next 12 months.

In short:

Ensure you keep it relevant – Your customers are special, treat them to tailored, truly personalised campaigns.

Make sure you comply with GDPR – It’ll support your brand’s integrity

Automate to help guide your customer’s experience of your brand

Invest in your campaign – Don’t expect ill-performing tools to do your campaign justice

Learn – From your customers, data, and campaign performance. And use it to improve.