The marketing year is rapidly drawing to a close. For some, it’s pretty much already done. The Christmas promotions are all teed up. It’s just a matter of rolling them out and riding the wave from here ‘til January.
But what about January? And the rest of the whole year? If you could look into a crystal ball and see what will happen in 2016 (President __?), you might not necessarily pick a topic like email marketing to get answers for. But you might not even have to.
Email marketing is headed in several fairly predictable directions. Sometimes these changes are collected under a term like “Email 2.0”. Sometimes they’re the result of shifts in the Internet overall, like the rise of mobile usage. Sometimes you just have to look at what the innovators are doing, and the results they’re getting. There are plenty of signals to track.
This word cloud from an Econsultancy survey highlights many of the trends we’re seeing. This is how Econsultancy’s marketing audience answered the question, “Looking ahead five years, what do you think the single biggest change to email marketing will be?”
Lots of stuff to talk about there. But we’ll stick with the highlights, and focus on what you can do about the changes that are coming.
1) “Batch and blast” email marketing will become less and less effective.
“Batch and blast” refers to sending the same email to every subscriber. The most sophisticated marketers left the technique behind almost a decade ago. But for many small marketing departments, it’s still the Way Things Are Done. In 2016, I think more and more of those single-person marketing departments will try their hand at segmentation. Thanks to how effective segmentation is, and how easy many email service providers have made it, they’ll probably make it work without much trouble.
There are several studies that point to segmentation and/or personalization as being top priorities for marketers in 2016. Econsultancy and Adestra’s Email Marketing Industry Census report says 78% of their respondents believe that in the next five years all email communication will be personalized.
More segmentation is good news for subscribers, too. They are getting pickier about what comes into their inboxes. Irrelevant emails just aren’t tolerated. And they can’t be. With more and more messages filling up their inboxes every day, the culling process has to step up.
This email glut affects so many parts of email marketing that it deserves its own prediction.
2) Email inboxes will continue to fill up faster and faster.
So… do you get enough email? Would you like some more? I hope so. Because the odds are crazy high you’re going to get it. According to the Radicati Group’s Email Statistics Report, 2014 – 2018, you’re going to get 7% more email than last year, actually.
This is a huge issue for our subscribers. That makes it a huge issue for us, the email marketers. If our subscribers hope to get any work done, they have control their inboxes. That means more ruthless culling, for starters. But that’s just the beginning. Here are some consequences of “inbox endless”… the opposite of “inbox zero”:
Marketers have to constantly be upping their game if they want to keep their open, click and conversion rates up. Segmentation and other tactics help. But you gotta also deliver great content that’s worth your subscribers’ time.
Just avoiding unsubscribes is not enough. Email client inbox algorithms are getting smarter all the time. Your subscribers have to actively engage with your emails. Otherwise, the inbox algorithms will start sending your messages to the bulk folder.
3) Mobile will continue to grow in importance.
Already, more than half of all email messages are opened on mobile devices. That number is only going to continue to go higher.
This has several implications for marketers:
Use a design that’s either “responsive” or “mobile-friendly” (as opposed to a design that ignores how mobile devices render emails).
Test! Look at your emails (and click them) on mobile devices before you send them.
Shorter emails are likely to perform better.
Emails with small file sizes are likely to perform better.
Larger type sizes and simple, minimalistic designs will continue to be popular, and do well.
Don’t forget the landing pages!
Unfortunately, emails, landing pages, and websites will probably start 2016 still out of sync in terms of how mobile-friendly they are. According to the Litmus and Salesforce Infographic, 2015 Mobile-Friendly Email and Landing Page Trends, 16% of mobile-friendly emails are bringing subscribers to webpages that aren’t mobile friendly. And 52% of B2C brands have either websites or emails that aren’t mobile friendly. Ouch.
Single best fix for this? Start where it matters most: Your emails’ landing pages. It would be great if 2016 is the year email marketers started thinking more about how email messages and landing pages should be aligned.
Consider this: Make an email marketing New Year’s resolution that your landing pages aren’t going to be tacked on at the last minute anymore. Bake them into your editorial calendar, right along with all your other email marketing content.
4) There will be movement.
Videos, animated gifs and other things that move will gain wider use in emails. Used intelligently, these moving pictures attract subscribers’ attention and make them more likely to click.
Just one example of what’s possible is the countdown timer. The screenshot below is an example from the email design and coding company Email Monks. In the actual email, the clock clicks down, second by second, from within the email message.
One big caveat, though: Tie the animation, video or visual trick into the call to action of your email. Don’t just throw in flashy graphics because they look cool. The strategy and the call to action of the email are what subscribers really respond to.
5) Social media and email marketing will become more and more intertwined.
I hope the days of the social media marketers saying “email is dead” are over. I also hope more email marketers will concede that social media is not just a waste of time, or a branded folly.
Truth is, these two marketing channels can be as chummy as PB&J. Social media is an ideal medium to build an email list in, for example. And email content is enriched by bringing in some social media content.
Embedding social media feeds in emails is an advanced tactic right now, but hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. The two emails below are examples of a Facebook feed being embedded in an email message. The email message automatically updates itself (from within the email!) based on what’s been posted to the Facebook page. Cool!
Embedded social feeds in emails can be done with RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. According to some recent data, Instagram and email are particularly well-suited to each other.
I would love to see more examples of these hybrid emails in my inbox.
6) We’ll see at least one new app claim it’s going to kill email.
Why is this going to happen? Because it’s happened every year for a decade or more. Remember Facebook’s messaging service?
But email still won’t die. We’re all still using it, and using it more than ever. As Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield has said, “Email is the cockroach of the Internet”.
But will this as yet-to-be announced 2016 app actually kill email? I doubt it. Email is here to stay. So long as email maintains its ROI, it ain’t going nowhere.
Despite the frustrations so many of us have with email as a medium for communication, it’s charts like this that put everything in perspective… at least for marketers:
7) Your prediction.
How do you think email marketing will change in 2016? Will email marketers fare better, or worse? Will subscribers be treated better, or worse? Share your insights in the comments.
To help you start 2016 with more successful and profitable email campaigns, take a look at The Amazingly Effective Email Guide and learn five tips that will help you optimize your email results in the new year.
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