Must-know email marketing trends for 2018

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6 emerging email and marketing automation trends to help inform you 2018 email marketing communications strategy


Email marketing continues to be a vital communications channel with the DMAs latest Email tracker showing that email receives 30 times return on investment on average. 95% of respondents rated it as 'important' or 'very important' to their organization.
Yet competition in the inbox for attention from email subscribers remains fierce as social media remains important and competitors optimise their approach.


So, it's important to review the success factors to improving email ROI, which we summarise in this article with the help of the email specialists who kindly contributed their views and predictions on the trends which will be important in 2018. While some of these are not 'new' techniques, they are increasing in adoption since they are vital to keeping up with your competition and engaging your audience further in the customer lifecycle.


Our lifecycle marketing model shows you the potential customer touchpoints and how email marketing aids in increasing relevance and response to communications. Marketing activities such as personalization, loyalty programs, and re-engagement email programs are vital to your email marketing strategy. Whilst SEO, PPC, social media, and advertising may contribute to getting your customer into the top of your sales funnel, it is essentially your email marketers that keep them there, increase repeat purchase and increase customer-brand engagement.

 

Which techniques are already part of current email marketing activities?


The Email Marketing Industry Census 2017, by Econsultancy in association with Adestra, shows that segmentation (80%) remains the highest priority and technique used in email marketing campaigns in 2017. However, this is only a 1% increase from 2016 showing very little businesses are adopting this technique further than what they were in 2016.


Optimizing emails for mobile had the highest increase (9%) showing adoption of this technique is becoming increasingly popular and important for retention, UX and engagement on on-the-go devices for quicker and more convenient consumption of content. Other techniques with an increase in importance were:


Encouraging social sharing (2% increase)


Transactional Emails (2% increase)


Location-based emails (4% increase)


Dynamic content and dynamic social feeds (4% and 3% increase)


However, it is interesting to note that personalization is a technique that has decreased in popularity by 4% (beyond adding in the user's name). Whereas this was a rising email trend a couple of years ago, it is hard to show how it has progressed further. More is needed than customizing the email to include the users' names. This has become the standard practice and is no longer considered 'personal', users now expect to see their name, anything less is off-putting and risks low engagement. Whilst email competes with organic (SEO) and paid search (PPC), it can drive a higher volume of sales than other channels and is important for customer acquisition, engagement, and retention


Trend 1. Respecting personal data will change your email marketing strategy


This isn't a 'trend' as such that marketers are voluntarily adopting but instead enforced by the European Commission May 25, 2018. It's vital to comply with or risk hefty fines.
The way data is collected, stored and used for email campaigns has previously and continuously had a bad reputation due to the negative handling of personal data - often viewed as spam by the recipient. However, as GDPR comes into effect, we will see other counties tightening their data handling procedures, including America's CAN-SPAM


General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) changes will be enforced in 6 months, affecting all businesses that market to customers in all 28 European countries. This is the biggest change happening that affects email marketing strategies in 2018. For many years obtaining email addresses, phone numbers and other personal contact details via competitions and promotion of free whitepapers has been a technique to increase contact databases, used afterwards for email re-engagement campaigns that the user had not originally and explicitly consented to. Re-consent needs to be given to store and use personal data.


With this change, we will see companies tightening up their use of personal data. This change will hopefully decrease the negative stigma that has built up around company email campaigns and the number of spam users receive.


What do marketers need to do in 2018 to comply with GDPR changes?


1. Processing of data is done lawfully and fairly,
2. data is collected for explicit legitimate purposes
3. making sure the data is adequate, accurate, and
4. retained for only as long as necessary.
5. processed in a manner that maintains the integrity and confidentiality of the personal data.


Trend 2. Mailable 'Microsites' are adopted by more companies to increase customer research, engagement, and retention


A mailable 'microsite' is an interactive email, which allows the user to interact with the email interface within the inbox. The adoption of this technique will help retain customers and give a more engaging approach to content. Interactive emails keep the inbox interesting and unique.


Features of an interactive email may include, but not limited to:


Integrated forms and surveys: done 'in the inbox' without directing them to a separate online landing page


Social sharing: this makes it easier for your user to share content on their social platforms
Gifs, videos, and animations: this can engage users, but can sometimes lead to inconsistent experiences across email clients (large files will mean a slower download)


Search in email


Menu options/navigation bars: integrating these into your emails can increase clicks leading to higher conversions


Rotational banners/carousels: this encourages interaction with the content, increasing the chances of positive engagement and conversion


Countdowns: adding in a countdown clock for sales and promotions will alert the recipient of the urgency to take action - this can help give the audience a little nudge to convert, rather than the standard 'offer ends soon' text


Interactive email essentially hands your audience everything they need on a plate - with minimal effort from them. They do not need to divert out of the inbox to view content, interact with video or complete surveys - making it more likely they will interact due to less effort needed to complete a task.


It surprises me that this technique isn't already dominating users' inboxes from the already dull, boring and flat static emails that are sent to surplus. However, until some email clients such as Outlook support these features, it will be hard to fully adopt this technique.
Check out this email sent by Feel Unique, who used gifs in their emails to showcase their new app, how to use it and entice the user to download it.

 

Trend 3. Conversational tone is adopted for more personal interaction with audience


The tone you chose to use in your emails affects the way your customers will respond. A conversational tone may not be the best tone to use across all sectors, but it does give a more personal and genuine interaction between the customer and brand.
A conversational tone will ask your users questions, get them thinking and then give them the answer they need - through your CTA directing them to your content that helps/educates them.


Whereas a more formal approach may be better for B2B sectors, asking questions and starting a conversation with your audience is important for engagement.  It will feel more personal show that the content you have produced has had them in mind, feeding their needs for answers, content, products etc.


Trend 4. More businesses push for mobile-friendly design


As shown in the Econsultancy chart, 73% of respondents are prioritizing optimizing email for mobile devices, a 95% increase from 2017 and the biggest for any email trend in the last year. This is only going to increase as the year progresses into 2018.
We now live in a mobile-first society, where content is consumed on the go, in the early morning or late at night via mobile. I myself, check my social notifications and emails on a morning to catch up on the day ahead. It is now more important than ever to make your emails mobile-friendly, after all, why should this medium of marketing be neglected from other mobile-optimized content?


Mobile optimized sites increase loading time, and this counts as an important ranking factor on SEPRs and gives an overall excellent UX for your audience. This is also true for email - slow loading emails that aren't optimized risk low engagement rates and poor clickthroughs, especially if the CTAs have been cut off from the mobile design.


Trend 5. Testing and deliverability need addressing further


Ultimately, this comes down to the background work your email marketers do to make sure the emails are opened with the correct design and delivered to the correct email folder. Without doing the background work, all the extra effort for design and copy are lost and your customer engagement rate decreases.


Rendering your emails is important to make sure your emails are viewable across all email clients. Taking the time to create a great design and engaging copy is a wasted time when your customer cannot see your amazing work. Rending gives your customer a customized experience, regardless of the email client they use.
Test your emails to make sure the design is perfective, the images load and the copy is exactly where you want/need it for engagement.


Trend 6. Personalization and segmentation remain a high priority to continue sharing dynamic and engaging content



Dynamic content remains important year-on-year, to create a personalized experience for your customer with more relevant communications. Dynamic content refers to the HTML within your content which changes based on the recipient. This goes hand in hand with segmentation (list/location-based emails). Together they provide the user with an email that is customized to them.


This is important creating a unique experience which makes the user feel valued by the company. The most basic and widely used form of personalization is inserting the name of the user into the email, rather than a standard 'dear customer' or a simple 'hi'. But this is no longer enough.


Our machine learning customer lifecycle shows the importance of dynamic content email - it contributes to engagement with loyal customers and lapsed customers. Without dynamic content, you aren't telling your customers why they need to come back or keep buying/interacting with your brand.

 
One rising trend we notice email specialists are excited about is the rise in using machine learning to achieve the highest level of personalization for the customer.

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