Email marketing has often been labelled as a channel on the verge of extinction. But time and time again email has proven to be a high ROI channel that should be at the center of the marketing mix.
In one of the keynotes at The Feweb Congress in December of 2016 we shared our predictions for email marketing in 2020. In this article we’d like to share them with you as well!
The email channel will evolve faster over the next 5 years than at any time in our history. It’s already changing at such a rapid pace that it’s a struggle sometimes to understand adoption among marketers. Which brings us to our first prediction:
1. Hyper-Personalization versus information overload
Current technologies already offer you dynamic content, personalization and real-time content. But it takes a lot of time for marketers to fully adopt the possibilities of these technologies.
We expect these techniques to be used in full force by 2020, along with the next generation of triggers that are sent in response to a much wider and more diverse range of contacts’ behaviors. While marketers will still send broadcast messages, most of their email revenue will come from these highly targeted and therefore more relevant messages.
The hyper-personalization trend within email will dovetail with the “Internet of Me” trend, where consumers are increasingly expecting to see content on the web, on their smartphones and elsewhere that speaks to their unique interests and needs.
But that hyper-personalization trend will also have a flip side: both consumers and businesses will start to feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of data being produced. So while the need for better data protection grows stronger, consumers will also increasingly demand more power over how their data is used.
Today, preference centers and frequency capping see high adoption in early stages. In the next few years, we predict the implementation of these kind of techniques to have a big influence on results, as it will be in the audience’s best interest to define what’s relevant to them. It’s on marketers to evolve our preference centers to make this happen, and that means giving more control to the consumer.
When doing research on this topic, we came across this very interesting statement:Brands will stop creating email campaigns because machine learning and automation will completely redefine what a “campaign” is.
Of course, it isn’t that simple. Even though you put all that “actionable” data into effect, you still need to make sure we’re not overloading someone with information, and thoughtful strategies and well-written content with a human factor still need to be created.
No longer will email work ‘just because.’Only smart, innovative, and highly dynamic emails will drive interaction. Given current variable adoption of best practices, by 2020, we predict that systems will step marketers through all the best practices for customized lifecycle marketing, creative, and delivery.
2. Interactive Emails
Who likes to design for email clients? Unfortunately it’s not always a breeze.
In the past few years, we’ve seen that the number of email clients is decreasing. We’ll also start seeing closer communication between email developers and inbox providers. Fewer email clients means quicker testing and more time for innovation.
Emails have traditionally been gateways to landing pages. However, by 2020, a lot more consideration will happen within the inbox itself, thanks to email carousels, rollover images, embedded video, hamburger menus and other interactive features. Landing pages will still be vital, but increased email interactivity will create new interactions and make landing pages unnecessary in some cases.
Outlook and Gmail were already doing tests like Gmail’s priority email and Outlook’s Clutter feature. With new technologies, they will become better at predicting what consumers want to see. When you’re watching a sports game, you will more likely to see a summary about the game at the top of your inbox, and when you’re out shopping , the shopping list from your wife and a coupon should be more likely to pop up in your inbox.
3. A Technology For Millennials
The Millennial generation will be a significant driving force in evolving email. Specifically, Millennials will force email to become more real time.
For a generation active on Facebook and Snapchat, the best and most efficient kind of content is the kind that matters in the moment. That means we’ll be seeing less of long, and intensive messages and more of concise, instantly consumable content.
Truthfully, technical barriers have prevented email marketers from experimenting with this, but in the next several years we will finally see updated technology from inbox providers like Microsoft and Google allowing big leaps forward.
To survive and thrive in the years to come, email technology will need to become a technology worthy of Millennials’ attention. Expect new capabilities and technologies to expand what we can do with data.
4. Increased Data Privacy
Speaking of Millennials, some people have the impression that this generation has no expectation of privacy whatsoever. And yet, globally we’re seeing increased cries for privacy and new regulations. As technology grows more powerful in the coming years, increased demand for privacy will probably only get louder.
The European Commission’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is probably one of the most urgent examples and will take effect in 2018.
With new technology emerging almost by the hour and governments typically slow to respond, it will take some time before we see a global reaction. But it’s coming. And this means that marketers will have to think more carefully about what information we have access to and what kind of permissions we actually have. In short, it means more transparency.
5. Marketers will have to cater to an entirely new audience: machines.
“Email is the universal plumbing that connects the Internet of Things”. “When I get low on milk, my smart fridge could email my grocery store app, adding milk to my shopping list. And when I go grocery shopping, the receipt will be emailed to my financial software app.” says Paul Farnell, Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder of email creation, testing, and analytics software provider Litmus.
Building on the example of the calendar’s .ics file format, emails will make more use of standardized data formats. In the years ahead, there will be many more of these standard data formats available—think status updates, travel information, receipts…
Our biggest hope for the future is that where best practice currently states that permission, personalization, and relevance are key to success today, in the future those elements will be considered a minimum acceptable standard.
While change doesn’t happen overnight, it’s clear that the email channel has never been closer to undergoing a massive shift that will help make it look and feel like a technology designed for use in 2020, not 1990.