- By 2023, there will be an estimated 4.3 billion global email users, according to Statista.
- Since most users tend to look at promotional emails in the same light as spam, future email marketing campaigns should aim to be more personalized.
- Email marketing methods that make the message work more like a website and that are easily accessible on mobile devices will be important.
- This article is for small business owners and marketers looking to prepare for the future of email marketing.
It’s hard to imagine a world without email. More than 4 billion people are expected to have at least one email address by 2023, making email one of the most common forms of communication on the planet. With such a large user base, it makes sense that marketing teams try to capitalize on that base by sending their messages directly to their intended audience’s inboxes.
While most brands have some form of email marketing strategy, today’s consumers are generally savvy individuals who can instantly recognize the one-size-fits-all approach that many email marketers take.
“The key has been properly managing email content that is educational and serves the reader with helpful information and promotional emails that lead to your product or service,” said Crystal Sheffield-Baird, strategic content storyteller at Crystal Clear Storytelling. “Too much promotion and people will unsubscribe; not enough and people will forget what your business is about, and they won’t become customers.”
As the internet and how people access it shift with the advent of new devices and standards, your email marketing strategy should reflect those changes.
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1. Machine learning, AI and cloud-based technology will change the face of email marketing.
As in most industries today, machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming a major part of email marketing. Advances in both forms of technology have made marketing automation a possibility, tailoring messages to an intended audience based on customer data.
Kent Lewis, president and founder of Anvil Media, said AI will “bring new and improved capabilities to email marketing” that will not only ensure campaigns comply with privacy regulations like GDPR, but also give small business owners the tools to create major email campaigns without the need for large budgets.
“AI will automate and improve many aspects of email planning and management,” he said. “For example, AI can make quick work of what used to be elaborate and time-consuming A/B and multivariate tests, [and] optimize send times and personalization to a ‘hyper’ level based on demographics and, more importantly, predictive behavior. Compliance with GDPR and other evolving regulatory restrictions has created tremendous complexity, which AI can help manage and simplify.”
Stacy Caprio, owner of Her.CEO, said technologies like cloud-based computing will also play a big role in email marketing in the coming years. Service providers like Sendinblue, Zoho Campaigns and Amazon Simple Email Service are game-changers in the industry that will end up “lowering costs for everyone,” since high-volume email lists can be expensive for a small business’s needs.
Key takeaway: Artificial intelligence is expediting what were once slow, tedious A/B tests.
2. Personalization matters.
Whether your email marketing strategy targets individuals or other businesses, one thing remains certain: People want to feel like their specific needs are being met. Consider your own email inbox for a moment. If you get an email that seems overly promotional or unrelated to your interests, you’re more likely to delete it or mark it as spam than read it. If you’re creating an email marketing campaign, make sure your message passes that simple test.
“People simply open and react to emails that are tailored to them, but including their name and workplace is not enough,” said Jakub Kliszczak, marketing specialist at CrazyCall. “Taking it to the next step – personalizing the email according to the website they’ve been on recently or things they like or recently did – is much more powerful. This sense of familiarity creates trust, which, especially nowadays, is key to creating a relationship.”
To that end, Olga Mykhoparkina, chief marketing officer at Chanty, said hyper-personalization is the future of email marketing. While marketers already focus on list segmentation based on general demographic and psychographic data, Mykhoparkina believes most marketers can do better to drive engagement.
“No matter how segmented our lists are, we can always go one step further and make our emails even more personalized,” she said. “The way to make this happen is by adding more steps before the actual sign-up. As subscribers opt in to an email list, they should tick a few boxes to mark what type of content they would like to receive. Perhaps this will create additional friction and decrease sign-ups, but the subscribers we will get will be more engaged.”
Tip: Read our Constant Contact review and Salesforce Marketing Cloud review to learn about email marketing software with all the key features, including personalization capabilities. They also are easy to use and integrate with your existing systems.
3. Interactive email will more easily bridge the gap to a sale.
Today, email services are generally relegated to a specific application or web address, but email marketing experts believe more interactive emails will take the industry by storm in the coming years.
What that means depends on who you ask, but we could start seeing emails that look and operate like their own miniature web experiences. With features like enticing video content, interactive calls to arms, and in-email instant messaging, email marketing materials could become portals to products or services.
“The more interactive you can make something, the more people look forward to using it,” said Zarar Ameen, CEO of CANZ Marketing. “There’s tons of space for email marketing to grow in terms of interactivity.”
Such changes to the way email marketing campaigns are created could increase customer engagement and click-through rates. Combined with AI technology, Lewis said, interactive components could “pull user-generated content into emails dynamically, creating more compelling storytelling and increasing read and engagement rates.”
4. Captivating storytelling will drive email marketing.
Everybody loves a good story, and if your small business has one, your email marketing plans should reflect that. Tasmin Lockwood, head of content at Radial Path, said customers want to cement their relationship with a brand.
“[Newsletters] give insight to employees, culture, social consciousness and plans for the future,” she said. “As a result, the customer feels like they are on a journey alongside the company.”
Sending newsletters in a casual manner not only lets people connect to your business, but it also does so in a way that jumps out in an inbox.
“It doesn’t have to be exclusively about your business – at Radial Path, we put together a weekly roundup of tech and telecommunications news,” Lockwood said. “This shows prospects that we’re up to date with the latest innovations and know tech well, which reinforces our expertise while offering value to a wider demographic and building a strong, engaged email list. This keeps existing customers in the funnel, represents value-added content for new prospects, and generally keeps customers engaged without having to go onto your site.”
5. User-generated content will become more common in marketing emails.
Customers are more likely to buy products that other people recommend. When you include user-generated content in your marketing emails, you demonstrate that actual people buy what you sell and, more importantly, that they enjoy your product enough to share it with the world.
To obtain user-generated content, you can automatically send emails after purchases that ask customers to leave reviews with photos. You can then include these reviews and photos in your emails. You won’t have paid any extra money to obtain this content, making it a great form of free email marketing.
FYI: User-generated content is powerful and free to obtain and use in your email marketing.
6. Data privacy will be paramount.
Following the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and changes to email marketing rules, you must be able to prove that the customers on your email list have opted in to your emails. These changes reflect increasing customer concerns over data privacy.
Addressing this concern can be as simple as stating that your emails adhere to Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance and GDPR standards. You should also send emails whenever you change your privacy terms. Alongside these updates – and every email – should come opt-out opportunities. This way, if customers feel uncomfortable with your data practices, they can unsubscribe and safeguard their information.
The right email marketing software matters.
The best email software for your business should equip you to handle the future of email marketing. That means the software should come with features like personalization, email triggering, segmentation and database maintenance tools. With these tools, your small business will be prepared for the future of email marketing and reaching your audience in new, creative and effective ways.
Max Freedman contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.