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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Better Data and Personalization Are the Future of Email Marketing

image for juststock / Getty Images
juststock / Getty Images
  • 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 are easily accessible on mobile devices will be important.

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 it one of the most common forms of communication on the planet. With such a large user base, it only makes sense that marketing teams try to capitalize on it 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, a 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, it's important that your email marketing strategy reflects those changes. To get a better idea of what to expect, Business News Daily reached out to experts to get their insights on how email marketing will evolve in the near future.

 

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As in most industries today, machine learning and artificial intelligence are quickly 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, the 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 other 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 tend to get expensive for a small business's needs.

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 you, you're more likely to delete it or mark it as spam than read it. If you're creating an email marketing campaign, you'll want to 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 in 2020 and the years to follow. 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 signup. 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 signups, but the subscribers we will get will be more engaged."

From the smartphones in our pockets to the specific internet browser we run, tech companies are constantly trying to find ways to dissolve the boundaries to a fluid user experience. 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 likely means depends on who you ask, but we could soon start seeing emails that look and operate like their own miniature web experiences. Featuring things 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."

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."

Sharing your company's story in a casual manner not only lets people connect to your business, but it does so in a low-cost manner that jumps out in a person's 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, is value-added content for new prospects, and generally makes it as easy as possible for everyone to stay engaged without having to go onto your site."

Our world is increasingly connected, in large part, because of the miniature computers we carry around with us. As ubiquitous tech, our smartphones are individual platforms that connect us to our email accounts, social networks and personal data. Nearly everything your brand puts on the web should work on a smartphone to ensure that your omnichannel marketing efforts don't go to waste. Matt Erickson, marketing director at National Positions, said that concept should be no different for email marketing campaigns.

"There is an almost direct correlation between the decline in desktop email opens and the increase in mobile email opens," he said. "Image-heavy emails with long blocks of text are often difficult and cumbersome to view on a mobile device, so text-based emails that are blocked out for simple mobile viewing will be a great starting point for testing your upcoming email campaigns."

Responsively designing email marketing campaigns for mobile devices "will maximize accessibility and user experience, which will become increasingly the gold standard," Lewis said. Accounting for smaller screens, properly displaying your email in an app and making localization efforts "will impact template design, copy length, and calls to action and need to be considered throughout campaign development."

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. Currently, he is responsible for reviewing tax software and online fax services. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.