What’s driving the future of email? Who are the big players? What are the top strategies and technologies driving the market? These are questions everyone seems to be asking, but answers on future trends are never easy to come by.
The best way to determine the future is to look at what’s happening now, and look at where the momentum is headed. Here are three trends we spotted that will likely define the future of email marketing:
“Think mobile first.” That’s the advice from Expedia’s Himanshu Sinha. Mobile devices are becoming our preferred personal computer and are outpacing desktops and other devices for email opens and clicks. People read email on their phones throughout the day, in their cars, at the store, at work, and right before they go to bed.
Google estimates that more than 75% of its 900 million Gmail users access their accounts on mobile devices, and Sinha says Expedia’s numbers are closer to 80%. A seamless digital experience has never been more important. Customers are expecting it now.
“Customers don’t differentiate touchpoints. They’re just interacting with your brand,” said Sinha. The right technology needs to be in place to accomplish this. It’s also critical that marketers have the most current data to customize and simplify the purchase journey for their users.
In Email Marketing Trends & Best Practices for Data-Centric Organizations, a 2016 study conducted by The Relevancy Group and MessageGears, marketers said the inability to access and leverage all marketing data was their No. 1 challenge. When valuable data is held by different vendors or in various cloud databases where marketers can’t easily access it, precious time is lost. It’s critical that companies figure out ways to give their marketing department the information they need so they can tailor their messaging to each customer.
2. Real Time
We live in the era of instant. Instant communication, answers, searches, feedback, posts, navigation, and sales. The window of time where marketers can respond and capture sales has never been shorter.
According to The Relevancy Group, 46% of enterprise-level companies used Software as a Service (SaaS) or hosted providers for their email. This system is popular because it keeps large amounts of data in the cloud. That makes it easier for marketers to control email programs vs. in-house or traditional on-premises systems. However, it can take hours for large amounts of data to sync between internal and cloud databases. This means marketers can miss out on some real-time opportunities.
Enterprise marketers have to start thinking about their email program the same way they think about their websites. Websites for large, data-centric organizations generally live on-premises. This gives them access to the latest and greatest information: recent activity, orders, shipping notifications, points balances, inventory, flight statuses, pricing — it’s all right there in real-time.
These businesses want their websites to have that information in real time so they don’t outsource it. On the flip side, around half of enterprise organizations are outsourcing their email programs to SaaS providers. No matter how quickly an ESP sends information back and forth, it can’t match the accuracy of using fresh data from an internal system.
Automated campaigns need real-time data in order to be effective. Triggered emails (like abandoned cart or product view promotions) need to be plugged into the global ecosystem. This way, marketers have a complete view of the customer. Nobody likes getting an abandoned cart email or a deep discount right after they’ve already completed the sale on the website (or via the call center or store).
Giving marketers the data they need to do their jobs is no longer optional. In the world of true real-time personalization, it’s more essential than it’s ever been.
Most marketers know personalization is critical for success, but leaders need to consider the bigger picture. Customers expect and respond to a multi-channel, personalized experience, not just personalized emails. Moreover, it’s critical that messaging is appropriate. A poor or clunky experience, even when personalized, can have a detrimental effect and backfire on the brand.
Successful personalization comes from real-time data. In order to create custom experiences, marketers need access to details such as demographics, customer satisfaction data, lifestyle preferences, spending habits, purchase behaviors, brand interactions, and social influences.
While these elements are critical for marketing success, they’re not always readily accessible. Silos may exist between vendors and departments, preventing the timely flow of information. In addition, various cloud-based technologies can’t deliver some of this data in real time so it can be used effectively. For this reason, it’s critical that companies find technology that allows them to access all of their data so they can have a complete view of what their customers are doing.
Whichever way the trends take email in the next few years, it’s easy to see that consumer expectations are evolving to look for more device-specific, highly targeted messages that provide them with actual value. Enterprise organizations have to understand that they can’t afford to stick with the same old ways of doing email; it’s going to take a renewed commitment to innovation and a data-centric approach in order to maintain a healthy email ROI and continue to efficiently direct marketing resources toward reaching people’s inboxes.