As you look forward to taking your email marketing program to the next level in 2018, it’s also important to take stock of how the industry evolved in 2017 if you don’t want to get stuck with high expectations and an outdated strategy. If you don’t learn the lessons of last year, you’ll repeat the same mistakes others already learned from.
Like with all things marketing, nothing in email stays static. The industry is always evolving to incorporate new technology and customer preferences. Before rushing into your first 2018 campaigns, evaluate what might be different from a year ago. That will help you anticipate where your customers will expect you to excel. Because your email marketing standards need to be at least as high as theirs.
So, what are the email marketing takeaways we can get out of the past 12 months? Here are four key email marketing lessons 2017 taught us that should impact your thinking as we drive forward into the new year:
Personalization has never been more important
As automation technology continues to improve, customers keep expecting more out of their inbox. If you’re going to not only avoid the spam filter but get those opens, clicks, and conversions you’re after, it’s essential that you personalize the emails you send at a more personal level than ever. Your customers demand that of you, so you should demand it of your team.
Not only is your email ROI greatly impacted by how well you personalize, there are too many companies doing it well not to do so yourself. And if you’re a large brand, customers expect even better personalization from you, while not realizing (or caring) how much harder it is to do with so much data streaming into your database every hour of the day. Batch-and-blast isn’t going to cut it in today’s world of advanced mobile, push, and automation technologies. Get ESP technology that allows you to deliver emails that surprise and delight your customers.
GDPR is going to impact everyone
This is one of those lessons you need to have already learned. Wherever your company is located, if you’re not well down the road in planning for the impact of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you’re already behind. Any business that has any EU-based customers — a.k.a., basically all of them — could be subject to fines of 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater, for a violation.
That’s the kind of number that can cripple some businesses, and would be a massive blow for most. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the guidelines, and what it means for how you use your customer data when it comes to email. We won’t know for sure how aggressively it will be enforced from country to country until after it goes into effect this spring. But being prepared now will help you avoid catastrophe down the road.
AI and machine learning are beginning to emerge
We saw artificial intelligence and machine learning take big steps forward in 2017. Technology never seems to take steps back, so expect it to keep speeding forward this year. That will force enterprise B2C organizations to more fully embrace it or fall behind the competition.
From helping you better understand when to send emails for individual customers to allowing you to make specific product recommendations based upon a user’s buying history, AI is changing the way consumers look at their inbox. And the way brands try to reach them.
Voice-activated technology is about to be everywhere
Last year was the year when voice technology matured and landed in millions more kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms across the world. It’s a trend that’s only likely to accelerate as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft jostle for market share in what’s becoming a very crowded and competitive market.
There’s no way to know who will win that battle. It’s likely that at least Amazon and Google will maintain some piece of the market. Regardless, though, you need to be ready for voice to become even more ubiquitous in the coming year. And consider what that means for email. Will people have more emails read to them rather than reading it themselves? What does optimizing for voice mean for email? Those questions are approaching faster than you might think.
We all want to move forward into an exciting 2018 and keep hitting our goals for growth, but taking a quick look back can help you learn lessons to avoid being stale and losing ground to the competition. Last year was a big one for email marketing technology, and we expect this year to bring even more surprises. Happy New Year!