Aliya Zaidi
Aliya Zaidi 18 October 2019

Email Trends to Superpower your CX Strategy

For many marketers, email is like a trusted, old friend in their inner circle of digital marketing activity. Email marketing is reliable. Email is always there when you need it. And you can always count on email to deliver great results.

However, many marketers have underestimated the power of email and are still not utilising email marketing to its maximum potential. While email is robust and has remained a steadfast component of the marketing mix, marketers could do more to make use of email for customer engagement and to enhance the customer experience (CX), argues Kath Pay, CEO & Founder, Holistic Email Marketing, and the presenter for a forthcoming Mapp Digital webinar on 5 Ways to Improve Email Marketing with Customer Data.

Quoted as an expert email commentator in this year’s Econsultancy Email Census, she says: “Email marketing is the channel that just keeps on giving. The correlation between sales and budget is astounding, and I’m yet to work with a brand which has invested time, resources and budget in email that doesn’t reap the rewards.”

In addition, email marketing can be sexy. Yes, really. In fact, email marketing is rather like the Tom Cruise of digital. Like Tom Cruise, email has been around for years, but still always delivers good performance. Email is guaranteed to provide good return on investment and looks pretty good for its age, even among its newer, younger counterparts. But unlike Jerry Maguire, marketers won’t be demanding “show me the money!” … as positive uplift on the bottom line is easily demonstrable.

It is also worth noting that consumers (of all ages) like email. While they may also be using mobile, texting, social media and apps, email is still an important staple of the diet of the online consumer. Notably, 45% of Generation Z consumers (those born between the mid-1990s and early-2000s) report that email marketing is an important factor in their purchasing decisions.

This post explores five emerging trends that will empower and accelerate the email marketing strategies of the future, because getting more out of your email definitely isn’t Mission: Impossible.

1. The future of email will be powered by personalisation. 

Marketers have always integrated data into their email marketing communication, but now it’s about using the data intelligently to go beyond basic personalisation. Consumers now expect some basic degree of personalisation, so campaigns have to go beyond merely including names or personal details or sending emails on the consumer’s birthday. Social media has provided users with a much more tailored experience, so this experience is also expected on other channels.

As most email marketers have firmly got to grips with the basics of email best practice, the focus must now be on differentiation and standing out from your competitors in a flooded inbox.

Companies must provide a targeted, personalised experience, that takes into account the customer’s needs, and past purchases, with an understanding of the path to future transactions. This requires a data-centric approach that puts the customer at the heart of marketing communications.

Although many companies are reaching out to broad segments, it is important to remember an individual email reaches an individual customer. Think of email strategy in the same vein as how you would expect communication from a friend. You’re more likely to form a deeper relationship if your friend understands your individual needs and preferences, and what makes you tick. Therefore, individualised emails enable marketers to form longer-lasting relationships with their customers over the lifetime of their engagement.

Putting personalisation at the forefront requires marketing departments to have a holistic, data-led, customer-centric approach. Data must be shared across the different teams and should be filtered down for incorporation into individual campaigns.

2. Artificial intelligence galvanises customer-centric email strategies.

As most marketers are comfortable with the fundamentals of email best practice, many of the simpler processes can now be automated. Artificial intelligence and machine learning present a huge commercial opportunity in this space, allowing email practitioners to automate simple processes based on customer data.

AI makes email smarter, as it allows marketers to easily make decisions based on performance data, and understand how to optimise email campaigns to extract maximum value. The use of intelligent platforms allows marketers to see which are the most effective engagement strategies. Essentially, AI takes the guesswork out of what works and doesn’t, to achieve optimal results.

How can artificial intelligence be used for email optimisation?

There are several components in an average email, and AI can be used to select the best option across different email parameters. For example, when it comes to optimising subject lines and understanding what will deliver the best engagement rates. In addition, AI can optimise the content of the email, as well as selecting the best time of the day to send, maximising campaign goals. 

Basic personalisation techniques have been around for a while, but AI accelerates targeted emails, taking personalisation to the next level. Using complex algorithms, customer data, and machine learning, AI can predict the future behaviour of customers.

3. Marketing automation enables companies to cultivate customer relationships.

As marketers are increasingly focused on making the customer experience more personalised, marketing automation can provide triggers in response to distinct customer actions. This enables marketers to automate campaigns, increasing efficiency and email performance.

While many companies are focused on email sign-ups, it is equally important to nurture the relationship, so that initial sign-ups can be cultivated into long-term relationships, thereby increasing customer lifetime value. It is important to remember that the cost of acquiring a new customer can cost five times as much as the cost of retaining an existing prospect.

Email is a valuable tool for retaining existing customers and marketing automation is a key part of fostering the relationship with existing prospects.

However, as this year’s Email Census highlights, companies could be doing more to reap the maximum value from triggered emails. While just over a third of marketers (34%) are sending out automated emails based on website visits and sign-ups, there’s plenty of room for email marketing to go beyond just basic triggers.

For example, only a quarter of companies (26%) are sending out emails to ‘sleeping subscribers’ to incentivise customers who have not returned to make a purchase for a while.

4. CX-focused email marketing will be the next battleground.

Rather than seeing email as a tool for brand-focused individual campaigns, marketers need to shift their attention to customer relationship building. Increasingly sophisticated data is fuelling the rise of personalised, customer-centric email and, therefore, marketers need to look at the bigger picture and make use of email as a strategic tool.

Email routinely provides strong and tangible ROI, and the ability to demonstrate success through easily measured metrics makes it an essential instrument in the orchestra of every digital marketer. However, email is still not being used to its maximum potential. Integrating email with customer data platforms creates a powerful symphony, where CX data is at the root of personalisation and automation.  

Companies could be doing more to make use of email for its strategic capabilities, in terms of powering their CX strategy and driving customer engagement.

While marketers recognise that email is cost-effective, reliable and performs well in terms of the bottom line, more could be done to integrate email with high-level customer strategy.

As campaigns become increasingly data-driven, making use of sophisticated customer data, it is likely that email will become an integral part of the company’s wider customer experience strategy.

5. Marketers can gain quick wins by optimising email for different devices.

In the current marketing landscape, it is essential to understand that customers no longer use email on just one device. Therefore, marketers must make their email marketing communications device agnostic.

Many companies still retain a focus on primarily targeting desktop users. A failure to optimise email across a range of devices will potentially see marketers losing out on valuable conversions.

It is also important to consider the age range of your typical customers; research from Fluent indicates that 81% of 18- to 24-year-olds check their emails on a smartphone most often.

This often means that many practitioners are designing simpler emails in their campaigns. Emails with simpler content elements load faster on mobile devices and render better. Additionally, Research from Litmus indicates that the average attention span for reading mobile emails is about 11 seconds. Increasingly, marketers are focused on delivering high-quality content, even if the aesthetics and design of emails may be simpler.

What’s the future of email innovation?

This post touches on just some of the trends in email marketing, but there is plenty of innovation in this space. It’s clear that consumers like and trust email, and that the contents of the inbox have a deep influence on the propensity to purchase, even among all the noise from other digital channels.

Marketers need to keep innovating in order to inject life into their campaigns and keep them fresh. The use of dynamic email components, including videos, GIFs and countdown clocks, is one way in which marketers can stand out in the inbox.  Different types of content will attract new customers and refresh marketing communications. However, marketers must ensure customers are central to innovation.

As Kath Pay notes: “Innovation is great, as long as it’s not for the sake of innovating. The two most popular ways of innovating (highlighted in this year's Email Census) are at their heart subscriber-focused, personalised and helpful to the customer – in other words, improving the customer experience.”

Email is definitely sticking around for the long haul, as it's well liked by both consumers and marketers. However, email is still not being used to its full potential. Marketers need to keep an eye on future trends and keep innovating to ensure email keeps on delivering great performance and driving customer engagement. 

For more information on how cutting-edge companies are achieving customer-centric email marketing, join Mapp Digital’s webinar on 5 November (“5 Ways to Improve Email Marketing with Customer Data”) to hear from industry-expert Kath Pay, Founder and CEO of Holistic Email Marketing.

Kath, along with Ric Montvila, Sr. Director of Strategy at Mapp, will discuss email marketing best practices, sharing examples from Kath’s research and Mapp’s customer base.

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