More than ever, the future is challenging to predict. Everything digital constantly adapts, updates and changes. More importantly, so do the humans. Tastes are in a constant state of flux. At once we crave innovation, and yet “retro” and nostalgia have their place. Email marketing trends in 2019 promise to be very interesting. Because 2018 was very interesting.
Email celebrated her 47th birthday thumbing her nose at the “email is dead” circus once more. They predicted that GDPR was going to kill email marketing off once and for all. Just like social media was supposed to. And the world going mobile. Instead, email marketers embraced the new changes to create smaller, but more effective contact lists. If Kristen Buerman’s assessment is correct in saying that email has an ROI of approximately 3800% (£1 spent creates £38 return), then we are having a hell of a time at the wake.
GDPR has certainly carved an interesting environment for email marketing. Email addresses are infinitely more important because of the data regulations. Bounce rates are more important. Getting that customer to read and engage is pivotal because we can’t just strafe emails all over the place any more. Retention is key. The subscriber has the power. So, the overall quality of emails has been forced to dramatically improve.
Don’t we just love it?
As such, here are some email marketing trends to look out for in 2019.
Blurring the personal lines
So many articles and blogs talk about personalisation. Further down the page on the same article, the author begins talking about segmentation and targeting. In 2019 I am not sure we will read them as separate entities anymore.
Personalisation, as an email marketing trend, is no longer simply about using custom fields so that Bob can see his name at the top of the email. As Agile CRM’s Greg Arthur points out in Top 8 email marketing trends to expect in 2019 personalisation has improved over the past few years, “and will continue evolving”.
Segmentation and targeting are as much a part of this process as a custom field has ever been.
Imagine having an online music shop. Your lists are already segmented by the areas you deliver to, however you have a special offer on Tanglewood guitars. You could just blast this to everyone. I mean…not everyone will unsubscribe. But if you targeted your email so that only those who played guitar received the email, you will cut down the amount of negative behaviour. Your guitarists will engage. your drummers and flautists won’t be annoyed
2019 will almost certainly see better use of targeting and segmentation to create that personal experience.
The Visual Prizefight
Marketers and thought leaders are struggling to agree with each other about the future of content. Rohit Prasanna Munipally believes that “the days of audiences wanting to open emails containing detailed graphics” are gone. Conversely Amy Attle argues that nobody “likes a heavy text-based email” in her article for communicator. The articles, both eloquent, each make a serious point. although it seems to me like they are potentially missing the vital point between them.
Attle’s argument doesn’t consider the deliverability issues that are caused by having an image heavy ratio to text. Munipally seems to believe that images “feel bombarding” and “create undue pressure, or come across as spam”. However, under the grip of GDPR, this seems a lot less likely, or relevant. The streams of spray-and-pray emails are over. Whether text based, or image based, emails are a lot more targeted and relevant. So they are both wrong?
Or are they both right?
The clever technique is to use them both in conjunction with one another. Your subscriber opens up a glittery email, psychedelic and engaging. Three days later, they receive a text-only email following up. Although it has been tripped by an autoresponder, it doesn’t look automated at all. It answers Munipally’s call for an email that looks as though it was “sent by a family member or a friend”.
Already we are seeing this process becoming more and more commonplace. I wouldn’t be surprised if this became standard practice in 2019.
The nurturing email marketing trend
Do you know what GDPR’s greatest achievement was? It scared the vol-au-vents out of everyone. As I alluded to in the introduction, the subscriber now has the power. Their email address has actual value now. Each email glows a little brighter now it is in a smaller mailing list. The good thing about this, is that the email quality is improving. Moreover, the email marketer is giving the subscriber that little bit more space.
Literally my favourite email marketing trend. The death of the claustrophobic hard e-sell.
Marketers seem to be taking a leaf from Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. 2019 will see more great content, downloadable content, and general advice given for free. Email marketing is the best method to send these “jabs”. Little non-intrusive emails that keep a business at the forefront of the customers mind. It might seem, to some, like this is playing the long game. However, building relationships makes for better customer retention.
2019 – year of the bard
With everyone being attentive to their contact list, there has been a lot more intelligent, and often daring, content of late. KFC’s ‘FCK we’re sorry‘ campaign notable amongst them. Instead of sending out blasts and sprays of emails, humans are returning to email marketing in abundance. This means we are seeing a lot more effort going into that all important brand voice. Similarly, these voices are beginning to go back to what they have been good at since humans invented campfires.
It might seem time consuming all of this. You know, create a voice, tell a story. But in a hyper commercial world, techniques such as humour are making campaigns memorable. More importantly, it is making companies more human, which makes them more approachable, which makes them more memorable. Expect a rise in the amount of stories you read in 2019.
AI AI OH
The biggest change you might find during 2019, is the amount of AI that will be used in conjunction with the email marketing. Already, intelligent software can analyse and interpret data to suggest different marketing approaches to the user. In fact, AI is getting smarter, but mostly on the back end of the email marketing campaign. As much as the email marketing trends of 2019 promise more creativity and AI, software won’t be quite writing our email marketing campaigns for us just yet.
The customer journey will still be driven by a human copywriter (or highly trained toddler). But they will be guided by AI. AI: the digital marketing SATNAV.
But companies like Adobe are involving themselves in this automation. Smarter tools are created, highly responsive templates are designed, and statistics are reported better and used better thanks to AI. Customer behaviours can be monitored better by this sort of software.
Wrappy New Year
Any philosopher, scientist, time lord, or science fiction fan will tell you one truth. To predict the future, you have to understand the past. My rambling onto GDPR wasn’t as accidental as it might have looked in places. 2018, more than any other year before it, probably has had the greatest impact on email marketing. Well, at least of this century. But no matter how threatened it is by regulations, and no matter how many Luddite-sycophants are running around proclaiming the four horsemen of the E-pocalypse’s arrival, we are still here with email. Such a resilient beast.
What is actually interesting about 2019, is the trends are beginning to be defined by the human again. Not the technology. Creativity is returning, intelligence is making a long-overdue comeback. They are more than welcome if you ask me. Email marketing is forcing people to play nice, and it is putting the fun back in the marketing industry again.
Viva-la-email marketing. Have a good new year!