Email trends 2018: boost or regress

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In December of 2017, some exciting news reached the email marketing sector. Of course, email marketing (automation) has already amply demonstrated its worth, but its popularity continues to grow. The DDMA data-driven marketing research shows that email is expected to see a major increase in investments in 2018. That means we will be seeing more and, above all, better emails. In this article, I will explain the email trends we will see (again) in 2018.

Additionally, I spend a lot of my time in China. That country leads the way in terms of mobile first and online (email) marketing. I will also reveal how we are following China.

First, let us take a brief look back on 2017: extensive segmentation and optimisation for mobile devices were the top priorities this past year, followed by cleaning up/improving lists. Having a qualitative mailing list will only become more important in 2018 in light of the GDPR. After all, you can only use personal information if it was recorded and acquired in the right manner.

Optimisation of transactional emails

Another important area of focus in 2017 was the optimisation of transactional emails, e.g. an automated email that someone receives after they place an order. This will continue to be important in 2018. These emails are ideal for e.g. upselling and acquiring reviews.

Source: SmartInsights

I believe the diagram above is an excellent summary of the trends and priorities of 2017. I expect all of these trends to remain more or less equally important in 2018. Overall, I predict the following trends for this year:

What are the email trends of 2018?

From static to interactive emails

Regardless of what your marketing objectives are, sending emails or newsletters “like we used to do” is unacceptable in 2018. Compare it to the tube TVs of old; nobody wants those anymore. Similarly, no one will get excited about an old-fashioned email in 2018.

Instead of being a one-way means of communication, email will increasingly become a means of interaction that requires creative and flexible email templates.

Some examples of popular templates include:

  • Cinemagraphs
  • Sliders
  • Questionnaires
  • Countdown timers (creating a sense of urgency)
  • Hamburger menus (for more unity in communication)

A simple example of interaction that is already used a lot is the smiley face or the thumbs up at the bottom of many emails. Recipients can click it to indicate whether the email was interesting to them.

Direct actions in email

Another example is the one-click action with which you can e.g. confirm a social media friendship without ever leaving your email inbox. Another popular option is the button with a call to action that stays onscreen as a reader scrolls through the email. Integrated forms, a search function or personalised videos will also become more popular. There are countless other interactive designs that can be used. Depending on your objective, these features can boost your conversion and/or interaction.

Conversational writing style

It is a good idea to use a conversational writing style in your interactive emails: ask questions, get readers thinking and answer their questions by providing the right content. Furthermore, it is important to draw up email guidelines. You are sure to have those for your website as well. With these guidelines, you standardise such aspects as font, tone, visuals, CTAs, oft-used content, etcetera.

Extensive personalisation

Personalisation is nothing new, yet the context in which it is used continues to expand. The content – preferably user generated – must e.g. tie in with your personalised website. Your contacts are becoming more critical. They expect content to feel real, rather than automated or fabricated. A crucial aspect is the (flexible) integration of data sources.

Profile enrichment

Profile enrichment is just the start of personalisation. Rich, multidimensional digital profiles contribute to relevant, individual communication that improves the reader’s involvement and contributes to the development of loyal customer relationships and customer retention. You should therefore also measure your visitors’ behaviour on your website in order to generate comprehensive profiles. One way to do this is by using microsites or landing pages. For extensive personalisation, you can also utilise conversion pixels on your website.

Responding to behaviour

You can send out newsletters and other emails and let their timing be determined by an action on the part of your prospect or customer, e.g. when someone visits your website. By responding to this kind of behaviour, you can be sure that the customer is currently thinking about your topic – e.g. holidays – and that they will therefore probably be interested in your offer.

Lead scoring and lead nurturing

In order to respond to behaviour, you can make use of lead scoring. To do so, you assign points to every interaction (on the website, in your email or on social media) that someone has with your organisation. When someone has accumulated a certain number of points, they are sufficiently interested to send them a personalised offer. The journey builder of your email marketing software is a perfect tool with which to plot this customer journey. Another popular method is known as lead nurturing. As soon as you acquire the contact information of interested prospects, you keep them up to date using (automated) emails. You keep feeding them information, which will ultimately turn them into new customers.

It would be unwise to completely avoid the personalisation of your emails in 2018, even if all you do is address your recipients by their first name or send your emails with your own name.

Secure emails and ISP reputation management

“The next big thing” for email marketing in 2018 is a relatively ancient development: email verification. The standards for SPF and DKIM authentication are older than DMARC, which is a more recent innovation. It is remarkable that only 69.4% of all marketers have adopted SPF, while 66.6% uses DKIM and only 46.5% uses DMARC, as detailed in Litmus’ Status of Email Deliverability report.

SSL certificates and a stricter DMARC policy

Our specialists advocate the adoption of a stricter DMARC policy, which will give your emails a preferential position compared to unsigned emails. For secure emails, also consider the use of SSL certificates, which are not only a must for websites. By adding an SSL certificate to email environments, images and links in your email are in a secure https location.

 Source: DK Hostmaster

BIMI standard

The adoption of authentication will increase in 2018 as a result of the increasing popularity of the BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) standard, which will display brand logos next to correctly verified messages. That added branding in a recipient’s inbox will motivate more brands to finally adopt the SPF, DKIM and DMARC standards in order to reap all the rewards of authentication.

Take advantage of the knowledge of your ESPs specialists and identify your areas of improvement. Deliverability is a skill in its own right and not everyone has mastered it.

China inspires

China inspires me, and not just in terms of emails. China leads the way when it comes to the “mobile first” philosophy. The amount of time people spend on their mobile devices continues to grow. Already, it is more than three hours per day per person. Similarly, the use of mobile (internet) continues to grow in the Netherlands as well.

Buy now

A notable development in China – where WeChat dominates people’s time on their mobile devices – is the “buy now” option. On WeChat, official accounts can make use of a built-in ecommerce platform. Customers can pay using their WeChat wallet.

The more steps a consumer has to go through to make a purchase, the higher the risk of them changing their minds, having doubts or interrupting the purchase process due to other intervening circumstances.

Accelerate the purchase process

An ongoing trend is to accelerate the purchase process using email. In the email itself, a customer chooses who they are and makes a selection of e.g. their favourite clothing styles. This then leads them to a personal landing page. It is a great method to introduce a prospect deeper into the funnel on your website. Your email serves as a miniature website and the search feature in the email itself contributes to this objective. Although it is quite rare at the moment, it is technically feasible and a perfect way to accelerate the purchase process.

Video in email is becoming increasingly interactive

A trend that will be upon us very soon is clicking through to products in videos. If, for example, a customer sees a video in which someone wears a jacket they like, they simply click on it and are taken directly to the item’s product page. Of course, this can also be implemented for the videos in your emails. It is the ultimate way to bring inspiration and sales closer together.

Voice commands in email

What about voice-controlled operation, which makes mobile devices easier to use. I predicted this development four years ago and it looks like voice-controlled operation will only become more popular in the future. I can imagine that we will read emails out loud in the future and issue voice-controlled commands that we will execute via email.

I am terribly excited about this constantly developing future.

The support of an excellent ESP

Do you want to boost or regress? I assume the latter is not an option. In any case, you should find an ESP that supports you and offers the knowledge and service you need. After all, the number of functionalities of an email platform is not the only thing that matters. The people behind the platform, those who point out trends, functionalities and pitfalls, are a vital factor as well. These professionals keep a close eye on the latest developments and constantly collaborate on improving the email business.

Let me conclude with a warning to those left behind – and those for whom the message is not quite clear yet. If you let the trends of 2017 largely pass you by, avoid making the same mistake in 2018 and get to work right now. Falling behind will cost you dearly.

 

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29, December 2017