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Email marketing in 2020: What you need to know

July 29 - 2020

Email Marketing Strategy 5 min read

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We don't believe in making changes for the sake of it and we've misplaced our crystal ball for gazing into the future but we are going to tell you how we think the email marketing industry is going to develop over the next 12 months - and into the next decade - to help you glean a better insight into what's on the horizon and what you can do to make your email marketing campaigns more successful than ever before.

Firstly, a word to the wise; quality is timeless. The latest tech, the newest trends, powerful AI and sophisticated algorithms count for nothing if your email campaigns don't pass the quality benchmark test. Nothing is ever going to replace great content, intelligent design and being able to put the right message in front of the right people at the right time.

However, if we can get better at doing this and use the latest tools and techniques to do it, it's a win win. Your subscribers will get what they want, when they want it, meaning the value they attribute to your brand will grow and they are more likely to be loyal, repeat customers.

So what developments can we expect to see?

1. One-to-one messaging will move ever closer

One-to-one messaging is a marketer's dream. There are few things more powerful than being able to deliver a specific message to a specific person which you know is going to resonate with them. We have access to more data than ever before. We know our customers' behaviours, their purchasing patterns and their preferences. And, while personalisation is nothing new in email marketing, we've only scratched the surface of what's possible.

As Eric Stahl, Senior Vice President of Product Marketing at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, says in Litmus' Email Marketing in 2020 guide:

"Email marketing—really all marketing—is becoming all about connecting to each and every customer at the individual level across their entire journey. With the customer in control of their media consumption, this shift is only going to accelerate.

"This presents a bright future for email in the multichannel world. Unlike any other marketing channel, email holds two key advantages: It is permission-based, and it unveils robust first-party data, which enables greater personalization with every interaction. The email address is now the key to identity-based advertising on platforms like Facebook and Google.

"Email marketers will leverage data to create greater personalization, with a single view of the customer, putting email at the center of the convergence between the physical and digital worlds.

"From an email marketer's perspective, data science will completely drive content and timing. Marketers will create templates that enhance scale through automations and scale for personalized content based on each individual's unique history, behavior, preferences, and journey."

Alongside this, thanks to advances in AI, expect to see the accuracy of product recommendations to increase and for it to happen in real-time. As consumers, we've become increasingly demanding and we expect the experience a business gives us to match our expectations. AI is going to help deliver us content that isn't just specific to a segment of a database we belong to, but genuinely specific to us.

2. New ways to optimise

One of the most common questions we are asked is: "When's the best time to send my email campaign?" There's no right answer to this as it varies hugely depending on the nature of the business of the demographics of the database. However, what machine learning, AI and better use of data promise is being able to determine the best time to send an email to each individual subscriber based upon when they are most likely to open it. What's more, we will also be able to tailor subject lines to each individual so emails are more likely to be opened - some of which could even be automatically created and written.

3. Advanced Automation

Expect to see email marketing automation become more advanced, especially when email marketing platforms are linked with CRM systems. Lead nurturing programmes will become more sophisticated and will be able to serve up content (whether that's copy or images) to an individual based upon their interests and previous interactions with the business - either online or offline. As mentioned above, expect the biggest changes to come where automation can help deliver highly-personalised content at a huge scale and turn cross-channel data into something that's usable, actionable and creates a better 'end product' for the customer.  

4. Contextual emails

Content will always be king but context is the new sheriff in town. Your customers can be doing anything, anywhere when checking their emails. If we can begin to leverage data (and act upon it) like time, geo-location, weather, events and even behaviour, then we can send context-driven emails. Imagine for a minute walking into your favourite shop - where you already subscribe to the businesses emails - and it triggering an email sent to you with the latest in-store deals specific to you and based upon your past purchases. This, in part, is what the future of email marketing looks like.  

5. Micro-emails

Short messages with powerful content and strong call-to-actions are becoming increasingly popular. Thanks largely to the power of push notifications, short messages with an action that takes the recipient straight to where they need to be are going to become more common. It becomes an incredibly efficient way of achieving your desired result.

6. Long-form content

This is the exact opposite of the above but a trend we've noticed slowly developing. As consumers put their trust into communities and grow increasingly wary of 'big tech' relationship-building emails - like those with long-form content - are becoming more valuable and powerful.

As ever, the start of the decade sees the email marketing industry in an incredibly exciting place. As a channel, email has been around the longest and yet still possesses the most longevity. You can imagine a world without Facebook, Tik Tok or Snapchat - but not one without email.

If you'd like to find out more about the latest trends in email marketing and see how you can improve your own in 2020, we'd love to hear from you.

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