Every movement begins with a moment.
As one of Engauge’s newest email team members, I’ve been asked a lot of questions recently about my experience in the discipline: What have I done? What’s worked? What’s failed (miserably in some cases)? Where is email going? As you can image, some of those questions are easier to answer than others, but my favorite one to answer is “Where is email going?”
Far from being the tired old matriarch of digital advertising, email is poised to once again drive the digital approach in any marketing strategy. With the massive adoption of smartphones by consumers and the embracing of new features by providers (Yahoo! and Outlook.com, specifically), 2014 could be email’s biggest year yet. That said, here are five trends that can give your email program an edge in the coming year:
I know; I know. “Video in email? What is she thinking?” But before dismissing it as a crackpot, trendy idea, ask yourself a very important question: How many of your subscribers are opening emails from you on a mobile device? If you’re like most brands, that answer can be well north of 50 percent. The best part about this stat is that nearly all native email applications can show an embedded email without a problem. Even if your audience isn’t heavily mobile, video is still worth a look. According to VideoEmail, 45 to 75 percent of a business-to-consumer email list will receive an email in an application that supports full video with audio. As with anything in email, testing is key to determine if video is viable for your audience.
Nielsen estimates that, as of September 2013, smartphones now account for almost two thirds of all mobile phones in the U.S. With that level of adoption, campaigns not optimized for mobile are missing out on engaging with a large portion of their target audience. The good news is that you don’t have to completely overhaul your entire email program to bring mobile into the fold. Small changes (e.g., increasing button size for easier viewing/tapping, designing mobile-friendly layouts and incorporating more live text) can pay big dividends for your email campaigns.
Smartphone users are constantly beaming their location to satellites and GPS systems. It may be a slightly creepy thought, but harnessing that information to target promotions and deliver relevant content isn’t that far-fetched. Indeed, it’s already happening. By using app data (Foursquare check-ins for example) and even GPS locations, marketers can figure out where their customers most often visit in person. For brands with physical storefronts, serving up unique offers to customers who frequent specific locations can help build customer relationships far beyond the transaction.
4. Live Content
Imagine receiving an email that includes real-time updates on news, images, social interactions and more. It may sound futuristic, but a lot of brands are already using and testing this exact scenario. For brands with a dedicated and active social network, this type of content can prove invaluable. When you incorporate live tweets, new Facebook posts, real-time commentary and more into your communications, you give your subscribers one more way to engage with and stay connected to your brand. Plus, with all the inbox traffic your subscribers have to weed through, why not give them a better reason to seek out your emails in the inbox?
Data is not a new trend. The amount of data we have, however — and what we can do with it — is definitely new. According to research, 90 percent of all the data in the world has been generated in just the last two years. That’s right: in just the last two years. That stat blows my mind every time I read it. While the practice may feel a bit stalker-esque, imagine how targeted you can now make your emails. Most brands know the general area in which their customers live, how much they spend, their purchase tendencies, when they’re likely to buy, what time of day they most often open emails, Facebook posts they like, tweets they retweet — the list goes on and on — but very few actually do anything with this information. By using this data to create and deliver relevant, timely content that your audience demonstrably wants, you can give your brand a powerful competitive edge.
As always in email, a trend’s relevancy is relative. That’s why testing is essential. What works well for one brand and its audience may fail for another. Finding ways to push brands and email programs forward takes time and effort, not to mention a proclivity to step slightly into the unknown. Fortunately for email fans and aficionados like me, 2014 looks like it’s going to be another banner year for the genre.
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