Email Marketing in 2017: Insights and Investments for the Year Ahead

By EJ McGowan, General Manager of Campaigner

2016 has come to a close and a key takeaway from the year is that email marketing remains very much alive and well, and will likely continue to perform for marketers in 2017.

In fact, email marketing was chosen as the most effective form of marketing in 2016 for industry professionals in a recent Campaigner survey, and over 70 percent plan to prioritize email marketing in 2017.

So as marketers continue to invest in this channel, which strategies will we see more and less of in the year ahead? Read on for a glimpse of email strategies in the new year.

Refining the Email Experience for Consumers

In 2017, we can expect marketers to take a more refined approach to their email marketing campaigns, namely by adopting a higher use of triggered and automated messages. Triggered emails are as they sound-triggered to send when a user takes a certain action or inaction-or when a certain passage of time occurs since the last transaction. Typically, these emails are expected and even welcomed by consumers, and in turn produce higher interaction rates. Marketers are learning that the benefit of implementing these emails is two-fold. For brands, engagement rates receive a boost, and for consumers, a greater level of trust and brand connection is developed. Dozens of Digital Predictions

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Marketers will also refine their content by moving beyond basic personalization tactics and further investing in dynamic emails that speak to contacts on an individual level. Savvy marketers are learning that the most effective personalized emails go far beyond "Dear [First Name]" and will use more detailed information, such as purchase history, geolocation, seasonality, etc., to construct hyper-personalized messages in 2017.

As a result of this approach, we can expect to see marketers moving away from bulk email sending and campaigns designed just for the sake of generating more email outreach to subscribers. In return, the industry in general should see higher open rates.

A Consumer Mandate Made Possible by Technology

Driving this initiative for a more nuanced email strategy are rising consumer expectations. With email users flooded with messages from brands-each competing for their coveted attention-it is natural for them to become more selective when it comes to which emails to engage with and which to ignore. Digital consumers are making a call for cleaner, concise and more relevant content that marketers must answer.

Similarly, email service provider (ESP) technology is making it easier for consumers to participate in feedback loops-to flag which messages they consider irrelevant, undesired or even spam. Brands that don't respond by cleaning up their email act will be left behind.

Forecasting Today's Trends

As email marketing providers are beginning to offer more advanced tools at a basic level and as email marketers become more comfortable with available technology, brands have a greater ability to create effective campaigns and measure results appropriately. Here are a few of the trends expected in the year ahead.

Mobile optimization: Just as consumers are demanding high-quality content, they are also becoming more expectant of emails that render well on their mobile devices. Marketers will continue to invest in this area in 2017 so that consumers have a seamless, consistent email experience no matter what device they use.

Emojis: Though the use of these icons in subject lines was all the buzz for open rates in 2016, the industry is seeing a bit of a backlash. There are thoughts that some email providers may begin flagging and filtering emails with emojis in the subject lines, and over 40 percent of email marketers plan to use them to a lesser extent in 2017, according to the previously mentioned Campaigner survey.

Buy buttons: This year, we can expect marketers to focus less on buy buttons in social media posts; in fact, at least 70 percent of email marketers who used them in 2016 saw no sales as a result. Instead, the shift will be to include them in the content of email in an attempt to recreate brands' website experiences straight from consumers' inboxes.

In conclusion, while email continues to evolve, it's certain that it remains a staple for marketers in 2017. The industry will see sophisticated email marketers finding ways for it to be one piece of an integrated marketing strategy, rather than a standalone tactic, in the year to come.