The world outside of marketing has become increasingly unpredictable. No one in 2010 could have expected the decade that was about to unfold. Luckily, marketing trends, especially in the digital sphere, are slightly easier to predict. Given the large amount of data available to us, it’s easier to know exactly which technologies, tools and tactics are working and will continue to work.
Why email marketing, specifically? According to Marketo, checking email is the number one activity on the internet currently, with 94% users going online for this online. Other than its ability to break through generational, cultural and class barriers, the effectiveness of email marketing lies in its steady ROI – about $39.40 for each email.
In 2010, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg famously declared that email was “probably going away.” Even the Wall Street Journal echoed the belief, publishing an article in 2010 arguing that Facebook and Twitter would be king among online communication tools – “Email has had a good run…but its reign is over.”
Safe to say, they probably jumped the gun. While social media channels have seen a sharp rise in popularity over the last decade, email has remained the mainstay. Compare the estimated 247 billion emails sent per day in 2010, to the projected estimated of 307 billion emails per day in 2020.
Email Marketing Trends That Are Shaping Digital Marketing in 2020
EMAIL MARKETING BECOMES MORE IMPORTANT AS SOCIAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE CHANGES
Contrary to Sandberg’s famous 2010 prediction, trust in social media platforms is declining. According to Sailthru, nearly half of consumers plan to delete at least one of their social media accounts in the next year. 40% claimed to have deleted an account in 2017 because they no longer trusted the platform with their personal information.
While it’s unlikely that social media will disappear entirely, many marketers are realizing that depending on those platforms entirely can be risky. Many social media managers learned this the hard way when Facebook tried to monetize in 2012, throttling organic reach from 16% down to as little as 2-6%. While you can still pay to reach your followers, AdStage has found that Facebook’s CPM increased 90% year-over-year from 2018 to 2019. Not exactly a sustainable interest rate for marketing budgets. Unfortunately, this trend has continued for the last several years.
Email has remained the top channel that consumers prefer when receiving communication and offers from brands. Unlike social media, the cost to reach your subscribers doesn’t grow significantly as your user base does. This means we can likely expect to see more companies invest in building their own email databases and enhancing their email marketing schedules in 2020.
BROADER USE OF AI AND PREDICTIVE EMAIL MARKETING
AI and machine-learning technologies were both predicted to see massive growth in 2018 and 2019. While AI hasn’t always gone as expected, it has taken on a much larger role in the day to day lives of marketers. Predictive analytics has made microsegmentation cheaper and far less labour-intensive, while real-time, dynamic personalisation has become accessible for even small marketing teams. Guided by machine-learning an AI, marketers are writing higher-converting emails and delivering them at better times.
Predictive marketing can also help to reduce churn, by identifying the contacts who are more likely to unsubscribe.
On the other side of the coin, AI is also improving spam filters. According to data from EveryAction NonProfit Deliverability Study, “On average, 24.16 percent of email — that’s one out of four messages — was delivered to spam folders monthly in 2017. That’s almost 6 percent higher than 2016 and 17 percent higher than in 2015.”
According to Google, “it also helps us personalize our spam protections to each user—what one person considers spam another person might consider an important message (think newsletter subscriptions or regular email notifications from an application).”
Thus, AI is definitely one of the email marketing trends set to change the digital landscape in 2020. While it is already improving conversion rates and churn, it’s also making it more difficult to land in a user’s inbox.
TENSION BETWEEN PERSONALIZATION AND PRIVACY
Many consumers have become distrustful of large data aggregators. Sailthru, in a survey of 2000 consumers, found that more than 60% feel uncomfortable with brands buying and selling their data, with a further 60% believing that the United States government should regulate how consumer data is used.
This brought about GDPR regulations in Europe, and the passage of broad privacy regulations in the state of California. It’s likely regulations will only get more stringent in 2020.
However, consumers are also coming to expect a certain level of personalization. 36% say that companies who recommend products which don’t match their interests is one of their main reasons for unsubscribing.
Consumers are becoming more savvy. They want to know exactly how their data is being used, and they want it used in ways that benefit them, not exploit them.
While definitely not one of the most exciting email marketing trends, dark mode is definitely here to stay. With the introduction of dark mode to OSX and then IOS in 2019, dark mode isn’t just for nerds anymore, and is now available for both PC and Mac users. Unfortunately, the way email clients trend dark mode can vary across platforms.
This presents a hurdle for marketers who want to ensure their mails display well for all their subscribers. And consumers are not very forgiving to brands who’s emails display poorly.
It’s important to take the time to test your mails, and consider how your email will display across all clients and browsers, with and without dark mode.
EMAIL FORMAT POLARIZATION
Interactivity has definitely been on many email marketing trends lists in the past few years. However, there is still an ongoing debate between which works better – plain text, or image-rich emails.
When done right, interactivity can greatly enhance the email experience, making it easier for marketers to showcase their products and gather data. That said, a 2015 HubSpot study found that, though consumers may say they like image-rich emails, the numbers just don’t back that up. It’s also possible that, the more coded elements emails have, the more likely it is that an email service provider will label it promotion or spam.
2020 could also be the year that more emails are opened on mobile devices than desktops or laptops. This means that optimisation, and taking a multi-device responsive approach is vital. Unfortunately, combining interactivity with responsiveness may be a challenge for even the most advanced marketing teams.
Of course, interactivity doesn’t just mean ways to entertain the subscriber. In 2020, interactivity could be used in a more functional role, promoting engagement and discouraging bounces. Some of these interactivity trends could include
- Accordion features designed to condense long-format emails
- User-generated interactive content, surveys and polls
- Rollover effects to showcase product offerings
- Interactive product carousels and images controlled by the user
- Animated buttons and calls-to-action
Email marketers in 2020 are expected to experiment with creating mails that are both simpler and more interactive, balancing user experience with deliverability.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 1.3 billion people worldwide live with some form of visual impairment. 36 million of those are considered blind. Because of this, accessibility continues to be an important trend in digital marketing. 2020 should continue to see the rise in popularity of smart speakers with voice assistants to read emails aloud, and smart email marketers are already designing their emails with accessibility at the forefront of their minds.
Other than the diverse abilities of the human body, marketers must take into account the lack of access to the latest technology and limited data connections in many parts of the world.
While designing accessible emails may seem daunting to many marketers, there has been an emergence and improvement in many assistive technologies to simplify the process – for both marketers and readers alike. The Litmus’ Ultimate Guide to Email Accessibility also shows that “77% of brands say accessibility is a priority— but only 8% rigidly follow accessibility best practices.”
There are some easily attainable methods for making emails more accessible to all readers:
Keep your email copy concise and to-the-point. According to Litmus’ research, the average attention span for an email is only 13.4 seconds. The average adult reader can read anywhere between 250 and 300 words per minute. This makes the ideal length for email copy only 50 words. Because of this, Litmus has suggested the following for email copy:
- Limit your use of difficult words and jargon
- Use shorter sentences
- Localise content for global audiences
With designing for accessibility, you should pull back on all-image templates, emphasising real text. Some simple ways to make email design more accessible include:
- Use high contrasting colors
- Use appropriate font sizes
- Create a strong visual hierarchy
- Use real text HTML
- Avoid long sections of center-justified text
- Optimize line spacing
The best way to create accessible emails is to manipulate the code to work for every user. Many assistive technologies assess code first and foremost.
- Specify a language in the HTML
- Use semantic HTML
- Use alternative text for all images
- Make sure all HTML tables are accessible to screen readers
Even small steps in accessibility can lead to significant improvements for every reader. Increasing accessibility and useability can promote inclusion and can increase ROI by increasing the reach of your emails.
Many advancements in automation, specifically with regards to email have been seen in the last decade. The next decade could very well change the way people use email entirely. With more processing power and data, marketing cloud services are allowing for cross-channel optimization, improved stat models and are paving the way for automation and machine-learning to change the email marketing landscape.
It will become easier to establish performance benchmarks, and automating the customer lifecycle stages and workflows will increase.
Smarter automated segmentation could also lead to increased performance, accessibility and customization. Reporting automation can ease some of the burden of email marketers. This means trimming costs, and increased ROI in an already ROI-positive channel.