Many exciting trends and developments hit the world of email marketing in 2018 as email turned 40 years old – from the emergence of AMP for Gmail to mobile email reaching its long-awaited tipping point.
As we head into 2019 and marketing budgets “refill,” it’s our chance to give our email programs a restart and refocus our efforts on innovation and speed to keep pace with the demanding customer. In 2019 we can expect consumer expectations for quality content to increase – it’s become an annual tradition. Marketers will need to leverage new technologies and disciplines to continue to push the boundaries. Email programs will become even more personalized and more interactive, and as a result, more effective at driving revenue and brand loyalty.
To achieve these lofty goals and marketing dreams, below are my predictions for 2019 changes in the email marketing landscape you should be most aware of.
Personalization will put the right content in front of the right customers
Email marketing content can and should be more deliberate based on customers behavior, and I believe in 2019 we will see this become more prevalent in marketing strategies. Marketers have no excuse not to personalize email content based on the plethora of data they capture from browsing, purchase histories and email preferences.
The use of this data is becoming less “creepy” and using it in a deliberate way can deliver success. If you haven’t done so already, you should make it a priority to collect and use more data for personalization in content execution. Marketers should implement/expand their current preference centers for content choices or follow browse, purchase, click and open behavior to identify the content that piques subscribers’ interest most.
This process will get even more scientific as marketers push vendors for perfection. In 2019, marketers will continue to test AI platforms, while pushing vendors to handle their AI needs and automate at a larger scale. This innovation in technology should enable marketers to identify content combinations that perform better, faster and more efficiently.
The growth of mobile average order value
Historically, mobile average order value (AOV) has lagged behind its desktop counterpart because consumers are less likely to make big-ticket purchases (e.g., large, expensive items) on-the-go. In 2019, we’ll see this gap close. In fact, Yes Marketing data from Q3 shows significant growth in mobile average order value (AOV) for the first time in a long time. In Q3 of 2018 mobile AOV was $66.40, just $20 less than the $86.20 desktop AOV – and this is just the start.
In the year ahead, it will become more common for subscribers to purchase larger orders on mobile devices as the user experience gets better. To take advantage of this trend, brands will need to gain subscribers’ trust by offering detailed product content, more images and videos, or customer testimonials to push subscribers over the edge.
The continued rise of interactive content
As in 2018, I’m a firm believer in interactive content and I’m predicting it will continue to take off in 2019. Emails that contain games, quizzes, image carousels or simply “fun’” clickability (my word for 2019) allow users to interact with the brand without leaving the email itself. The more brands allow subscribers to engage within emails in new ways – whether it’s a personality quiz or the ability to book hotels without leaving email – the more engaged and ready to purchase subscribers will be with the brand.
The use of interactive content can help boost sales or simply educate and entertain. Fun games are a great way to get subscribers in the habit of opening your emails. The ability to actually make purchases within email makes the buying process even faster, and will boost sales for the brands that embrace interactivity.
Quality over quantity (deliverability + greater spend in targeted digital acquisition)
Deliverability has become a serious concern for marketers. Due to poor data management and increased standards from major ISPs like Gmail, Yahoo and AOL, emails can quickly land in the SPAM folder, making all that hard work in creative useless. To reach the inbox every time and maximize revenue from email marketing campaigns, marketers need to ensure they are sending relevant content to high quality value email subscribers and stop focusing on the total quantity of emails sent. In the coming year, that means embracing best practices even more, such as segmentation, data hygiene, email verification and preference centers.
In addition to reaching current subscribers/customers, smart marketers will use data to drive their digital acquisition efforts and better target new subscribers. Again, quality over quantity in acquiring new subscribers will pay dividends for your email program down the road. Model out your digital acquisition by appending the right types of data and finding look-a-like versions of your best customers instead of just paying your standard cost per lead. Yes, this approach may and most likely will cost more to successfully acquire quality subscribers. But in the end the lifetime value of higher quality customers is worth the additional investment. Smarter acquisition = greater ROI.
Loyalty programs will further expand to collect customer data
Many marketers already embrace loyalty programs and in 2019 these programs will become much more sophisticated. Smart marketers will use loyalty programs to collect customer data and better understand customer behavior, allowing them to reach loyal customers with better personalization and acquire new customers with the same characteristics.
What will this look like? Email marketers can track the behavior of their most loyal customers (e.g., those who engage with loyalty emails most frequently) and better understand their needs when it comes to email. What time of day do they want to receive emails? What types of products do they typically browse and purchase? What promotions work best for them? Then, marketers can take this data to encourage subscribers with similar behavior to join the loyalty program. Additionally, strong brands are already leveraging loyalty points as an incentive to receive data from their customers. This combination will lead to greater engagement in the inbox and more revenue for brands who execute flawlessly.
Over the past year, it’s been fun watching email marketing turn 40. While many in the past have claimed email is dead and ready for replacement by a shiny new channel (*cough* Sheryl Sandberg *cough*), we’ve yet to see a true successor. That’s why I’m challenging all marketers to keep up the strong work in 2019 to make it even better.
As you ring in the new year, consider tactics such as AI for personalization, interactive content, improved loyalty programs and spending a little bit more in acquisition so next year at this time, you can give yourself the greatest gift of the holiday season – a bonus or raise.