Digital Trends 2013: Email back in the spotlight In 2013

Though we have all come to know email marketing very well over the years, it continues to develop and throw up new and exciting opportunities.  When targeted and creative, email still has the power to deliver high levels of engagement and conversion, while maximising returns on marketing investment.

2013 will see email return to the spotlight, with key developments bringing it back to the heart of cross-channel marketing.

Email At The Heart Of Cross-Channel Marketing

If a person opens an email on their mobile, enjoys the content and shares it with their friends via social media – is that engagement via one channel or three? To the consumer it does not matter. What matters to them is that they received an email which they were able to open on their own terms, that the content was relevant to them and that they were able to share it with their friends through social media in the way that they have become accustomed to. While some marketing channels move faster than others, email sits squarely at the heart of many important customer interactions.

Marketers must stop thinking about channels independently and instead employ tools that enable them to create and manage cross-channel campaigns that engage consumers in a way that interests and excites them.

Creating tailored personalised experiences based on data

Email is a great relationship building tool for brands and their customers, but it is important to remember that a good relationship is about listening as well as talking. By listening to customers and taking the time to understand who they are and what they like, brands can deliver emails at the correct frequency, optimised for the right device, which contain the right type of content for the recipient. The more advanced the industry gets, the more important it becomes to listen and respond in as close to real-time as possible.

Today, it might still be enough to send an email that contains content broadly tailored for either a male or female recipient of a certain age and still see good levels of engagement. But in the future, brands will need to learn from each customer engagement and link transactional data together in a clever way – for example, if a female in her mid-twenties buys a coat on your website, a brand should follow up with an email showcasing the scarves and hats that suit the coat she has bought.

Some brands, such as Amazon are already doing a great job of this, while others still have a long way to go.

Real-time content

When we enter the work place, email becomes the default communications tool for almost all professionals and engagement levels are high. But when it comes to our personal email accounts – the place where many of us receive the majority of our marketing content – engagement levels often drop and we might only check in once or twice a week, compared with social networks which many of us check multiple times a day.

If a person only checks their email once a week, but eventually does open an email, it is important that the information is as relevant to them as the day it was sent. The key here lies within delivering dynamic, live content. People want to know what is available today, not about a sale that ended yesterday. The ability to update email content once it is in the inbox will become an increasingly important trend in years to come, as consumers become increasingly used to real-time engagement with brands.

Some brands – including UK mobile carriers – have started sending SMS messages to customers to alert them to an email in their inbox. This uses the real-time immediacy of a text message as a prompt to open the creative content that is contained in an email. While only a few brands adopt this approach, it is a clever way of driving email engagement – but if you received a text message from every brand that sent an email, this would quickly become an annoyance. Similarly, brands need to use clever analytics to understand which customers are slow to open email and those that regularly engage. Getting chased to open an email that you have already opened would be just as annoying.

Email on the move

According to recent research by digital agency Steel, more than a third of consumers read marketing emails on their mobile, which rises to 55% among 18-34 year olds; a high proportion of many marketers’ target audience. It could be argued that the added functionality that comes with mobile – location based services, the always on mentality, the more obvious call to action – makes for a better, more targeted email experience than that of the desk top. But then what mobile makes up for in engagement, it can lack in delivering true creativity. Both certainly have their benefits. The challenge for email marketers is to ensure that their campaigns render correctly on whichever device the consumer uses to open their email. Whichever way you look at it, email is not dead.

2013 will be another big year for digital marketing and email will certainly be playing a major role.  With email and the platforms that serve it continuing to evolve, marketers must recognise the channel’s growing power to engage customers in new and compelling ways.

Don’t miss our next Digital Trends 2013 blog post: A new dynamic for search.


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