The essentials of great email marketing programs have not changed a lot over the years, but the number of options at your disposal has definitely increased. Let's map out a few fundamentals that can help tell how we'll adapt for success tomorrow.
It's the experience, not the product/service or other values. Brand connections are made and formed based on experiences -- and the simple goal of email in brand building and brand relationship marketing is to help connect the experiences while reinforcing why people buy from you. Today's marketers have to look past the promotional calendar and traditional segmentation to understand engagement, not simply conversion (which will only define a small subset of the population).
Targeting at scale is the key to great contextual marketing. Targeting and personalization aren't just about right offer and right timing -- for email marketing, it's about doing this in scale. Your goal in is to minimize the "wrongs" while making real choices about where you spend your resource time. You spend time assimilating "look alikes" that help magnify the opportunity and you continually look for reach factors that extend multipliers to your programs.
M-Email - According to Forrester, the mobile commerce space will exceed $10 billion by the end of next year. While this is a small chunk of the ecommerce sales (>7%), it is growing rapidly. As the utility of the device and consumer content demands prevail, MCommerce will be vital, and WAP to APP to MCommerce will need to be a seamless design. The conversion will emanate from two sources: email and on-premise prompts. You need to begin to isolate the new mobile consumer and think strategically about where email can be a notification agent for the channel.
The dashboard is only so big; make the best use of it. Making sense of reports can be a very difficult and valueless effort if not done with a sense of purpose. If you craft the email experience properly to transcend cross channels, with great hypotheses specific to program, campaign and customer level goals, then how you dashboard results should follow this logic. This should naturally interpret decision points, not just aggregate views. It should have point-in-time comparisons that help shape opinion and it should represent cross-functional sources that lend credibility. This is still a challenge to operationalize, and will become increasingly more difficult going forward. I believe the future dashboards will be a linear view more congruent with the experience, and KPIs that drive decision points that are important for the organization (discounting/promotion, lifecycle, COS, etc..)
Artificial intelligence is exactly that - artificial. We want to be as predictive as possible, and AI offers the opportunity to apply marketing intelligence into a self-fulfilling instrument. But be cautious. With all the unstructured data that is becoming available, this can be a distraction without great result. If you remember how hard it is to operationalize the front-end of the efforts, adding complexity through AI can dramatically challenge resource drain. Be cautious about value props centered on AI as the center of marketing insight.