The holiday season -- or “peak season,” as we love to call it -- is upon us again. We are projecting increases across the board for email marketing: increases in the volume of email and campaigns sent, in number of segments within each campaign, and of course a dramatic increase in mobile viewership.
Breaking this down helps us draw a few conclusions. First, the rise in email volume is not surprise, as we’ve seen this persistent increase year-over-year for the past four to five years. What’s interesting is the correlation to growth in volume to the increase in number of campaigns sent. The two rates of growth are traditionally closely aligned, yet this year we see a rapid rise in the number of campaigns sent and number of segments used per campaign.
More email, more campaigns and more segments, yet you have the same industry growth rate projection for next year: the 12% CAGR that we’ve seen the last four years. Innovation would dictate as an industry grows, efficiencies in technology and processes would allow you to do more with less. Yet in email marketing, more campaigns and more segments typically translate to more resources needed to develop content, stage campaigns, and apply quality controls to campaigns. Budgets will have to give at some point to accommodate for this shift in practices by conventional wisdom.
One would presume that if marketers are programming more campaigns to run through automation (triggers, lifecycle automation, API-driven campaigns), you would see more campaigns that require less resource involvement on a day-to-day basis. One could also presume that with the rise of mobile viewership and the inability of most ESPs to detect and render mobile-optimized content, marketers are opingt to segment mobile viewers and set up as separate campaigns. One may even presume that, with the drive to improve testing tools, marketers are still learning how to apply testing at scale. And lastly, with the integration of retargeting, Web personalization and real-time content technologies, we presume that having more behavioral options means marketers are beginning to shift how they're creating and executing campaigns and segmentations in general, expanding options.
While this growth bodes well for the industry and technology/service providers, traditional performance metrics used to measure success are inverse to this growth rate. There are many arguments regarding the merits of the “open rate” (impressions) as a proxy for success,or even whether it’s worthy of tracking as a trend due to the inconsistency at the ISP level. But how do you account for the decline in click-through rate year over year?
Most would assume, if you are more targeted and more methodical in how you program email campaigns that would translate to an increase in performance. I think the shift in the mobile consumer and how programs adapt to time and place shifting experiences will allow marketing programs’ performance to catch up with the growth in practices -- but as with any new shift, you’ll see more activity before you’ll see direct results. We just haven’t gotten there yet, but are making progress.
I believe performance will make a turnaround next year. You will see an increase in click-through rates and rate of conversion. Given email is not solely a conversion channel, I think you’ll see lift and better association with brand metrics, something we’ve never been closely associated with before.
The next stage in this growth will be optimizing timing. Not day 1, day 2 and day 7, but optimized “daypart” timing. I believe we are getting close to the “perfect email” sent to the right person, right content, right context and right time. How our industry adapts to the optimization of consumption patterns and device experiences, will dramatically impact our industry both in practice and performance.