How Email Marketing Will Evolve In 2011

Email marketing is constantly evolving, with social media, mobile and ISPs driving most of the change right now. Here are five predictions of how things will change in 2011:

1. The plain text part of your multipart email will become more important thanks to Facebook Messages, which displays the plain text part by default. There's a link to display the HTML part  which it does very well -- but that link is easily overlooked, which means that it will likely see little use. Keep an eye on the percentage of your list that's addresses. Once it's more than a couple of percentage points, it's probably time to give some extra attention to the design and copywriting of your plain text part.

2. Email design will start to be more heavily influenced by iPhones, Android-powered smartphones and iPads. The distinction between emails and mobile emails is disappearing. That will have several effects on email design: (1) Email widths need to narrow. We recommend a width of around 600 pixels. (2) Font sizes need to increase so they're more legible on small screens. And (3) the space between links and the size of buttons need to increase to allow fat fingers to hit links accurately. That will also mean navigation bars with fewer links in them. 



3. Share-with-your-network (SWYN) links will be used by a majority of marketers. SWYN links allow subscribers to share email content with their friends and family members on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, increasing the reach of your messages. As of August, 26% of top online retailers used SWYN in their promotional emails, up from 12% in July 2009. By the end of 2011, the adoption of SWYN links should break the 50% mark. 

4. Reactivation campaigns will become more important, thanks to ISPs giving weight to engagement metrics when determining whether to deliver to the inbox or junk folder or to block email. Most marketers still have no plan whatsoever in place to address inactives -- the subscribers on their list who haven't opened or clicked on email in a long time. In some cases, inactives make up 50% or more of a marketer's list, representing a significant threat to deliverability and a big distraction from focusing on active subscribers. Marketers must start by defining what "inactive" is for them, then progress to segmentation tactics to message inactives differently, and culminate with reactivation campaigns that give subscribers a chance to reaffirm their interest or be dropped from the list. 

5. The email marketing industry will continue to be divided on permission. The tension between the old school opt-out email marketing industry aligned with direct mail and the new-school permission email marketing industry aligned with mobile and social will continue to grow. But from my perspective, all signs point to the new school winning out. From Gmail's Priority Inbox and Facebook Messages to ISPs' ongoing battle against unwanted email, it's becoming increasingly critical to be anticipated and wanted in consumers' inboxes-particularly if you want to be in the part of the inbox that consumers have designated for important, must-read emails. Staying out of the junk folder is yesterday's battle.

7 comments about "How Email Marketing Will Evolve In 2011".
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  1. Rufus Dogg from DogWalkBlog, December 7, 2010 at 10:50 a.m.

    I would take #2 to heart for all your newsletters as we speak. I frequently pick up MediaPosts newsletters on my iPhone and send it right to the trash as it is almost impossible to read on the device. And I know I will never go back and read them if I flag them for later....

    Just saying....

  2. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., December 7, 2010 at 10:51 a.m.

    Good points. re: #4 Please note that Email reactivation should be addressed with Email Change of Address where recipients volunteer their updated email address update. NCOA for Email is a productive re-engagement tool. After all, these recipients were former customers or donors etc. and may have simply forgotten to inform the retailer or .org that they changed their email address. Anyone can register free of charge at

  3. Leah Kinthaert from, December 7, 2010 at 6:01 p.m.

    Great reminder about the impact that Facebook messages and ISPs giving weight to engagement metrics will have on our email campaigns.

  4. Georgia Christian from Mail Blaze, December 8, 2010 at 3:44 a.m.

    Great article, thanks Chad. It will be interesting to see how much Facebook email addresses will play a part in the future of email campaigns. The industry is certainly evolving. I agree with you about the re-activation campaigns and the importance they play now and indeed in the following year. check out our article on re-engaging inactive subscribers.

  5. Blaine Mathieu from Compound Marketing Group, December 9, 2010 at 7:34 p.m.

    One of the most insightful articles on the near future of email marketing I have read. Compound marketers better take heed of these recommendations.

    Blaine Mathieu

  6. Rolv Heggenhougen from WrapMail, Inc., December 10, 2010 at 7:35 a.m.

    Companies seem to ignore the single largest online branding/advertising venue available: their own regular external emails. Why not use these emails to market the senders company?

    You have a website.
    You send emails.

    Why not multiply your sales-staff by “wrapping” the regular email in an interactive letterhead?

    No other marketing or advertising medium is as targeted as an email between people that know each other (as opposed to mass emails). These emails are always read and typically kept.

    WrapMail offers a solution that is server-based (i.e. compatible with all email clients), has a complete back-office with a WrapMaker, click tracking etc and it is FREE!

    WrapMails arrive without the RED X so all images display without clicking!

  7. Mitch Tarr from ZinMarketing Inc., December 10, 2010 at 12:34 p.m.

    I think these trends are right on the money! Seeing some of them already.

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