Having observed the email marketing industry the last 15 years, I've come to the conclusion that our beloved channel is entering its next phase: adulthood.
Although I foresee no really revolutionary changes that would immediately disrupt email marketing, several shifts are happening now that require your attention and action.
If not, your company could get passed up by more forward-thinking and nimble competitors, leaving significant revenue on the table, under-serving customers, and undercutting your other marketing channel.
These shifts are helping to create a new email-marketing paradigm with six essential buckets of ideas:
Deliverability:From obstacle to competitive advantage. Smart email marketers recognize that everyone is dealt a pretty level deliverability playing field. So, rather than bemoaning ISPs, blocklists, spam traps, etc., they are becoming proactive and deploying practices to stay ahead of competitors in inbox placement.
Messaging: From "push" to "pull" and from "campaigns" to "programs." The "push" approach of broadcast email will likely never disappear. However, more sophisticated marketers are using the "pull" of customer behavior to drive the timing, cadence and content of email and multichannel messages.
Instead of focusing on a message calendar and one stand-alone campaign after another, data and behavior sort customers into program-focused tracks, each with a specific series of automated emails.
Content:From static to dynamic message platform. Email messages are evolving away from the one-message-for-all format into a dynamic message built in real time with content blocks that pull in content from many sources, including recommendation/personalization and ecommerce engines, CRM systems, content management systems, and subscriber and behavior databases.
Subscriber data:From lists to behavioral database. The concept of "pulling a list" is going the way of the rich-text-format email. List-based approaches to deploying campaigns are fine, but do not work in a world of increasing automation that pulls from a centralized customer database.
Real-time and automated messaging requires that your big data sources drive your email programs on the fly and without manual processes.
Email design:From inbox to context. Although designing for mobile is perhaps the hottest topic in email marketing today, I'm talking here about a larger, more challenging issue: creating and designing content for consumers who engage with your emails on various devices and screen sizes, often while multitasking and literally on the move.
What's happening as they read your emails? Are they on a bumpy bus ride? Peering at your messages on a tiny screen or trying to read copy while kids are racketing around? Your message design must evolve to work in all scenarios.
Channel maturity:From underdog to high expectations. Email marketers have earned their place at the head of the conference-room table by demonstrating how email drives revenue through sales, loyalty and retention programs.
We have survived management's infatuation with social and mobile and concerns that "email is dying." Now it's time for email marketers to step up their game and take their email programs to an entirely new level.
Implications of These Shifts
Meeting these challenges will require fundamental changes within your department, and in the way you connect with all of your stakeholders in the company.
Do you agree with my list of industry shifts, or have I left out any important elements? Let me know in the comments section.
Until next time, take it up a notch!