Email Marketing Innovation: Going Beyond What We Do Now

If you think about innovation, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t email marketing, but the latest gadgets, drones and maybe an Internet-connected fridge or two. But a lot has changed in the way brands and consumers communicate over the last few years. With a trusted and solid channel like email marketing, where does the real innovation take place?

Email has reached the Plateau of productivity

Gartner places email marketing beyond “the slope of enlightenment” right on the “plateau of productivity.”

Email marketing is known to be a trusted and versatile marketing channel, a part of, and in some cases, synonymous with, concepts like: data-driven marketing, content marketing, digital marketing hubs, event triggered marketing, campaign segmentation and others. While email itself is very mature, these other connected concepts are still evolving and signal the way email marketing software platforms will be developing.

Mobile email marketing
While last year many email marketers were still catching up on making their emails-mobile proof, able to render well on smartphones and other mobile devices, this trend is starting to reach maturity. A combination of mobile-aware and r-esponsive emails has made its way into commonplace email marketing tactics.

Statistics on mobile email marketing optimization by Exact Target leads to projections that by the end of the year, a combined 70% will be mobile-optimized within their monitored group of B2C brands. Research by GetResponse on responsive email design showed that 42% of subscribers indicate they will delete an email if does not show well on a mobile screen

Are Email innovations
really something new?
The latest version of the Forrester Wave Email Marketing Vendors  report included the results of the Global Email Marketing Customer Reference Online Survey, which surveyed email marketers in the enterprise market.

The tactics and strategies employed are sorted according to the duration of their use.The  following top three of “innovative” e-mail marketing tactics used in the enterprise market were:

1.   E-mail triggers (45% more than 3 years, 39% 1 to 3 years)

2.   Personalization ( 45% more than 3 years, 38% 1 to 3 years)

3.   Triggered transactional e-mails, ( 44% more than 3 years, 26% 1 to 3 years)

The use of e-mail triggers and personalization has almost doubled over the past three years among the surveyed companies. Keeping in mind that three years ago, most companies were not capable of applying these strategies, this growth represents an impressive increase. E-mail marketing is alive and well, and the capacities in the enterprise market are seemingly growing. It implies that marketing in this segment is on its way up, to become more sophisticated.

But are these tactics really innovative? Provided all companies can deploy them and it makes good business sense. When over a quarter use these techniques, you can’t call them innovative any more, in my opinion. If they are used by over half, they can certainly be seen as part of the standard arsenal and shouldn’t be included in the list at all, should they?

Innovation does not equal new technology

What the outcomes seem to explain is that innovation inside a company means new tactics, which is very different from new technology. Every day new email marketing features are released by vendors, but marketing technology usually outpaces the use and need for these features by a mile. This is especially the case in the enterprise market.

Beyond the technology
For example, marketing automation is not new, but truly working toward one-on-one communication is novel to many companies. Personalization is not new at all, but being effective in using it beyond “Hi Firstname”: totally new to many. A brand can innovate its email marketing program by applying the techniques they didn’t use in the past. And if those tactics have the highest ROI and bring them the biggest increase in results, that is exactly what they should do.

Personal plateau of Productivity

Now the next step in innovation by brands might not be using new tactics, but using the ones they already have to the fullest – regardless of what everybody else is doing. That might not be called innovation, but reaching a Personal Plateau of Productivity is definitely a new way of looking at it.

1 comment about "Email Marketing Innovation: Going Beyond What We Do Now".
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  1. David Baker from Cordial, January 30, 2015 at 10:23 a.m.

    Nice Post Jordie: II think the core call out here is consistent with something I called out months ago in a blog post: All major innovation in the history of mankind have been predicated on the compression of Time or Space. Translated to this industry: collaboration tools, productivity tools, video conferencing and new methods help bring people together more efficiently and increase the speed of operations. More Data, More customers, more often, more channels...= same resources and budgets! If new "features" in products don't increase the speed of how you operate and make you a faster/smarter decision maker (whether that is deciding on the subject line, audience, copy, design, or timing), then they should likely stay in the tool box. Real transformational innovation like Airplanes, Telephones, Trains, Cars, Satellites,Internet that reshaped our global economies and cultures and spawned a new age of innovation, started with the same principles... Some say we've moved past Time/Space compression to "speed space", which I love as a metaphor for how we innovate technology for marketing. We are faster and more spread out than ever and you must match your operation to the world around you!

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