Commentary

Email And The Digital Future: What Econstancy Found

Most annual surveys change little from year to year. But the 2017 digital trends report from Econstancy and Adobe has one or two minor tweaks in it. And its biggest finding is that improving the customer experience dominates the priority list.

The question was asked several different ways, but the answer was always the same: that the future lies in serving a seamless experience to the customer. And how will companies do that? The respondents listed the following internal factors as being “very important:”

  • Improving data analysis capabilities — 63%
  • Optimizing internal collaboration between creative and marketing teams — 53%
  • Optimizing creative workflows to facilitate the rapid creation and deployment of content across multiple platforms — 53%
  • Building more ‘native’ online content such as interactive applications, short-form video etc. – 45%

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Here is more seemingly positive news: That digital permeates most of the marketing at many companies — 49% say so, 6% more than last year. But don’t uncork the champagne just yet: Almost 20% admit that digital is separate, and only 15% embed digital in all their marketing activities. Worse, a mere 11% that they are a digital-first organization.

It may be a cultural problem. The study found that “building a culture and cross-team approach with the customer at the heart of all initiatives” is the most difficult thing to achieve for 13% of the respondents. But almost the same percentage says it’s the easiest thing to do. 

And email? There is only one email-related finding, but it’s a positive one for service vendors. Of the companies polled, 46% plan to increase their email budgets this year, and 47% will maintain them as is. Only 7% will reduce them.

Not that email is at the top of the shopping list. In contrast, 56% will boost their social media budgets, and 55% will do the same for content marketing. In addition, 51% will spend more on personalization. Finally, 49% will drop more on marketing analytics, and 48% on mobile.

Is email getting short shrift? We’d hardly say so. All of the above practices are related to email marketing: By improving them, we also improve email.

At the same time, the survey found that “investment in analytics is lagging,” writes John Travis, vice president at Adobe, in the introduction. That may sound strange, given that 97% will spend more or maintain their existing budgets for analytics. But the discipline ranks far down on the priority list. And Travis notes that “many businesses are so excited to get into the experience game that they overextend, neglecting to take care of the basics.” He added that “if you want to take design and deliver content-driven experiences you need a strong foundation of data.” 

Meanwhile, the biggest single opportunity, 22% of the respondents say, is optimizing the customer experience. That’s up from 18% last year. Second is creating compelling content for digital experiences — at 16%, compared with 13% in 2016.

Asked another way, 71% say that optimizing the customer journey across multiple touchpoints will be important to their digital marketing over the next few years. 

Social marketing dropped from 10% last year to 7% on the opportunity list. And artificial intelligence barely places. But the point is clear: email can play a role in all of these strategic choices. So can analytics: A company needs that capability to send triggered, personalized emails to customers.

It would have been helpful if the report had explored email in greater detail, but here are the five top corporate priorities:

  • Customer experience — 40%
  • Data-driven marketing — 11%
  • Cross-channel marketing — 10%
  • Mobile — 6%
  • Programmatic buying/optimization — 3%

There it is — the customer experience leads, and data, although second, is rated more poorly.

Here’s one more finding — that design is important. Of the respondents, 86% agree that design-driven companies outperform other businesses. At the same time, 82% feel that creativity is valued in their companies. 

And our digital future? Here are the “most exciting” prospects for 2020:

  • Engaging audience through virtual or augmented reality — 26%
  • Internet of Things/connected devices e.g. wearable, audience tracking — 25% 
  • Using artificial intelligence/bots to drive campaigns and experiences — 23% 
  • Enhanced payment technologies e.g. mobile wallets, e-receipts — 15%
  • Voice interfaces e.g. Amazon Echo, Google Home — 6%

Those answers came from client companies. Agencies had slightly higher percentages in a couple of cases, and lower for the top one.

Econstancy and Adobe surveyed 14,163 respondents, including 64% from the client side and 36% from the agency side. Of this sample, 35% were based in Europe, 28% in North America, 17% in Asia, 13% in Australia/New Zealand, 3% the Middle East, 2% in Africa and 2% from other regions. There was a mixture of B2C and B2B, and a variety of verticals. 

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