The year 2021 was one of tumult and change in email marketing.
Events in the business took place against a backdrop of national upheaval, including an insurrection at the Capitol, racial tensions fueled by police killings, the explosion of COVID-19 variants and booming inflation.
Email teams, although they received some credit for ecommerce growth, were rocked by the following.
Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP)
This unilateral move by the tech giant removed the open rate as the main email metric by blocking pixels and the reporting of all emails opened in Apple Mail clients enabled with MPP as opened, as SparkPost reports.
Yes, it’s a boondoggle, but it is already hurting business. SparkPost estimates that 38.1% of all opens and clicks are coming from one of the Apple Mail app clients, “but we are seeing closer to 50% in our data now,” the firm adds. Of 204 email marketers recently surveyed by Litmus, 63% feel MPP will have the greatest single impact on their email program.
The good news: Several vendors have created workarounds, and brands are being forced into relying on first-party data.
SparkPost urges email senders to rely on such metrics as clicks, site traffic from email, loyalty club status and purchase data, and to require a double opt-in to avoid being flagged as a spammer.
The Death of the Cookie
Brands are ferociously setting up cookies to track visitors even as Google has proclaimed the end of the identity tool. Marketers should not be comforted by Google’s stay of execution until the following year. “2023 is just a formality - the time is up,” writes Iván Markman, chief business officer at Yahoo.
Markman adds: “Not only will Google not grant another extension, cookies and IDs have already eroded across major operating systems and, to state the obvious, there’s a number of browsers that no longer support cookies.”
Granted, this seems less about email than about other channels — if the person has subscribed, you already have their address. And 37% in the Litmus poll say the loss of the cookie will have the biggest effect on their email programs. As with MPP, “first-party data and direct consumer relationships will be critical,” Markman notes.
“Consumers are looking for their own shopping experience, truly specific to them: how they want to shop, interact, and build a relationship with a brand,” Markman continues. “A data-driven retail strategy will be more essential than ever in 2022 to deliver that level of personalization.”
Finally, Markman predicts that “in an 'old is new again' twist, we’ll see a resurgence of tech like QR codes "that support our new lifestyles and make it easier to get brand experiences into consumers’ hands.”
Growing Privacy Legislation Worldwide
GDPR was only the start of a global trend. California now has a law that, among other things, gives consumers the right to access their own data and demand that it be deleted. Nevada has also moved in that direction.
It’s easy enough said, but companies need help in dealing with these technological challenges. This has given rise to vendors like OneTrust and BigID, according to an article this week in The New York Times.
Economic fears did nothing to curb the growing buying wave of email companies. Intuit acquired Mailchimp for $12 billion, Sinch purchased Pathwire for $925 million, following Pathwire’s purchase of Email on Acid.
MessageBird purchased SparkPost for $600 million and SparkPost had its own pickup of Taxi for Email, while CM Group has merged with Cheetah Digital.
And in 2020, Validity took on 250ok, to list only one of its buys. Given some of the prices, the lesson for startups in this area is to bootstrap their way up and not take on venture capital, or too much of it. What clients are getting out of all this (besides confusion and a decline in competition) is the combining of multiple services and data reporting in one location.
A Shift In Employee Work Habits
It’s no isolated event that traffic at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart "L" stop has declined by 73% -- people are simply not working in offices that surround the station. What does this mean for the email business?
Simply that more people will be working at home. Companies need to train people on “how to communicate in virtual spaces, accommodate different working styles and collaborate across time zones.” In addition, firms need to be “more intentional about how they communicate, coordinate with their employees and establish baseline expectations for a virtual or remote-first workforce.”
Finally, as we have done in the past, we’d like to cite BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) as one of the big changes in email. But we can’t do it: Litmus reports that only 15% of firms have implemented BIMI, a tool that allows brands to display their logos in DMARC-authenticated emails.