Looking Back, Moving Ahead -- Reflections On The Email Biz

Birthdays are a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. As my company recently celebrated its fifth birthday, I did just that. Below are my thoughts on the most significant email marketing trends over the past five years and my predictions for the future.

Looking Back

Email marketing has progressed in numerous ways over the past five years -- from advancements in technology to the ways marketers utilize the medium within their overall marketing plan. Among the most relevant changes are the following:

1) Technology is smarter. The technology framework behind email marketing has changed drastically. No longer can you run through a product demo of today's sophisticated email marketing system in twenty minutes. Email marketing technologies now offer superior depth and functionality to match the growing needs of increasingly tech-savvy marketers.

2) Customer needs are more sophisticated, Gone are the days of the basic email newsletter fulfilling one's email marketing needs. As the importance and scope of email marketing expands, so do the needs of marketers. Top-flight deliverability, segmentation and analytics have gone from luxury to necessity. Customers continually innovate new ways to drive revenue through email -- and the technology must be there to support them.



3) Email is a proven, viable marketing channel. Email marketing has evolved from an emergent technology into a viable, lucrative marketing channel similar to online advertising or SEO. More organizations are recognizing the potential of targeted email communications and devoting dedicated resources to integrated email marketing as an essential component of their campaign.

4) Email is no longer a "do-it-yourself" medium. As the email ecosystem increases in complexity and spam traffic hits record highs, in-house solutions have become more of a liability and a drain on resources. Successful marketers are seeing the value in working with a trusted provider -- someone to handle the technical requirements and provide advice on industry best practices.

Moving Ahead

Email marketing will continue to evolve, spurring improvements in both technology and the way marketers leverage the medium. Below are my predictions for the next five years.

1) Targeted, personalized emails will become the norm. Messages will get "smarter," offering advanced personalization and more valuable opportunities for interaction. Marketers will have the ability to further tailor messages to individuals based on data harvested from previous campaigns, providing the best possible content to promote engagement and drive revenue.

2) Transactional/cross-selling email tactics will be commonplace. More organizations will seize the opportunity for cross-selling marketing content within transactional emails. For example, when a confirmation email is sent to a customer who makes a purchase, marketers can use that as an opportunity to offer other products that may be of interest based on previous buying and selling behavior.

3) Email marketing will go mobile. The communication world is going mobile and email marketers will adapt to ensure they're meeting the needs of email recipients via mobile devices. As marketers compete for an ever-narrowing slice of consumer attention, it's crucial that the message come through as intended. The message designed for a computer screen might not resonate with the mobile audience. It will also be vital to understand the demographic of the mobile early adopters and target messages accordingly.

4) Email marketing will be mainstream As technology and marketing practices improve, the industry will see an increase in the percentage of sales driven by email marketing campaigns. As a result, email marketing will no longer be considered a subset of online marketing, but instead, a widely used and highly effective marketing channel in its own right.

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