Six Key Email Marketing Trends You Cannot Ignore

One of email's strengths is how well it continues to adapt to all the shifts and changes that constantly reshape the marketing landscape. However, those adaptations have implications that affect the way you use email to market today and in the near future.

While as many as a dozen trends might affect email marketing today, I find myself discussing the following six key trends most often in my travels and speeches:

1. Customer/subscriber control continues to grow.

Top-performing email marketers put more control into their subscribers' hands. This empowers subscribers, who are more likely to embrace messages from an email program they help to create.

Today, email subscribers expect to decide these things for themselves:

  • Whether to opt in to your program in the first place.

  • When, where, how and even whether they will read your email messages.

  • If and when they want to change preferences for content, format and frequency.



  • Whether to report your email as spam.

  • Whether to continue receiving your messages in email or find another channel that serves them better.

  • When to end the relationship and opt out.

    While this can be scary to many, if you embrace this customer power and realize how it leads to increased engagement, you will have a more successful program.

    2. Demographics and emerging channels are creating shifts.

    Marketers have a broad spectrum of communication channels in which to deliver messages. While younger people generally prefer texting to email, that doesn't mean email is doomed. After all, when did you last ride your childhood skateboard to work?

    Instead, email is shifting from one-to-many message broadcasts to a personalized, event-triggered system of targeted messages. Preference centers will help power this shift, allowing recipients to opt to receive messages in several channels.

    For example, airline customers might prefer promotional messages via email, flight delay notifications via voice and their mileage updates via text messages.

    3. Most of your prospects are long-term: the "unconverted majority."

    In the B-to-B world, 70% of your leads are long-term opportunities. If you deploy PPC programs such as Google AdWords, you are getting a 2% conversion rate on your ads. In both the B-to-B and PPC examples, email is still the best vehicle to increase your program's ROI.

    Email lead-nurturing programs can help turn many cold and warm leads into those that are sales-ready. A well-designed and promoted email program will capture a good proportion of the 98% who don't convert to your primary conversion goal -- many of whom will then become customers because of your email messages.

    4. Your email list is shrinking and going inactive.

    Bad news first: On average, about a third of your list (or more) turns over every year due to bounces (2% to 3% each month), unsubscribes and spam complaints. On top of this outright loss, about 25% to 50% of the typical email list is actually inactive, meaning they haven't opened or clicked on your messages in some defined timeframe, such as 12 or 18 months.

    Now, the good news: You can reduce this list churn, and minimize and reengage inactives by making various improvements to your email program. These include enabling preferences and updates, managing expectations at the start, creating welcome programs, deploying trigger and behavior-based programs and implementing win-back campaigns.

    5. Your subscribers are reading your emails in many different environments.

    Desktop email reading is flatlining today, while mobile email is taking off. The downside: Many smartphones also turn your beautiful HTML messages into an unreadable hodgepodge of URLs and code.

    Plus, some consumers are also viewing your emails several times on different devices. For example, they might scan your message during the day on their Blackberry or iPhone and then again in the evening in Outlook or in their Gmail or Yahoo account.

    Designing emails to render well across multiple environments has become a must.

    6. If your messages have value, your subscribers will share them with their social networks.

    Email has always been a social network, thanks to the "forward" button and the "forward to a friend" link. Each one helps your readers share your messages, but both are limited in their utility because they don't connect directly to the reader's social networks, such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Digg.

    To encourage readers to share messages, group all links for viral activities together within the email body - mainly link-sharing and forward to a friend - and tell them how these features work. Track metrics to learn who your most avid sharers are and whether they contribute a greater share of views or sales; then tailor your content to encourage reposting.

    What other trends and shifts are you seeing in the marketing landscape that are affecting your email program? Please post them in the comments box below.

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