For Canadian email marketers, 2014 will go down in history as one of the most interesting years ever. The launch of CASL in July rocked the digital landscape and changed the game forever. This, of course, was preceded by an absolute flurry of confirmation requests being sent to Canadians en masse, as organizations scrambled to salvage as many mailing list subscribers as possible. Let’s put aside the obvious irony: an anti-spam law causing a massive influx in the amount of email people received, with little value other than “click here to confirm”. In fact, it did result in organizations trimming the excess fat on their databases. This means that as organizations close out 2014, they have a much leaner and cleaner database comprising an audience that actually wants to be engaged. With a new rulebook and a refined (albeit smaller) database, how will email marketing change in 2015? In this article we’ll take a look at the trends to watch in 2015 as email celebrates it’s 43rd birthday (…for those scoring at home, the first email was sent in 1971).
List Segmentation 2.0
Gone are the days of treating everyone on a mailing list like they are the same. Organizations of all sizes are now realizing the amazing power a good mailing list can have when managed correctly. What previously seemed like one long, never-ending list of email addresses all lumped together in one glorious unsegmented and undivided group, is now a wealth of data ripe for the most meticulous of segmentation.
Every email address has a story, has buying habits, has interests, and has a certain way it reacts to different types of messages. In 2015 marketers are going to really focus on the persona of the email address (…well, really the person behind the address) to segment their data in new ways that allow for much better targeting.
Traditional marketing segments on the most obvious of categories such as age, gender, race, income, etc. But email marketers are going to dig way deeper in 2015 and build segments not only based on profile data, but on behavioral data too. Mailing list subscribers who click on links about “blue pants” will be added to behavioral segments for people who like the color blue and are interested in pants. At Elite Email we saw a rise in this type of segmentation across our Canadian clients in the back half of 2014 and the expectation is that this will continue to be a prominent trend throughout 2015.
Emails For Me, Not Emails For Everyone
As marketers build targeted segments, it will also pave the way for much more personalized emails in 2015. Organizations that currently send one main newsletter to their entire mailing list are going to shift to a model where multiple variations of that email are deployed. For some organizations, the differences may be rather small, while for others the email may be completely different. The underlying idea is that the email content needs to be specifically targeted to the segment that receives it to produce the greatest chance of engagement and conversion.
To email recipients this will be a welcome trend because emails that are received will be much more relevant to their unique interests. As an example, your local community center runs programs for everyone, from toddlers to senior citizens. They used to send out a newsletter to everyone covering “All Activities This Week”. Now, they’re going to send a specific email to each age bracket (after all, very few seniors are going to sign-up for a toddler music program… so it’s kind of a waste of email real estate to promote something like that!)
This does mean that email marketers are going to be investing more time throughout 2015 in terms of content creation and building out the emails. However, this is going to lead to a much greater ROI for organizations, because open rates and conversion rates will soar to new heights. This means that in 2015 organizations should be getting their email marketing staff to spend more time optimizing this critical communication channel.
Mobile First Mentality
The amount of organizations that still sent non-mobile friendly emails throughout 2014 is absolutely shocking. The statement “everyone checks email on their smartphone” would not surprise any marketer, and yet so many have not taken steps to provide a better mobile experience. This is a huge missed opportunity and something that will simply not be allowed in 2015. At Elite Email, every year the amount of emails opened on mobile devices has increased, then increased, and then increased some more. That trend is not likely to slow down. Currently every email sent from Elite Email is fully responsive, which means it looks perfect on desktops, mobiles, and everything in between. That will be the new defacto standard for 2015 and beyond.
Creating emails for mobile requires a different thought process. On a mobile device, marketers need to get used to their layout stacking to one column and familiarize themselves with how that impacts click-through rate and what displays ‘above the fold’. In addition to having a responsive mobile-friendly email, marketers will have to make sure that all the links in an email link to a responsive mobile-friendly landing page as well. 2015 will be the year when all points of engagement become as optimized for mobile as they are for desktops.
Tighter Messaging Between Email & Social for One Cohesive Messaging Strategy
In 2015, organizations are going to pay more attention to their cross-channel messaging to ensure greater integration with their communication strategy. Posts on social media will now be more in-sync and aligned with the messaging contained in their email. Organizations of all sizes will take a more holistic look at all their digital channels and craft content calendars that keep everything focused on shared common goals. The days of the social media person operating in a silo (separate from the email marketing person) are absolutely behind us.
As consumers access each of these digital channels on a daily basis, organizations will need to ensure not only that they have a presence on each network, but that it’s all part of the larger integrated strategy. The blog article, newsletter, tweet, Facebook post, and photos on Instagram and Pinterest must answer the question ‘how does this achieve our overall goal’. When all channels have a shared goal, the digital footprint of an organization will lead to greater conversions.
The future is bright for email marketers as that channel continues to drive the greatest ROI and highest level of engagement. The email marketer of 2015 is armed with a wealth of strategies that can drive goals and raise the bar of what is possible with this tried, tested, and true channel.