The new email messaging mandate

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Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester Research
Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester Research

Email marketing is both a huge opportunity and a daunting challenge. Today's consumers leverage more channels and platforms than ever before, expanding direct messaging options to include countless digital channels such as email, social media, SMS, and mobile app push notifications, to name a few. In fact, use of these channels approach saturation; a recent Forrester survey found that 98% of online adults in the United States use email, while 64% send or receive SMS messages.

In Forrester's Email Marketing Playbook, my colleagues and I maintain that to remain competitive in an increasingly digital landscape, marketers must embrace customer-focused integrated messaging. That is, communications coordinated across channels and platforms that focus on driving desired behaviors, improving outcomes, and maximizing value for customers and marketers.

Users already integrate digital messaging into their daily lives, but marketers routinely fail to deliver integrated digital messaging experiences. Why? Because they don't:

  • Create a unified view of their customers. Most marketers struggle to map cross-channel digital identities, preferences, and behaviors to a given customer, and make that profile data easily accessible to messaging systems.
  • Coordinate messages across organizational silos. Channel managers too often plan marketing strategies with limited perspective for other digital channels. For instance, firms might isolate resources, data, and goals by channel, leaving marketers with little ability or personal incentive to integrate messages.
  • Design email campaigns for measurable success. It's critical for firms to plan, measure, and leverage email campaign metrics effectively. Because emerging digital channels are less standardized than mature ones, firms may have to explore new technology solutions to support new channels. For example, mobile app push notifications require specific processes, such as detecting whether a user has granted consent to track the device's location.
  • Manage content for different message formats. Most marketers today create, tag, deploy, and analyze content across channels through manual, resource-intensive processes that limit their ability to respond to customer or market demands in an efficient manner. Firms must be able to quickly produce versions of content across multiple channels in order to increase the effectiveness of digital contact strategy.

Why now?

The main reason that marketers have failed to stay in sync with customers' evolving habits stems from today's fragmented approach to digital messaging—focusing too much on generating channel-specific responses, and not enough on creating overall customer value. The need to tear down organizational silos and prioritize customer relationships over channel performance isn't new, but today is more urgent and attainable than ever before.

In the past, technological solutions have fallen short when marketers sought to plan, execute, and optimize direct messaging across email, social media, and mobile. These capabilities have evolved to a point where they can now support integrated digital messaging with efficiency, scale, and reliability.

Additionally, it's no surprise that the balance of power has tilted in favor of customers, who are more empowered and connected than ever before. Marketers slow to adapt to customer-centric digital messaging will lose share to more nimble and insightful competitors. The push to outshine competitors, coupled with improved access to customer insight, will force marketers to become better at all interactive pursuits, not just messaging.

For example:

  • Midmarket successes will compel enterprise marketers to integrate. Trying to change a large organization can seem like steering a battleship. Forrester expects more enterprise marketers to turn the rudder harder after they witness midmarket organizations aggressively collapsing silos and revamping their technology resources to successfully create customer-focused integrating messaging. For example, vacuum manufacturer Oreck, working with Knotice, generated 10 times more revenue from coordinated digital messaging campaigns after it shifted to a customer-focused approach.
  • Marketers will make better, data-informed decisions. As direct marketers plan communications that involve multiple channels, understanding how each contact influences customer value and changes behaviors will become critical. Increased usage of attribution will make marketers more efficient at planning successful programs that include messaging, as well as non-messaging touches.
  • Integrated inbound and outbound marketing will soon become the norm. Automation of messaging based on real-time consumer interactions will accelerate the overlap in responsibilities and operations between interactive marketing, customer service, and communications teams. As this trend becomes mainstream, vendor partners will need to build inbound and outbound workflows into standard platform offerings.
The future of email marketing is here. Firms must develop customer-focused integrated messaging campaigns in order to remain competitive. Why? Because a successful marketing strategy must engage customers across all stages of the customer life cycle—not just engagement—to drive reach, sales, and customer loyalty.
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