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What’s Hot in Email Marketing?

From mobile email and responsive design to dynamic content and Gmail to preference centers and clicks versus opens, the world of email marketing is more frenetic than ever. Staying abreast of what’s not just hot, but also relevant—and likely to have a long-term impact—is an ongoing challenge for email marketers. With that in mind we asked 10 industry experts, “What’s hot in email marketing that email marketers simply can’t ignore—and why?” Their ripostes:

Linda Vetter, VP, Marketing, Yes Lifecycle Marketing
While a successful email marketing program incorporates many best practices and has a variety of components, triggered messaging should be a key part of it. Triggered messaging—messages prompted by behavior, events, or milestones relevant to the subscriber—combines the two most important factors for successful communications: relevance and timeliness. Since triggered campaigns are a direct response to the actions subscribers take, they achieve a level of personal relevance most other types of campaigns can never ensure; a welcome series follows an email signup; a transactional message follows a purchase; an abandoned shopping cart email follows a demonstrated intention to buy.

According to our most recent Email Marketing Compass benchmark report, triggered campaigns achieve, on average, 2.5 times higher open rates than business-as-usual campaigns and garner twice their unique click rate. Those are stats marketers simply can’t ignore when developing their email programs.

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Ross Kramer, cofounder and CEO, Listrak
We all know that triggered emails produce some of the best ROI of any campaigns in a retailer’s email program. Currently, we’re seeing a great deal of demand for browse-based campaigns that are auto-triggered off category or product display-page browse events. Savvy retailers are making these campaigns impactful by merchandising product recommendations next to the product or category last browsed. Few retailers are taking this experience to the next level by incorporating category, sub category, or brand browse-level details into broadcast campaigns; however, data-driven campaigns that use clickstream data to inform merchandising and promotional decisions will become the next best practice in retail email marketing. Marketers who are leveraging technology to run these types of campaigns are achieving a significant campaign performance lift without having to add more human resources to accomplish it.

Greg Grdodian, CEO, Reach Marketing
With mobile viewership surpassing 65%, depending on the audience makeup, marketers can’t afford to ignore mobile acknowledgement within their email marketing strategy. Some business-sector markets have a larger mobile audience; business services have more mobile engagement than agriculture, for example. In the consumer sector younger audiences tend to have a much higher affinity for email on a mobile device than their older counterparts.

So, mobile awareness remains the craze, especially responsive design. Responsive design automatically formats HTML to fit a recipient’s mobile device no matter which platform he uses. With fluid, responsive email design, tablets and smartphones can display mail optimally and let viewers interact with it effortlessly.

Whether their mobile email market is about 50% or reaches beyond that 65% figure, nearly every marketer recognizes that responsive design is yielding higher engagement rates across almost every vertical. Therefore, marketers are also extremely hot on responsive design to improve their customers’ interaction with their content and are making adjustments to optimize their creative for a more mobile-friendly audience.

Matt Seeley, President, North American, Experian Marketing Services
Now more than ever it’s critical for marketers to make every interaction with their customers count. Creating strong customer experiences is beyond a marketing priority, it’s a business imperative—and email plays a critical role as the connector of all digital channels. Successful and sophisticated marketers understand where email is most relevant and persuasive in the customer’s path to purchase, and are integrating additional channels along that path to optimize the cross-channel experience.

Deploying an operational approach to message strategies at the customer level, not just at the campaign level, is critical and must not be ignored. Technology and tools are largely worthless in the absence of a strategy for managing complex cross-channel interactions. Email remains the veteran among digital channels, and smart marketers are focused on building on the foundation of email to create a single, shared, and immediate view of the customer across all channels.

Kellie Boggs, marketing strategist for Bronto
Abandoned cart messages are one of the top revenue emails that a marketer can send; however, instead of treating all cart abandonment the same, marketers can now personalize and target these messages using data they’re able to pull in from their e-commerce platform. This helps to boost engagement and conversion rates.

Marketers must be sure to include product recommendations, information on exchange policies, or reward points awarded in their abandoned cart messages, but also take the time to review their recovery strategy and consider what improvements they can make. Marketers should use the data they have access to on their customers, whether it’s profile information or even past-purchase details to personalize those messages. But remember, consumers expect to receive abandoned cart emails now, so make them stand out.

Dela Quist, CEO, Alchemy Works
Email is finally gaining recognition as the crucial link between two of the hottest things in marketing at the moment: content marketing and Big Data. In this era of content and data, marketing goals must become the main focus of email strategy; concerns about device proliferation, getting delivered, and setting up triggers have been relegated to the day-to-day campaign production process. Serious email marketing has been around for about a decade and is a pretty mature market. For brands that have been developing their email program for years, technological concerns that feed much debate within the industry are no longer strategic. The question for brands today is how to monetize the technology they’ve already acquired to best exploit email’s unique place as the conduit between content marketing and Big Data to drive revenue. 

Ronnie Brant, Director of product marketing, Movable Ink
Imagine what you would do if you could target, segment, and adapt every email to every recipient when they open a message. Finally, there is real innovation happening in email marketing and one of the biggest breakthroughs—real-time responsive content—has given email marketers the ability to select and optimize the content of every message at the moment it’s opened instead of locking it in before an email is sent. Email marketers are no longer trapped in a “pre-send” framework and can use live data from the world around us to send email filled with content that senses and responds to the person who opens it. The highest ROI channel is catching up and again becoming the most relevant one. Real-time responsive content and optimization are game-changing abilities that can unleash creativity in email marketing, making marketers’ jobs easier, increasing campaign performance, and better serving customers at the same time. 

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Shawn Myers, VP of marketing, StrongView
What’s hot in email marketing? In one word, context. Email marketing has spent the past two decades striving to be personalized, but in that same time frame customers have raced ahead of us with their expectations on what a beneficial marketing engagement looks like. The best practices in email today mostly fall short of these expectations, failing to be contextual to each customer’s location, activities, conditions, and devices. Being contextual with email marketing means having solutions that understand and activate your customers at the moment of engagement. Marketing is being pushed to gather and leverage massive amounts of contextual data on customers, and many traditional solutions are breaking under the burden of doing this at scale. This shift towards contextual messaging will be the new measure of success in how brand relationships are established and maintained, and therefore is the hottest thing in email marketing today.

Dan Roy, CEO and cofounder, MessageGears
Companies today must aim for relevancy with their email campaigns. Email marketers face myriad complexities delivering the right message at the right time to influence purchase. With customer data being the driving force behind campaign decisions, marketers must leverage customer data through internal data warehouses, e-commerce systems, inventory management, POS, and other systems. In addition, time sensitivity associated with this behavioral information poses challenges to the effectiveness of email campaigns.
So, how can our industry efficiently provide relevant content to customers and prospects in a timely manner?
Luckily, we’ve seen a new breakout approach in the marketplace that solves these data-driven marketing challenges. We call it the hybrid email method; it allows marketers to have easy and direct access to all of their own internal rich CRM data, which is typically only offered by on-premise email service providers, combined with the ease and scalability of delivery in the cloud. The effectiveness of this hybrid approach has begun changing the data-driven marketing landscape.

Daniel P. Smith, CMO, Outsell LLC
There are three main ingredients for email marketing success:

Analytics – The key to building loyalty is engaging with customers on an ongoing basis based on what’s relevant to them. To win that next sale requires that you understand their interests and preferences, and are able to detect when they’re ready to buy. Using predictive analytics gives you the ability to anticipate customer needs and understand purchase timing.

Consistent cross-channel messaging – Being con-sistent across social, email, mobile, and print marketing efforts creates a force multiplier. Tailoring the content and offers to individual customer interests (as determined by your analytic models) and keeping that content consistent across channels results in significantly higher conversion rates.

Responsive design – With 66% of all emails today being opened on a mobile device, brands need to code their email communications to adapt to variety of different devices.  Customers can’t respond to offers they can’t read.

Quinn Jalli, SVP, strategic initiatives group, Epsilon
When we look around the email landscape, there are two things that are really hot. The first is consumer-level deployments that leverage consumer opens and clicks to determine optimal deployment timing. Getting away from campaign-level timing has long been discussed, but over the past year consumer-level email timing is taking hold and companies are realizing greater than 10% increases in unique consumer clicks. This consumer-level personalization not only increases opens and clicks in the short term, but it also ensures better deliverability, brand engagement, and revenue in the long term.

The second item is one-click purchasing capabilities from within an email. While largely still “beta” in concept, allowing consumers to easily purchase within an email provides two distinct advantages: It naturally reduces the abandoned shopping cart phenomenon, more problematic today as more online “distractions” interrupt the shopping experience; and, most important, it helps minimize the decline in purchases associated with email interactions on smartphones.

Justin Foster, Cofounder and VP market development, Liveclicker
Real-time content is hot, but few understand what it is or its long-term impact. In short, real-time content is email content that’s personalized in real time—right at the moment someone opens a marketer’s email message. The real-time nature of the personalization allows marketers to improve the productivity of email marketing campaigns for the long term, even after the send button is pressed. Not only does it mean that emails can stay relevant in consumers’ inboxes longer to boost response rates, but it also helps the marketer optimize campaign ROI—and we’re all trying to squeeze more profits out of our programs.

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