What’s driving the future of email? Who are the big players? What are the top strategies and technologies driving the market? These questions were front and center at the annual DMA &THEN conference last month in Los Angeles, where MessageGears’ leadership joined marketing leaders from Expedia and thousands of attendees, speakers, and exhibitors to explore the future of global email marketing.
Speakers at &THEN included Kobe Bryant, GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock, and author (and TED speaker) Simon Sinek. Taylor Jones, MessageGears’ co-founder and chief architect, and Himanshu Sinha, Sr. Director, Customer Contact Strategy and Outbound Marketing for Expedia, presented an educational session during the show titled, “Building and Managing Global Email Marketing Programs.” The session highlighted the best practices and marketing technology Expedia uses to create consistent, personalized experiences for their customers. Sinha and Jones also shared data on the top elements of email marketing success and top performance challenges.
There were, of course, some big takeaways from &THEN. Here are three trends we spotted that will likely define the future of email marketing.
“Think mobile first.” That’s the advice from Expedia’s Himanshu Sinha. Mobile devices are becoming our preferred personal computer and are outpacing desktops and other devices for email opens and clicks. People read email on their phones throughout the day, in their cars, at the store, at work, and right before they go to bed.
Google estimates that more than 75% of its 900 million Gmail users access their accounts on mobile devices, and Sinha said Expedia’s numbers are closer to 80%. A seamless digital experience has never been more important. Customers are expecting it now.
“Customers don’t differentiate touchpoints. They’re just interacting with your brand,” said Sinha. The right technology needs to be in place to accomplish this. It’s also critical that marketers have the most current data to customize and simplify the purchase journey for their users.
In Email Marketing Trends & Best Practices for Data-Centric Organizations, a 2016 study conducted by The Relevancy Group and MessageGears, marketers said the inability to access and leverage all marketing data was their number 1 challenge. When valuable data is held by different vendors or in various cloud databases where marketers can’t easily access it, precious time is lost. It’s critical that companies figure out ways to give their marketing department the information they need so they can tailor their messaging to each customer.
We live in the era of instant. Instant communication, answers, searches, feedback, posts, navigation, and sales. The window of time where marketers can respond and capture sales has never been shorter.
According to The Relevancy Group, 46% of enterprise-level companies used Software as a Service (SaaS) or hosted providers for their email. This system has been popular because it keeps large amounts of data in the cloud and makes it easier for marketers control of the email programs vs in-house or traditional on-premises systems. However, it can take hours for large amounts of data to sync between internal and cloud databases, meaning marketers can miss out on some real-time opportunities.
Enterprise marketers have to start thinking about their email program the same way they think about their websites. Websites for large, data-centric organizations generally live on-premises and have access to the latest and greatest information in order to keep the data close to the surface: recent activity, orders, shipping notifications, points balances, inventory, flight statuses, pricing — it’s all right there in real-time.
These businesses want their websites to have that information in real-time so they don’t outsource it. On the flip-side, around half of enterprise organizations are outsourcing their email programs to SaaS providers. No matter how quickly an ESP sends information back-and-forth, it can never match the accuracy of using fresh data from an internal system.
Automated campaigns need real-time data in order to be effective. Triggered emails (like abandoned cart or product view promotions) need to be plugged into the global ecosystem so marketers have a complete view of the customer. Nobody likes getting an abandoned cart email or a deep-discount right after they’ve already completed the sale on the website (or via the call center or store).
Giving marketers the data they need to do their jobs is no longer optional. At MessageGears, we feel that the best system is one that allows businesses to keep their data on-premises and access it directly, while offloading the heavy lifting of rendering, delivery, and tracking to the cloud.
Most marketers know that personalization is critical for success, but leaders need to consider the bigger picture: customers expect and respond to a multi-channel, personalized experience, not just personalized emails. Moreover, it’s critical that messaging is appropriate. A poor or clunky experience, even when personalized, can have a detrimental effect and backfire on the brand.
Successful personalization comes from real-time data. In order to create custom experiences, marketers need access to details such as demographics, customer satisfaction data, lifestyle preferences, spending habits, purchase behaviors, brand interactions, and social influences.
While these elements are critical for marketing success, they’re not always readily accessible. Silos may exist between vendors or departments, preventing the timely flow of information. In addition, various cloud-based technologies can’t deliver some of this data in real-time for it to be used effectively. For this reason, it’s critical that companies find technology that allows them to access all of their data so they can have a complete view of what their customers are doing.
Marketers will also need to be really clear about what their goals are for every campaign sent. Sometimes the goal of an email will be to drive online sales or in-store sales; other times, it might be to promote social sharing.
Email attribution is getting tougher, but machine learning and attribution modeling will get much better. My personal view is that new technology will clear up some attribution paths, but others will still be very cloudy and require common sense and faith to navigate.
As someone who spends their waking hours convincing would-be clients to devote resources (time and money) to producing video content for their brand and their products and services, do you agree that it’s important to include video content into your marketing emails?
Thanks for the great post!