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What Will Email Marketing Look Like In 2019?

By Patrick Foster

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Email marketing is a stalwart of online business. Despite being around as long as the internet, its value has endured over the years. Even while social media became a hot commodity, and the PPC industry went through numerous changes, it remained a reliably-effective method of reaching out to qualified leads with creative and conversion-driving copy.

In fact, it’s become more valuable over time. Not only do people still rely on their inboxes in their personal and professional lives, but there has also been a massive expansion in what can be achieved through an email marketing platform. At the same time, it’s facing some major roadblocks in the form of concerns over the storage of personal data.

Factoring in all of these things, what will email marketing look like in 2019? Let’s look at why email marketing is so valuable, how it fits into a broader marketing strategy, what marketers will need to consider in the coming year, how automation has become the key to email marketing, and how you can adopt a forward-thinking approach for your business.

Its value will still be remarkably high

There are countless ways to reach out to someone online. You can message them on a social media platform, contact them through a professional network such as LinkedIn, fill in a form on their website, try a VoIP service, or just try to hit their demographic with ads. And those tactics can all be proactive, but they’re also speculative. You’re addressing people who might not care what you have to say. They might even be outright hostile.

Email marketing is fundamentally different when done correctly. You gather email addresses first, then market only to those who’ve shown some kind of interest. (Yes, you can just find email addresses and email them, but if you have any hope of making your campaign successful, you mustn’t go down that route).

And that’s not all — in addition to targeting only qualified leads, you’re able to get vastly more creative with your content than you can be in almost any other marketing scenario. Social media? Maximum post length, plus the exhausting pace of social media feeds. Advertising? Maximum characters, image size restrictions, and the prevalence of competition on the same screen.

Using email, though, you can make your content as long and complex as you’d like — within reason. Consequently, it will remain out of the reach of its rivals from a creative standpoint (particularly around seasonal events that ramp up competition, which is why retailers are currently hard at work building up Black Friday, even down to the subject lines).

It will be used as part of omnichannel marketing

Any ambitious business today is best served adopting a broad approach to marketing, considering any and all promotional opportunities instead of identifying one viable method and sticking to it. This is also known as omnichannel marketing — extending your marketing to cover every suitable channel through which you can gain some ground.

A great omnichannel strategy will approach content production in a very different way. Instead of assembling format-specific pieces first, it will begin with themes, then aim to create copy and materials that can be adapted and reworked to function across various platforms. And this approach must be reflected in emails, ensuring maximum effect.

Using email in omnichannel marketing involves giving emails social sharing buttons, populating them with content drawn from elsewhere to raise general interest in the brand, and using them to drive traffic to any valuable destination: there’s no reason in principle why you can’t use a promotional email to push people to your Twitter page, for instance. This will become much more popular in the coming months.

It will still be adapting to the post-GDPR world

Following the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) earlier this year, EU businesses must now meet much stricter requirements to operate their email marketing campaigns, but the pressure is also on businesses elsewhere in the world to conform to similar standards. This is making life somewhat trickier for email marketers, but also reducing spam that can make people less likely to click on legitimately-valuable emails.

We’re currently seeing companies try to get up to speed with the new expectations. I won’t go into a breakdown of what GDPR requires (you can find one here), but it essentially tasks businesses with anonymizing their customer data, justifying their use of it, and requiring consent before contacting people. This caused a huge wave of eager consent emails to hit inboxes, and has left everyone rather more cautious about what they can achieve with their mailing lists.

In 2019, companies will still be trying to figure this out, tentatively filtering through their old mailing lists and hoping to win back contacts who ignored their GDPR emails. With fewer emails going around, it will be a great opportunity for anyone who planned ahead and kept their mailing list finely tuned to do some in-depth email marketing.

It will lean heavily on sequential personalization

With a well-curated mailing list supporting it, email marketing can be finely segmented — and while it can’t directly compete with the granularity of Facebook parameters, it offers the tremendous benefit of supporting complex sequential marketing. Instead of being isolated cases, each email to the same recipient forms a link in a chain, providing the opportunity to do some interesting things with email customization.

For instance, if you sent out an email offer that picked up conversions from roughly 30% of the recipients, you can prepare two versions of the next email, with one for those who converted and one for those who didn’t. The former can thank them and provide suggestions that are relevant in that specific context. The latter can factor in their disinterest in the previous offer and try something different to hopefully determine what incentives those contacts will respond to.

And with personalization being huge in a time of experiential retail that seeks to stand out through factors that go beyond prices and shipping speeds, being able to use it to steadily improve the efficiency and ROI of your emails is something too good to overlook. Notably, the rise of user-friendly management systems has made this accessible to even those companies that lack relevant technical expertise.

Bringing all these points together, email marketing in 2019 will be fairly similar to that of today, but with a few minor differences: it will be more closely tied to other forms of marketing across other digital channels, it will be more careful about selecting recipients, and it will make more extensive use of sequential marketing methods. Regardless, it will remain the bedrock of the digital marketing industry.

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