One trend that topped predictions this year was email. That's because it continues to be the channel that gives marketers the biggest bang for their buck.
Here's a look at five email trends marketers should keep an eye on (and use to their advantage) to maximize their ROI.
1. Mobile keeps gathering speed
If you're still debating the importance of a dedicated mobile email strategy, consider this: In 2015, mobile traffic exceeded desktop traffic for the first time. And e-commerce sales show a similar trend with mobile accounting for $13 billion of all online sales during the 2015 holiday season, an increase of 59% from 2014.
Mobile is clearly here to stay—and that's a good thing. An inbox in the pockets of 186 million people is a game changer for marketers.
To be a player in that game, marketers must focus on creating content for mobile readers and on using responsive design to ensure emails are as attractive and engaging on a smartphone as they are on a 15-inch monitor. After all research shows more than 71% of people will delete an email immediately when it doesn't display correctly.
Take advantage of the mobile-optimized templates offered by email service providers. If you don't have that option, create simple changes to make emails more attractive on mobile devices. Think single-column design, more white space, calls-to-action in the form of buttons to tap, and shorter subject lines.
2. Recipients get real value in their inbox
Personalized, relevant content is at the heart of any effective email campaign.
This year, personalization will take on even greater importance as more subscribers adopt email aggregation services, such as Milled and Unroll.me, and new email interface features, such as Peek for iPhone 6s. Those tools will give subscribers more control over how they receive, view, and interact with emails.
What does this mean for marketers?
They'll have to go beyond the "40% off" and "one time only" promotions they're used to sending. The best brands will differentiate themselves by building an experience in the inbox that customers look forward to. That experience can come in a lot forms—beautiful photography and graphic design, custom content, fun social posts from the brand and its customers, or the story behind social causes they support, just to name a few examples.
3. Interactive content commands attention
As marketers look to provide greater value to subscribers, email content will continue to evolve beyond menus, tabs, and simple animation.
Moreover, major email marketing programs will begin taking dynamic images and visual interaction to the next level. Brands are starting to experiment with content that requires the user to take action to get a special offer or promotion. For example, brands can create a mobile email that requires readers to perform a certain motion (such as tilt, shake, or jump) with their mobile device to reveal a promo code.
4. Brands will send more user-generated content
A total of 84% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers, and just 15% trust brands' recommendations, according to Nielsen.
Due to Instagram and other social media platforms, marketers now have unprecedented access to consumers' real-life product experiences. With a stockpile of user-generated, high-quality photos on hand, savvy brands are including photos of customers wearing and enjoying their products in email campaigns.
The following is a great example of user-generated content from Revolve:
Some brands are also integrating users' social media content in emails. Featuring Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook updates that mention their brand positively allow companies to build a loyal following of brand advocates authentically.
5. Automation will take off finally
Marketers will stop talking about automation and start using it. And why not? Not only does automation save precious time, it's also the most effective way to send timely, relevant messages to your audience at scale.
Automated email messages also deliver better results; think 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click rates.
Look at the stats of the most basic automated emails:
- Welcome emails have 50% better open rates.
- Birthday emails lift conversion rates by 60%.
- Thank-you emails with an offer drive 13X more revenue.
And when marketers go beyond the basics and create an automated nurturing series, marketers see big-time results. Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
These are just a few of the ways successful marketers can make the most of email. Try them out for yourself, and you'll be well on your way to having your best year of email ever.