Is email marketing dead? That question keeps popping up as people are increasingly adopting an inbox zero mentality. But don’t hang up your newsletter templates just yet. Like any tactic businesses use to capture their customers’ attention, email marketing trends are evolving…and it’s still a strong move for your business.

The average return on email marketing investment is 30 times larger than any other marketing tactic, be it social media, print or TV ads, or direct mailers.

In the last two years, internet browsing on a desktop computer was eclipsed by mobile phone usage, 41% versus 53%. People want their shopping at their fingertips, and smartphones make that possible, while opening up a wide range of marketing strategies to reach your target audience. Email marketing trends of 2018 are a mix of tried and true with innovation that will set the stage for years to come.

Mobile, mobile, mobile

If you’re not using mobile optimization on your email marketing campaigns, you’re already behind in the email marketing evolution. Inboxes are going 3D, with easier to organize features like hot corners, instant archive, and hashtags from frequent email contacts that put them at the top of users’ inboxes. And that’s before we even get into the 3D functionality. People have less patience than ever for slow load times, pictures that don’t pop up, and wonky formatting. If it’s not easy to read in a few seconds, the unsubscribe link will become your mailing list subscribers’ new best friend.

Go visual, or go home

Visualization is becoming more and more necessary. Being met with a wall of text no longer works; it’s time-consuming to read. Clever email subject lines will get them to open the email, but pictures, videos, and preview features such as link previews and pop-up snapshots of downloadables will keep them there. Not only are you providing them with a sneak peek of what your links will show, saving them clicking and loading time to go look, but you’re showing them these assets immediately, without them ever leaving their inbox

Bright lights, overwhelming city

We have all seen various places where brands we are interested in showcase their content: websites, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more. It’s exhausting to have to click through all that to find what interests us as consumers the most. By consolidating your unique messages into one easy-to-read, easy-to-preview place like your newsletter, they don’t have to follow you through a maze of social media accounts. Because after a couple clicks, they’ll stop chasing.

The funnel is evolving, too

We’ve all seen the graphics for a typical marketing funnel, where prospects enter the “top” of the funnel where it’s the widest (this part is awareness) and pop through the narrow bottom as purchasers who are, ideally, satisfied enough to repeat their experience. But the marketing funnel is evolving as much as technology and email are. Customers now enter at any stage, and their journeys vary to such a degree, they don’t resemble each other at all. Some zip through lightning fast, knowing exactly what they want and how to get it, while others take their time, research every possibility, and only make the purchase when they’re dead certain about their choice.

So not every consumer should be put through the same marketing funnel.

Where one enters at engagement via social media and skips over discovery straight into purchase, another slides in through advocacy because a product you sell aligns with their core values (ex: environmental cause, fair trade, etc). They’ve both skipped the traditional awareness, engagement, discovery, etc of the old funnel, and have come at their shopping cart on your site from entirely different directions.

If you focus only on the traditional funnel model, you’re going to miss capturing those who have a less formal introduction to your products or services. Not to mention, by forcing some through the entire funnel, you risk boring them before they reach the purchase and retention stages.

You don’t need to start over

There are trends in 2018 that will continue on from the past. List segmentation based on consumer data points is still critical, as is personalization. However, keep an eye on changing requirements regarding your subscribers’ personal data: European legislation called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)  will force businesses to protect the data and privacy of European Union citizens beginning in May 2018. This impacts any brand that sells to European markets, and much like when Canada’s Anti-SPAM Laws went into effect, the sooner your business is in compliance with these new regulations, the better.

But it’s not just about following regulations. Consumers whose data are better protected will remain more loyal to your brand, and knowing they can trust you with their details, they might give you even more. This will be a boon for behavior prediction, which is becoming a greater asset as learning computers and AI become more reality than pipe dream.

Believe it or not, the more data we can gather about our target market through automation, the more human we can make our email marketing strategy sound, because we know more about them.

The right tone and content will win, period.

Conversational tone within your newsletter goes hand in hand with marketing personalization, giving your marketing campaigns the friendly touch necessary to give warm fuzzies as opposed to clinical or pushy sales pitches. But no matter how friendly you seem through your emails, none of it matters if what you have to say isn’t relevant. List segmentation allows for more specific subjects and through that, you can provide more relevant content to smaller segments, with more segments in process at once. An example of this is REI’s technique of offering their subscribers information on hiking trails near them through geo-data. By providing content that has value beyond product deals and discounts, you’re keeping your subscribers reading, and establishing your brand as helpful and correlated to other aspects of their lives.

It’s an exciting time for evolving our email strategies. By paying close attention to our segmentation, personalization, mobile optimization, visual enticements, and ensuring the funnel is more accessible from different points, we can grow with the technology coming down the pipe, rather than being left behind by it.

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